Michael Khoo, PhD, Receives Award for Project "From 'Bug Data' to Big Data"
March 12, 2014 — College of Computing and Informatics Assistant Professor Michael Khoo, PhD, along with co-investigator Gary Rosenberg, PhD, Pilsbry Chair and Curator of Malacology at the Academy of Natural Sciences, was awarded a $13,000 grant from the Social Science Research fund (SSRF) for the project “From ‘Bug Data’ to Big Data: Communities of Practice, Networks of Practice, and Information Systems at the Academy of Natural Sciences.”
Ongoing innovations in computing technologies are leading to the emergence of large-scale information infrastructures that can support novel forms of collaborative research across multiple institutions and disciplines. Historical collections of biological specimens can provide useful data for disciplines such as atmospheric science, by providing specimens that support the modeling of the historical dimensions of climate change. At the same time, it can be difficult for institutions such as natural history institutions to share research data. Understanding how data is shared in these new large-scale information infrastructures is therefore a key research question. “From ‘Bug Data’ to Big Data: Communities of Practice, Networks of Practice, and Information Systems at the Academy of Natural Sciences,” research addresses this question by drawing on two theories of institutional knowledge practices: Communities of Practice (CoPs), and (NoPs) Networks of Practice, that model how institutions create, maintain, and share knowledge. This research is operationalized in a qualitative study of historical and current data practices at the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia (ANSP). The goals of the study are twofold:
• To develop a theoretical model of CoPS, NoPs and data sharing, using the ANSP as a case; and
• To gain a better understanding of data practices at ANSP while supporting the development of tools for wider networked data access for evolutionary biology, biodiversity, and other researchers.
Khoo and Rosenberg’s research investigates the socio-technical dimensions of information systems. Their focus is on understanding libraries, archives, and digital repositories, the digitization of physical artifacts, interoperability, and the role of metadata in describing and classifying resources, as well as making them accessible to users. The investigators draw on theories of practice and tacit knowledge from various domains, including socio-technical studies, anthropology, philosophy, communication studies, and user-centered design in order to examine the different frames and practices that individuals and groups bring to their interactions with repositories and metadata. They use mainly qualitative methods, based on ethnography, observation, and interviews.