The romance of openness: data sharing, open access and new modes of doing and disclosing research

Year: 2017

Author: McLeod, Julie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper considers emerging trends in Australia regarding qualitative data archiving and sharing in the social sciences. The last couple of years have witnessed accelerating interest in these endeavours. This has arisen at the messy convergence of imperatives from funding organizations, institutional governance, regulation and monetization of data, methodological experimentation and (strategic and non-strategic) interest in team-based and 'interdisciplinary' collaborations (the effects of which have been particularly pronounced in the social sciences and humanities), and innovations and challenges associated with digitized data and digital worlds. We need more critical discussion among educational researchers of the methodological, knowledge-building and governance challenges and changes these developments represent. More broadly, there has been insufficient acknowledgement at the policy level of the relational dimensions of open access and data sharing (Mauthner and Parry 2013), a striking lacunae given insistent calls for greater collaboration and team-based research among the qualitative and social science community (often framed as mimicking the scientific lab model). A further context is the sense of rapid change, of researchers feeling they are not able to keep pace with the transforming landscape in which social science is conducted - from regulation, funding obligations, journal publishing and the dizzying opportunities of digital research. This sense of being out of step, of research governance ahead of research itself, and of researchers feeling somewhat disconnected from the transformations in play is, in part - but not only - a generational issue and also a phenomenon that is, I suspect, changing the affective ties researchers have to their practice. These aspects of open access and data sharing are crucial, yet tend to be overlooked in the colliding discourses of transparency, affordance, opportunity, democratization, compliance and requirements to maximise social and economic benefits.
In this presentation, I map current regulations and emerging practices in Australia in relation to data sharing and open access, scanning national level and government trends, examples of specific institutional initiatives, along with perspectives and practices from the GLAM [Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums] sector. I consider overlaps and differences in practices associated with qualitative social research and historical research, and draw on examples from my own research experiences of trying to work at these cross-roads. I argue that there remain opportunities for a more creative and technical attention to the contextual dynamics of openness and restriction and their double-edged affordances - ethics, epistemology, politics and history are at the heart of this work.