Data as “First Class Citizens” by Łukasz Bolikowski, Nikos Houssos, Paolo Manghi, Jochen Schirrwagen.
The guest editorial to D-Lib Magazine, January/February 2015, Volume 21, Number 1/2, introduces a collection of articles focusing on data as “first class citizens,” saying:
Data are an essential element of the research process. Therefore, for the sake of transparency, verifiability and reproducibility of research, data need to become “first-class citizens” in scholarly communication. Researchers have to be able to publish, share, index, find, cite, and reuse research data sets.
The 2nd International Workshop on Linking and Contextualizing Publications and Datasets (LCPD 2014), held in conjunction with the Digital Libraries 2014 conference (DL 2014), took place in London on September 12th, 2014 and gathered a group of stakeholders interested in growing a global data publishing culture. The workshop started with invited talks from Prof. Andreas Rauber (Linking to and Citing Data in Non-Trivial Settings), Stefan Kramer (Linking research data and publications: a survey of the landscape in the social sciences), and Dr. Iain Hrynaszkiewicz (Data papers and their applications: Data Descriptors in Scientific Data). The discussion was then organized into four full-paper sessions, exploring orthogonal but still interwoven facets of current and future challenges for data publishing: “contextualizing and linking” (Semantic Enrichment and Search: A Case Study on Environmental Science Literature and A-posteriori Provenance-enabled Linking of Publications and Datasets via Crowdsourcing), “new forms of publishing” (A Framework Supporting the Shift From Traditional Digital Publications to Enhanced Publications and Science 2.0 Repositories: Time for a Change in Scholarly Communication), “dataset citation” (Data Citation Practices in the CRAWDAD Wireless Network Data Archive, A Methodology for Citing Linked Open Data Subsets, and Challenges in Matching Dataset Citation Strings to Datasets in Social Science) and “dataset peer-review” (Enabling Living Systematic Reviews and Clinical Guidelines through Semantic Technologies and Data without Peer: Examples of Data Peer Review in the Earth Sciences).
We believe these investigations provide a rich overview of current issues in the field, by proposing open problems, solutions, and future challenges. In short they confirm the urgent and fascinating demands of research data publishing.
The only stumbling point in this collection of essays is the notion of data as “First Class Citizens.” Not that I object to a catchy title but not all data is going to be equal when it comes to first class citizenship.
Take Semantic Enrichment and Search: A Case Study on Environmental Science Literature, for example. Great essay on using multiple sources to annotate entities once disambiguation had occurred. But some entities are going to have more annotations than others and some entities may not be recognized at all. Not to mention it is rather doubtful that the markup containing those entities was annotated at all?
Are we sure we want to exclude from data the formats that contain the data? Isn’t a format a form of data? As well as the instructions for processing that data? Perhaps not in every case but shouldn’t data and the formats that hold date be equally treated as first class citizens? I am mindful that hundreds of thousands of people saw the pyramids being built but we have not one accurate report on the process.
Will the lack of that one accurate report deny us access to data quite skillfully preserved in a format that is no longer accessible to us?
While I support the cry for all data to be “first class citizens,” I also support a very broad notion of data to avoid overlooking data that may be critical in the future.