The coloniality of collaboration: sources of epistemic obedience in data-intensive astronomy in Chile

Paper by Sebastián Lehuedé: “Data collaborations have gained currency over the last decade as a means for data- and skills-poor actors to thrive as a fourth paradigm takes hold in the sciences. Against this backdrop, this article traces the emergence of a collaborative subject position that strives to establish reciprocal and technical-oriented collaborations so as to catch up with the ongoing changes in research.

Combining insights from the modernity/coloniality group, political theory and science and technology studies, the article argues that this positionality engenders epistemic obedience by bracketing off critical questions regarding with whom and for whom knowledge is generated. In particular, a dis-embedding of the data producers, the erosion of local ties, and a data conformism are identified as fresh sources of obedience impinging upon the capacity to conduct research attuned to the needs and visions of the local context. A discursive-material analysis of interviews and field notes stemming from the case of astronomy data in Chile is conducted, examining the vision of local actors aiming to gain proximity to the mega observatories producing vast volumes of data in the Atacama Desert.

Given that these observatories are predominantly under the control of organisations from the United States and Europe, the adoption of a collaborative stance is now seen as the best means to ensure skills and technology transfer to local research teams. Delving into the epistemological dimension of data colonialism, this article warns that an increased emphasis on collaboration runs the risk of reproducing planetary hierarchies in times of data-intensive research….(More)”.

Household Financial Transaction Data

Paper by Scott R. Baker & Lorenz Kueng: “The growth of the availability and use of detailed household financial transaction microdata has dramatically expanded the ability of researchers to understand both household decision-making as well as aggregate fluctuations across a wide range of fields. This class of transaction data is derived from a myriad of sources including financial institutions, FinTech apps, and payment intermediaries. We review how these detailed data have been utilized in finance and economics research and the benefits they enable beyond more traditional measures of income, spending, and wealth. We discuss the future potential for this flexible class of data in firm-focused research, real-time policy analysis, and macro statistics….(More)”.

The Predictive Power of Patents

Paper by Sabrina Safrin: “This article explains that domestic patenting activity may foreshadow a country’s level of regulation of path-breaking technologies. The article considers whether different governments will act with a light or a heavy regulatory hand when encountering a new disruptive technology. The article hypothesizes that part of the answer to this important regulatory, economic, and geopolitical question may lie in an unexpected place: the world’s patent offices. Countries with early and significant patent activity in an emerging technology are more likely to view themselves as having a stake in the technology and therefore will be less inclined to subject the technology to extensive health, safety and environmental regulation that would constrain it. The article introduces the term “patent footprint” to describe a country’s degree of patenting activity in a new technology, and the article posits that a country’s patent footprint may provide an early clue to its willingness or reluctance to strenuously regulate the new technology. Even more so, lack of geographic diversity in patent footprints may help predict whether an emerging technology will face extensive international regulation. Patent footprints provide a useful tool to policymakers, businesses, investors, and NGOs considering the health, safety, and environmental regulation of a disruptive technology. The predictive power of patent footprints adds to the literature on the broader function of patents in society….(More)”.

On the forecastability of food insecurity

Paper by Pietro Foini,  Michele Tizzoni, Daniela Paolotti, and Elisa Omodei: “Food insecurity, defined as the lack of physical or economic access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food, remains one of the main challenges included in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Near real-time data on the food insecurity situation collected by international organizations such as the World Food Programme can be crucial to monitor and forecast time trends of insufficient food consumption levels in countries at risk.

Here, using food consumption observations in combination with secondary data on conflict, extreme weather events and economic shocks, we build a forecasting model based on gradient boosted regression trees to create predictions on the evolution of insufficient food consumption trends up to 30 days in to the future in 6 countries (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Mali, Nigeria, Syria and Yemen). Results show that the number of available historical observations is a key element for the forecasting model performance. Among the 6 countries studied in this work, for those with the longest food insecurity time series, the proposed forecasting model makes it possible to forecast the prevalence of people with insufficient food consumption up to 30 days into the future with higher accuracy than a naive approach based on the last measured prevalence only. The framework developed in this work could provide decision makers with a tool to assess how the food insecurity situation will evolve in the near future in countries at risk. Results clearly point to the added value of continuous near real-time data collection at sub-national level…(More)”.

Fighting Climate Change: The Role of Norms, Preferences, and Moral Values

Paper by Armin Falk: “We document individual willingness to fight climate change and its behavioral determinants in a large representative sample of US adults. Willingness to fight climate change – as measured through an incentivized donation decision – is highly heterogeneous across the population. Individual beliefs about social norms, economic preferences such as patience and altruism, as well as universal moral values positively predict climate preferences. Moreover, we document systematic misperceptions of prevalent social norms. Respondents vastly underestimate the prevalence of climate- friendly behaviors and norms among their fellow citizens. Providing respondents with correct information causally raises individual willingness to fight climate change as well as individual support for climate policies. The effects are strongest for individuals who are skeptical about the existence and threat of global warming…(More)”.

How data governance technologies can democratize data sharing for community well-being

Paper by Dan Wu, Stefaan Verhulst, Alex Pentland, Thiago Avila, Kelsey Finch, and Abhishek Gupta in Data & Policy (Cambridge University Press) focusing on “Data sharing efforts to allow underserved groups and organizations to overcome the concentration of power in our data landscape…

A few special organizations, due to their data monopolies and resources, are able to decide which problems to solve and how to solve them. But even though data sharing creates a counterbalancing democratizing force, it must nevertheless be approached cautiously. Underserved organizations and groups must navigate difficult barriers related to technological complexity and legal risk.

