Coordinative Entities: Forms of Organizing in Data Intensive Science

Abstract

Scientific collaboration is a long-standing subject of CSCW scholarship that typically focuses on the development and use of computing systems to facilitate research. The research presented in this article investigates the sociality of science by identifying and describing particular, common forms of organizing that researchers in four different scientific realms employ to conduct work in both local contexts and as part of distributed, global projects. This paper introduces five prototypical forms of organizing we categorize as coordinative entities: the Principal Group, Intermittent Exchange, Sustained Aggregation, Federation, and Facility Organization. Coordinative entities as a categorization help specify, articulate, compare, and trace overlapping and evolving arrangements scientists use to facilitate data intensive research. We use this typology to unpack complexities of data intensive scientific collaboration in four cases, showing how scientists invoke different coordinative entities across three types of research activities: data collection, processing, and analysis. Our contribution scrutinizes the sociality of scientific work to illustrate how these actors engage in relational work within and among diverse, dispersed forms of organizing across project, funding, and disciplinary boundaries.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank the anonymous reviewers and editors for their help refining this work. We thank Ying-Yu Chen and E. Illana Diamant for help with data collection, Erin Sy and Ron Piell for help with early analysis, and members of the Computer Supported Collaboration Laboratory including Andrew Neang, Michael Beach, Ridley Jones, Will Sutherland, and Os Keyes for feedback on drafts. We also wish to thank historian Dave Struthers for valuable criticism. Thanks also to Rebecca R., Charlie, Ash, and Ruby for support. Above all we are thankful to our research subjects for their time, insights, and feedback. Any errors are ours alone.

This work was supported by U.S. National Science Foundation grants IIS-0954088 and ACI-1302272. Dr. Paine’s work at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science and Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) under Contract No. DE-AC02-05CH11231. The views in this paper represent the authors and do not represent those of the U.S. National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, or the University of California.

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Paine, D., Lee, C.P. Coordinative Entities: Forms of Organizing in Data Intensive Science. Comput Supported Coop Work 29, 335–380 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10606-020-09372-2

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Keywords

  • Articulation work
  • Coordinative entities
  • Coordinated actions
  • Cyberinfrastructure
  • Data intensive science
  • Data science
  • Human infrastructure
  • Infrastructure
  • Synergizing