Archives For Cyberinfrastructure

Our special issue of CSCW has been published! I’m really excited about the six accepted papers.

Special Issue: Sociotechnical Studies of Cyberinfrastructure and e-Research: Supporting Collaborative Research

Guest Edited by Charlotte P. Lee, David Ribes, Matthew J. Bietz, Helena Karasti and Marina Jirotka

CSCW, v. 19, no. 3-4, August 2010
Read Online at SpringerLink

  • Sociotechnical Studies of Cyberinfrastructure and e-Research: Current Themes and Future Trajectories / David Ribes and Charlotte P. Lee
  • Synergizing in Cyberinfrastructure Development / Matthew J. Bietz, Eric P. S. Baumer and Charlotte P. Lee
  • The Dialectical Tensions in the Funding Infrastructure of Cyberinfrastructure / Kerk F. Kee and Larry D. Browning
  • Transforming Scholarly Practice: Embedding Technological Interventions to Support the Collaborative Analysis of Ancient Texts / Grace de la Flor, Marina Jirotka, Paul Luff, John Pybus and Ruth Kirkham
  • Reconfiguring Evidence: Interacting with Digital Objects in Scientific Practice / Marko Monteiro
  • Reusing Scientific Data: How Earthquake Engineering Researchers Assess the Reusability of Colleagues’ Data / Ixchel M. Faniel and Trond E. Jacobsen
  • Infrastructure Time: Long-term Matters in Collaborative Development / Helena Karasti, Karen S. Baker and Florence Millerand

A few recent posts from around the web have gotten me thinking about how the concerns of cyberinfrastructure play out in local laboratories:

  • Jonathan Eisen, a biologist at UC Davis, posted on The Tree of Life about his quest to find an electronic lab notebook, and the ensuing discussion suggests that, while it’s possible to kludge together something that works, there aren’t many options specifically designed to support the day-to-day needs and constraints of an academic research laboratory. (And just try to find ones that play well with other information systems inside and outside the lab!)
  • Richard Apodaca at Depth-First wants to stop talking about “electronic laboratory notebooks” and instead use the phrase “networked laboratory information.” He suggests that consideration of this new mental model would “start out with identifying the many forms of information we create and use, and the needs of those doing the creating and using. It would then move on to how best to share this information within our organization, and with our customers and partners in a secure manner.”
  • Titus Brown has posted a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek Data Management Plan on his blog, Daily Life in an Ivory Basement:

“I will store all data on at least one, and possibly up to 50, hard drives in my lab. The directory structure will be custom, not self-explanatory, and in no way documented or described. Students working with the data will be encouraged to make their own copies and modify them as they please, in order to ensure that no one can ever figure out what the actual real raw data is. Backups will rarely, if ever, be done.”

These posts seem to highlight a tension that arises from individuals and small laboratories doing science in a computerized, networked, big science world. We hear a lot about how building massive databases and supercomputers is increasingly important for doing cutting edge science. The NSF, NIH, DOE, and many other agencies and organizations are putting significant funding and attention toward creating large, centralized scientific resources. But I wonder if this focus on the centralized portion of infrastructure sometimes comes at the expense of supporting local practice.

For example, Brown’s satire is written in response to the NSF’s new policy requiring grants to have data management plans. At least as it is described in the press release, the focus of the new policy is on “community access to data” and “open sharing of research data.” It seems that for the NSF, data management is only important insofar as it supports the one-way movement of data out of the lab and into the community. This is a shortsighted view of data management.

In a recent article, Karen Baker and Lynn Yarmey present a much more nuanced and complex understanding of data management for big science. They see data repositories existing within different “spheres-of-context.” For example, a local repository might be found in a particular laboratory or small group, where it is intended to support data use in the context of a specific set of research questions. On the other hand, a large remote archive might be aimed at preserving data for future reuse. Whereas the NSF policy treats the local context (e.g., the laboratory) as a pit stop on the road to a shared database, Baker and Yarmey remind us that laboratories are more than data factories, and that the data management challenges are about more than simply enabling data aggregation. Data management policies need to consider how data move through and around the entire “web of repositories.”

I think the spheres-of-context concept can help us think not just about repositories, but about the entire range of cyberinfrastructure. In the same way that the electricity infrastructure needs both power plants and wall outlets, cyberinfrastructures need both the local and the community contexts. Our investments in cyberinfrastructure won’t have the transformational impact we want unless we also pay attention to supporting new scientific practices in day-to-day laboratory life, and to meaningfully connecting those local practices with collective scientific activities.

Baker, K. S., & Yarmey, L. (2009). Data stewardship: Environmental data curation and a web-of-repositories. International Journal of Digital Curation, 4(2), 12-27.

Government-wide emphasis on community access to data supports substantive push toward more open sharing of research data

NEW EXTENDED DEADLINE! Call for Papers Special Issue of JCSCW

Supporting Scientific Collaboration Through Cyberinfrastructure and e-Science

Guest Editors: Charlotte P. Lee, David Ribes, Matthew Bietz , Marina Jirotka, and Helena Karasti

Scientific collaboration using cyberinfrastructure (CI), or e-Science, is forward facing. e-Science projects aim to support the collaboration of research communities, whether by facilitating distanced collaboration or sharing data and computational resources. The most ambitious e-Science projects are creating entirely novel scientific fields, anticipating and actively cultivating new scientific communities and practices. Such endeavors present original challenges to researchers in CSCW fields: questions of large-scale technology development, of supporting communities in addition to groups, and of long-term sustainability.
Cyberinfrastructure and e-Science projects are partially information technology research ventures, but they are also forms of applied sociology, e.g., building bridges across heterogeneous disciplinary traditions and scientific methods. Careful attention must be paid to the full range of participant’s activities as they go about their work. How to establish reliable, accessible and appropriate information infrastructure is a challenge for contemporary CSCW.

For this special issue on computer supported scientific collaboration, we welcome research on topics such as, but not limited to: case studies or comparative analyses of cyberinfrastructure & e-Science development or use; novel applications for large-scale scientific collaboration; and practices for supporting heterogeneous, distributed, or long-term collaborations. We seek empirically grounded studies with a sensibility for theoretical contributions to CSCW and closely related fields.

Schedule and Submission Process
October 11, 2009……….NEW DEADLINE. Deadline for submission of manuscripts
November 19, 2009……Notification of acceptance
January 30, 2009.………Submission of finished manuscripts

Instructions for Authors:

Submitting Manuscripts: Authors should submit their manuscripts to the Editorial Manager (EM) system (at ). Select the appropriate special issue under Article Type: “Scientific Collaboration Through Cyberinfrastructure”.
About the Journal: Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) disseminates innovative research results and provides an interdisciplinary forum for the debate and exchange of ideas concerning theoretical, practical, technical, and social issues in CSCW. Coverage ranges from ethnographic studies of cooperative work to reports on the development of CSCW systems and their technological foundations.

I’m organizing (with Charlotte Lee and David Ribes) a workshop at the upcoming CSCW 2008 conference. There’s still time to send a position paper! Here are the details:

Workshop on Designing Cyberinfrastructure to Support Science

At the ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work
Saturday, November 8. San Diego, CA

Recent years have seen the rise of new forms of large-scale distributed scientific enterprises supported primarily through advanced information infrastructures. These advanced infrastructures are called “cyberinfrastructure,” although terms such as grid computing, collaboratories, and eScience are also commonly used. Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Cyberinfrastructure intersect in their aims to support collaboration within heterogeneous groups and across physical distribution. Furthermore the development of CI – or large-scale informational resources – is itself a form of collaborative work worthy of CSCW research. Continue Reading…