To examine what those common barriers are, one type of data sharing effort—data trusts—are examined, specifically the reports commenting on that effort. To address these practical issues, data governance technologies have a large role to play in democratizing data trusts safely and in a trustworthy manner. Yet technology is far from a silver bullet. It is dangerous to rely upon it. But technology that is no-code, flexible, and secure can help more responsibly operate data trusts. This type of technology helps innovators put relationships at the center of their efforts….(More)”.

Understanding crowdsourcing projects: A review on the key design elements of a crowdsourcing initiative

Paper by Rea Karachiwalla and Felix Pinkow: “Crowdsourcing has gained considerable traction over the past decade and has emerged as a powerful tool in the innovation process of organizations. Given its growing significance in practice, a profound understanding of the concept is crucial. The goal of this study is to develop a comprehensive understanding of designing crowdsourcing projects for innovation by identifying and analyzing critical design elements of crowdsourcing contests. Through synthesizing the principles of the social exchange theory and absorptive capacity, this study provides a novel conceptual configuration that accounts for both the attraction of solvers and the ability of the crowdsourcer to capture value from crowdsourcing contests. Therefore, this paper adopts a morphological approach to structure the four dimensions, namely, (i) task, (ii) crowd, (iii) platform and (iv) crowdsourcer, into a conceptual framework to present an integrated overview of the various crowdsourcing design options. The morphological analysis allows the possibility of identifying relevant interdependencies between design elements, based on the goals of the problem to be crowdsourced. In doing so, the paper aims to enrich the extant literature by providing a comprehensive overview of crowdsourcing and to serve as a blueprint for practitioners to make more informed decisions when designing and executing crowdsourcing projects….(More)”.

New knowledge environments. On the possibility of a citizen social science.

Article by Joseph Perelló: “Citizen science is in a process of consolidation, with a wide variety of practices and perspectives. Social sciences and humanities occupy a small space despite the obvious social dimension of citizen science. In this sense, citizen social science can enrich the concept of citizen science both because the research objective can also be of a social nature and because it provides greater reflection on the active participation of individuals, groups, or communities in research projects. Based on different experiences, this paper proposes that citizen social science should have the capacity to empower participants and provide them with skills to promote collective actions or public policies based on a co-created knowledge.

Citizen science is commonly recognised as the participation of the public in scientific research (Vohland et al., 2021). It has been promoted as a way to collect massive amounts of data and accelerate its processing, while also raising awareness and spreading knowledge and a better understanding of both scientific methods and the social relevance of results (Parrish et al., 2019). Some researchers support the idea of maintaining the generality and vagueness of the term citizen science (Auerbach et al., 2019), due to the youth of the discipline and the different ways it can be understood (Haklay et al., 2020). Such diversity can be considered positively, as a way to enrich citizen science and, more generally, as a catalyst for the emergence of trans-disciplinary and transformative science.

The sociologist Alan Irwin, one of the authors to whom we owe the concept, already said over 25 years ago: «Citizen Science evokes a science which assists the needs and concerns of citizens» (Irwin, 1995, p. xi). The book argues that citizens can create reliable knowledge. However, decades later, the number of contributions using the term citizen science in social sciences and humanities is scarce, smaller than the number of items published in environmental sciences or biology, which predominate in the field (Kullenberg & Kasperowski, 2016). Nevertheless, there is a growing consensus that social sciences and humanities are necessary for citizen science to reach maturity, both so that the object of study can also be of a social nature, and also so that these disciplines can provide a more elaborate reflection on participation in citizen science projects (Tauginienė et al., 2020)….(More)”.

How laws affect the perception of norms: empirical evidence from the lockdown

Paper by Roberto Galbiati, Emeric Henry, Nicolas Jacquemet, and Max Lobeck: “Laws not only affect behavior due to changes in material payoffs, but they may also change the perception individuals have of societal norms, either by shifting them directly or by providing information on these norms. Using detailed daily survey data and exploiting the introduction of lockdown measures in the UK in the context of the COVID-19 health crisis, we provide causal evidence that the law drastically changed the perception of the norms regarding social distancing behaviors. We show this effect of laws on perceived norms is mostly driven by an informational channel….(More)”.

Disrupting the Welfare State? Digitalisation and the Retrenchment of Public Sector Capacity

Paper by Rosie Collington: “Welfare state bureaucracies the world over have adopted far-reaching digitalisation reforms in recent years. From the deployment of AI in service management, to the ‘opening up’ of administrative datasets, digitalisation initiatives have uprooted established modes of public sector organisation and administration. And, as this paper suggests, they have also fundamentally transformed the political economy of the welfare state. Through a case study of Danish reforms between 2002 and 2019, the analysis finds that public sector digitalisation has entailed the transfer of responsibility for key infrastructure to private actors. Reforms in Denmark have not only been pursued in the name of public sector improvement and efficiency. A principal objective of public sector digitalisation has rather been the growth of Denmark’s nascent digital technology industries as part of the state’s wider export-led growth strategy, adopted in response to functional pressures on the welfare state model. The attempt to deliver fiscal stability in this way has, paradoxically, produced retrenchment of critical assets and capabilities. The paper’s findings hold important implications for states embarking on public sector digitalisation reforms, as well as possibilities for future research on how states can harness technological progress in the interests of citizens – without hollowing out in the process….(More)”.