International Journal on Digital Libraries

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 17-30

First online:

Little science confronts the data deluge: habitat ecology, embedded sensor networks, and digital libraries

  • Christine L. BorgmanAffiliated withDepartment of Information Studies, Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, UCLA Email author 
  • , Jillian C. WallisAffiliated withCenter for Embedded Networked Sensing, UCLA
  • , Noel EnyedyAffiliated withDepartment of Education, Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, UCLA

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e-Science promises to increase the pace of science via fast, distributed access to computational resources, analytical tools, and digital libraries. “Big science” fields such as physics and astronomy that collaborate around expensive instrumentation have constructed shared digital libraries to manage their data and documents, while “little science” research areas that gather data through hand-crafted fieldwork continue to manage their data locally. As habitat ecology researchers begin to deploy embedded sensor networks, they are confronting an array of challenges in capturing, organizing, and managing large amounts of data. The scientists and their partners in computer science and engineering make use of common datasets but interpret the data differently. Studies of this field in transition offer insights into the role of digital libraries in e-Science, how data practices evolve as science becomes more instrumented, and how scientists, computer scientists, and engineers collaborate around data. Among the lessons learned are that data on the same variables are gathered by multiple means, that data exist in many states and in many places, and that publication practices often drive data collection practices. Data sharing is embraced in principle but little sharing actually occurs, due to interrelated factors such as lack of demand, lack of standards, and concerns about publication, ownership, data quality, and ethics. We explore the implications of these findings for data policy and digital library architecture. Research reported here is affiliated with the Center for Embedded Networked Sensing.