Across much of the social sciences, the means of scientific production (i.e., datasets) have become increasingly concentrated, with a shrinking number of datasets responsible for an ever-larger share of total scientific production. There is, however, one very idiosyncratic research zone – that of qualitative science – in which this trend has been suppressed and a cottage-industry mode of production persists. Under a cottage-industry mode, research is predicated on (a) limited up-front funding, (b) small-scale production, and (c) a division of labor in which a single researcher is responsible for the full research-production process (data collection, data analysis, article production). Although virtually all social science once took this cottage-industry form, the postwar expansion of science fueled the rise of omnibus public-use surveys and administrative datasets within the quantitative field. This had a concentrative effect in which a small number of quantitative datasets came to account for a growing share of quantitative research (e.g., national public authority registers). By contrast, qualitative scholars have been largely cut from such public research funding, and highly decentralised data collection continues to be incentivised by conveying ownership rights to individual data collectors. This cottage-industry mode has made it difficult for qualitative scholars to meet standard open science commitments to transparent, reproducible, and cumulative research. If qualitative work were to be rebuilt around open science principles, it will likely be necessary to open up new streams of public funding for omnibus qualitative data sets, just as has long been the case within the quantitative field. The American Voices Project – the first nationally-representative open qualitative data set in the US – is a radical test of this hypothesis. The purpose of this talk is to discuss the promise and pitfalls of this new open-science form of qualitative research as well as opportunities to institutionalize it across the world.
About the speaker:
David B. Grusky is Edward Ames Edmonds Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences, Professor of Sociology, Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, Director of the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, and coeditor of Pathways Magazine. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, corecipient of the 2004 Max Weber Award, founder of the Cornell University Center for the Study of Inequality, and a former Presidential Young Investigator.
His recent books are Inequality in the 21st Century (with Jasmine Hill, 2017), Social Stratification (with Kate Weisshaar, 2014), Occupy the Future (with Douglas McAdam, Robert Reich, and Debra Satz, 2012), The New Gilded Age (with Tamar Kricheli-Katz, 2011), and The Great Recession (with Bruce Western and Chris Wimer, 2011).