Infrastructuring for Cross-Disciplinary Synthetic Science: Meta-Study Research in Land System Science

  • Alyson L. Young
  • Wayne G. Lutters


Traditionally infrastructure studies are post-hoc analyses of emergent phenomena. While acknowledging the contextual complexity of co-evolution, there has been a turn toward exploring these processes from a design perspective. In this paper we examine a new interdiscipline, Land System Science, whose scientific inquiry is predicated on a deep and ongoing integration of radically disparate data from across the natural, physical, and social sciences. We report the results of a three-and-a half year field study of meta-study practice. In doing so, we perform infrastructural inversion to foreground the backstage scientific work practice to identify points of infrastructure. We used these insights regarding breakdowns and workarounds to inform the design of GLOBE, infrastructural tools that support this community’s needs for communication, cooperation, and knowledge construction. Our insight comes from being embedded both with domain scientists and software developers. Through four cases, we highlight the scientists’ unique challenges, strategies developed to address them, and the system components designed to better support many of these tactics. Specifically, we address the difficulties of finding, standardizing, interpreting, and validating data. This advances the infrastructuring literature by illustrating how design can be used to engage a scientific community in active self-reflection.


Land system science Meta-study Infrastructuring Information infrastructure Collaborative design Synthetic science 



We would like to thank the LSS community and the Global Land Programme for their support of this research. We would also like to thank our fellow GLOBE team members. This research has been supported by NSF award #115210 “GLOBE: Evolving New Global Workflows for Land Change Science.”


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human-Centered ComputingIndiana University-Purdue University IndianapolisIndianapolisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Information SystemsUniversity of Maryland Baltimore CountyBaltimoreUSA

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