Effects of Academic Gift Culture Surrounding Data on Diversity, a Question
Has anyone considered the gift culture of data sharing between academics in terms of it’s effect upon developing a diverse community?
Over break I was working on a literature review. There were several instances where my eyes were crossing from having opened and waded through yet another PDF. The constant supply of tea and having natural light in my home office helped. But then in conversation with coworkers yesterday, I realized it had sparked the above question.
It’s fairly well known that there are a variety of challenges for women and minorities in academia. A study published in Nature last fall showed that faculty were more likely to respond to requests for mentoring from students who seemed, in email, to be white and male. Other studies have looked and found disparities with hiring, promotion, salary (both salary dollars and start up funds) offers, mentoring, etc. A new study this morning looks at the web response to those studies, which turned out to be not very surprising. In libraries, we see a highly disproportionate number of men in management positions, particularly considering that the vast majority of librarians are female, and I know I’m not qualified to address the other diversity challenges in my profession, though I’m very aware of them.
And then from my lit review:
Borgman gives us a comprehensive look at the various arguments for and the effort that is behind sharing research data, but then turns to the most important motivations, one of which is “To Enable Others to Ask New Questions of Extant Data.” Borgman doesn’t specifically mention a diversity aspect in this section, but focuses on the general public–often not seen as an audience for data. Still, it sparks the question of who are those others.
Wallis, Jillian C., Elizabeth Rolando, and Christine L. Borgman. “If we share data, will anyone use them? Data sharing and reuse in the long tail of science and technology.” PloS one 8.7 (2013): e67332.
How would you study this?
That’s actually probably a bigger question I have. Asking my coworkers, we talked about citation analysis–though I would argue that only shows where data sharing has been successful, not where the potential gift culture wasn’t. One could, perhaps, interview researchers or set up some kind of thing like the Nature paper–> sending a request for data using names that appeared to be of a specific gender or ethnicity and evaluating based upon response. My guess is there would need to be some serious network/systems analysis and probably interviews or focus groups on both sides: data sharers to parse out how they might respond to a request and from those requesting to see if they perceive that they wouldn’t get data or hadn’t gotten data due to a bias.
I think this could be one of the arguments for making your data public. It won’t hold water with a lot of people, but it’s something to consider–> who might need access to your data or have a brilliant idea for reusing your data that might never gain access to it because a) they have to ask or find someone who knows you to ask; b) you may not respond based on personal prejudice against [fill in prejudice here].
If anyone has already sorted this out and I haven’t found the article yet, please put it in the comments. Also, bravo to the authors of these articles that I could easily find OA options to share! Thank you.