One of the talking points at the History of Science Society's 2013 business meeting this Sunday was the recent report by the Committee for Research & the Profession's (CoRP) Data-Management Task-Force on the NSF's new requirements concerning data management and data management plans. ASU's Julia Damerow, Erick Peirson, Matt Chew, and Manfred Laubichler all participated in the task force. The report reflects on the what constitutes data in the history of science, what it means to preserve those data, what should and should not be shared, and a constellation of other issues surrounding the availability of historical research data. Especially in the context of quantitative and computational approaches to historical research, these considerations are pressing and immediate.
The report considers two potential initiatives by the History of Science Society to address data management needs: project-based bibliographies, and an HSS data repository.
The existing system of repositories has gaps in it of two types. First, many historians of science, especially, but not exclusively independent scholars, may not have access to suitable institutional repositories for their data. Second, for all historians there are unresolved questions how the cost of long-term preservation and exposure of data will be met. ... It may well be, therefore, that such a repository shall be an essential component of history of science research in the future. Such a repository would bring together (if not necessarily uniquely hold) data sets that could be constructed according to accepted standards but with the added features needed to make them particularly useful for historians of science. ... In so doing, it would become, ideally, a site where data sets created for one purpose could be merged and manipulated to address new questions. ... Such a fully developed repository could streamline data management for historians of science and be a model for other learned societies.
The report was published in the October edition of the HSS newsletter, and can be found here.