Collaborative qualitative research at scale: Reflections on 20 years of acquiring global data and making data global

Christine L. Borgman, Morgan F. Wofford, Milena S. Golshan, Peter T. Darch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A 5-year project to study scientific data uses in geography, starting in 1999, evolved into 20 years of research on data practices in sensor networks, environmental sciences, biology, seismology, undersea science, biomedicine, astronomy, and other fields. By emulating the “team science” approaches of the scientists studied, the UCLA Center for Knowledge Infrastructures accumulated a comprehensive collection of qualitative data about how scientists generate, manage, use, and reuse data across domains. Building upon Paul N. Edwards's model of “making global data”—collecting signals via consistent methods, technologies, and policies—to “make data global”—comparing and integrating those data, the research team has managed and exploited these data as a collaborative resource. This article reflects on the social, technical, organizational, economic, and policy challenges the team has encountered in creating new knowledge from data old and new. We reflect on continuity over generations of students and staff, transitions between grants, transfer of legacy data between software tools, research methods, and the role of professional data managers in the social sciences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)667-682
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of the Association for Information Science and Technology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems and Management
  • Library and Information Sciences


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