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Julia Lane: “Where’s the Data: A new approach to social science data search and discovery”


Abstract: The social sciences are at a crossroads The great challenges of our time are human in nature – terrorism, climate change, the use of natural resources, and the nature of work – and require robust social science to understand the sources and consequences. Yet the lack of reproducibility and replicability evident in many fields is even more acute in the study of human behavior both because of the difficulty of sharing confidential data and because of the lack of scientific infrastructure. Much of the core infrastructure is manual and ad-hoc in nature, threatening the legitimacy and utility of social science research.

A major challenge is search and discovery. The vast majority of social science data and outputs cannot be easily discovered by other researchers even when nominally deposited in the public domain. A new generation of automated search tools could help researchers discover how data are being used, in what research fields, with what methods, with what code and with what findings. And automation can be used to reward researchers who validate the results and contribute additional information about use, fields, methods, code, and findings. In sum, the use of data depends critically on knowing how it has been produced and used before: the required elements what do the data measure, what research has been done by what researchers, with what code, and with what results.

In this presentation I describe the work that we are doing to build and develop automated tools to create the equivalent of an Amazon.com or TripAdvisor for the access and use of confidential microdata.

NOTE: Known audio issues at 1:20 mark.