Project Methods

At their inceptions cyberinfrastructures do not exist as anything more than an ad hoc social network of experts collected from diverse fields. The work of beginning a CI is that of building a common series of goals and expectations across domains as well as between domain scientists and computer scientists, then creating a functional division of labor, and securing an organizational structure to ensure long-term accountability. In short, at the beginning cyberinfrastructures are integrally technological artifacts and social and organizational endeavours.

Social informatics research is methodologically tailored to study these social networks and emergent organizational forms: primary methods include ethnography, interviewing and content analysis.

For the past two years social informatics researchers have been attending and participating in community meetings, conferences, workgroups, e-mail discussions, and informal get-togethers. This form of research is known as participant observation or action research as it involves both the collection of data and evaluative feedback to the participants.

Interviews will focus on the project manager's and PI's, but also on key information technology players and geo-, ocean- and eco- scientists within the subject communities. These interviews will serve to understand the subjective success of cyberinfrastructure deployment in the communities; since we cannot rely solely on technological success to evaluate interoperability, we must also focus on the general enrollment of the larger science communities as a participating constituencies of cyberinfrastructures.

Technical literature produced both from the information technology and domain-science components will be collected, analyzed and archived. Technical literature can serve as a surrogate for the success of a cyberinfrastructure. A successful cyberinfrastructures will result both in publications by users, but also collaborations across traditional disciplinary boundaries. The qualitative analysis of literature will also be able to bring-forth changes in research fronts of users: e.g. is Ocean Informatics having an impact not just on how research is conducted but on what objects are researched? Thus technical literature serves both as a marker of the success of cyberinfrastructure in usage but also of cyberinfrastructure in effect.