Social science has long depended on data generated from government sources—from the US census to climate and environmental data—to address problems and advance informed policy for the public good. In a new essay concluding Items’ “Just Environments” series, Lindsey Dillon and Christopher Sellers from the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI) identify the dangers of losing access to those data: “Erasure of data and other information from government websites can also sow doubt and uncertainty on climate change and other important environmental issues.” EDGI was formed in response to threats to scholarly access to government data, and the essay outlines how members are securing knowledge necessary for their work, including “data rescue” events, careful monitoring of data sources, and collaboration with federal employees. The Items essay is likely relevant to Parameters readers, and is worth reading in full. You can read it here.
Today, alongside EDGI’s Items essay, the Council is publishing a report, Securing Social Science and Humanities Government Data, on the SSRC website. On April 21, 2017, the SSRC’s Digital Culture program hosted a meeting of approximately thirty social scientists, humanities scholars, data scientists, librarians, and archivists to discuss the topic of “Securing Social Science and Humanities Government Data.” As “data rescue” events were being held across the United States, focused largely on downloading government data primarily related to the environment and climate change, the SSRC began exploring, first, the extent to which other data—namely, government data oriented to the social sciences—were being collected (or not) alongside the environmental and climate data and, second, the applicability of data rescue efforts to a broader social science research landscape. The report summarizes the meeting and highlights a slate of recommendations for next steps that complement the efforts of EDGI and other organizations and intend to help secure social science data and make more explicit the ways in which government data is used and valued.
To download the Securing Social Science and Humanities Government Data report, click here. We also invite you to read submissions to Parameters’ call for Data Stories, where scholars explained their work’s relationship to governmental data and highlighted the knowledge we might lose without it.