Skip to main content
Big Data, Little Data, Open Data
Inaugural Göttingen Lecture on Library Futures (2015)
  • Christine L Borgman, University of California, Los Angeles

The enthusiasm for big data is obscuring the complexity and diversity of data in scholarship and the challenges for stewardship. Data practices are local, varying from field to field, individual to individual, and country to country. They are a lens to observe the rapidly changing landscape of scholarly work in the sciences, social sciences, and the humanities. Inside the black box of data is a plethora of research, technology, and policy issues. Data are best understood as representations of observations, objects, or other entities used as evidence of phenomena for the purposes of research or scholarship. Rarely do they stand alone, separable from software, protocols, lab and field conditions, and other context. Concerns for data sharing and open access raise questions about what data to keep, what to share, when, how, and with whom. Open data is sometimes viewed simply as releasing data without fees. In research contexts, open data may pose complex issues of licensing, ownership, responsibility, standards, interoperability, and legal harmonization. To scholars, data can be assets, liabilities, or both. To librarians, data also are scholarly products to curate for future users. However, data are much more difficult to manage than publications. Librarians are applying their expertise in knowledge representation, organization, and scholarship to address the data stewardship challenge. The stakes and stakeholders in research data are many and varied, posing new challenges for scholars, librarians, policy makers, publishers, students, and their partners.

Publication Date
March 23, 2015
Citation Information
Christine L Borgman. "Big Data, Little Data, Open Data" Inaugural Göttingen Lecture on Library Futures (2015)
Available at: