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Accepted Paper:

On doing “Being open scientists”  
Goetz Hoeppe (University of Waterloo)

Paper short abstract:

How does acquiring membership in the “culture of open science” (if there is one) guide scientists’ work on preparing data sets for future uses? This critical anthropological view considers scientists as ethnographers of what is, to them, an as yet unknown domain in which they seek to become actors.

Paper long abstract:

What does it mean to be scientists in a time of novel aspirations to the open access of data and software? How does acquiring membership in the “culture of open science” (if there is one) guide scientists’ work on preparing data sets for future uses? This paper takes an anthropological look at these questions by considering scientists as ethnographers of what is, to them, an as yet unknown domain in which they seek to become actors. The paper is inspired by remarks of Harold Garfinkel (1967) who, in his Studies in Ethnomethodology, argued that ‘doing, recognizing, and using ethnographies’ is ‘for members a commonplace phenomenon’, as well as by Harvey Sacks’ (1992) probing into how ‘doing being a member’ can be accomplished by encountering a limited, even small portion of a society’s order.

I draw on my ethnography of a team of junior astronomers who prepared a scientific data set for public release. These astronomers—members of MUWAGS, the Multi-Wavelength Galaxy Survey (pseudo-acronym)—had assembled a data set of observations and measurements from various instruments, including the Hubble Space Telescope, which they used for diverse studies of galaxy evolution (Hoeppe 2020). Toward the end of their project’s core phase they prepared a set of reduced digital photographic images and tables of measurements for release to the public. Team members discussed how to prepare their data and encode their knowledge, when and how to release their data, and what to leave out, so that they would be understood by future users. This seemed to me to be a perspicuous setting for inquiring into the co-production of knowledge, “open science” and possible anthropologies of the future.

Garfinkel, Harold (1967). Studies in Ethnomethodology. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

Hoeppe, Götz (2020). Members doing Ethnography? On Some Uses of Irony and Failed Translation, Witnessed in an Episode of Data Sharing in Open Science. Ethnographic Studies, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 1 – 20.

Sacks, Harvey. 1992. Lectures on Conversation. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Panel P36
Co-production of knowledge, open science and anthropologies of the future
  Session 1 Friday 10 June, 2022, -