New developments for sharing and editing data

Added by Stephane Goldstein on 05 March 2007 15:29

Two recent issues of Nature (15 February and 1 March) have carried features about how new developments on the web may allow research data to be manipulated and re-used.  Whether it is through the medium of wikis, as with the Wiki for Professionals project, or using visualisation/mashup tools such as IBM’s Many Eyes initiative, there seem to be innovations afoot for editing, modifying or presenting datasets once they are made available online. 

Of course, the fact that data evolve over time is hardly a new concept.  The question is whether such innovations can create a new dynamics by providing original and useful frameworks for collaborative, distributed working and re-working of data among researchers, on an ongoing basis, and whether they can thereby allow for new insights in data interpretation.  One of the Nature articles cites "empowerment" and "democratisation" to underline the potential that these new approaches offer to researchers.  Hype or hope?

Such developments also make it even more difficult to define what is meant by ‘publication’ of data and could raise pertinent questions about the relationships between the range of stakeholders (researchers, research funders, data managers, publishers, librarians/curators….) with an interest in the dissemination of data.  The RIN is looking to undertake an study into how data is ‘published’, and how this impacts on the roles of all those involved in the scholarly communications process.  The sort of developments outlined above could add a degree of spice to our investigations.

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