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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Data, data use, and inquiry: A new point of view on data curation

Creative Commons 'BY-NC-ND' version 4.0 license

Data are proliferating far faster than they can be captured, managed, or stored. What types of data are most likely to be used and reused, by whom, and for what purposes? Answers to these questions will inform information policy and the design of digital libraries. We report findings from semi-structured interviews and field observations to investigate characteristics of data use and reuse and how those characteristics vary within and between scientific communities. The two communities studied are the researchers at the Center for Embedded Network Sensing (CENS) and users of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) data. We found that the interactions between inquiry, data, and use fall into three categories: foreground vs. background, use of the same data for different actions, and sources of data for reuse. The data practices of CENS and SDSS researchers have implications for data curation, system evaluation, and policy. Some data that are important to the conduct of research are not viewed as sufficiently valuable to keep. Other data of great value may not be mentioned or cited, because those data serve only as background to a given investigation. Metrics to assess the value of documents do not map well to data.

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