Understanding global change: how best to organize information?

Humphrey Southall, P. Manning, M. Berman, J. Gerring, P. Bol

    Research output: Working paper

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    Understanding the larger socio-economic challenges facing our society requires a long- term global perspective, but in practice such perspectives are almost impossible to achieve because the necessary datasets are fragmentary or non-existent. All too often, historical research is based on a single country or a small group of advanced economies; or on just the last thirty or forty years. We need to assemble not just historical statistics but closely integrated metadata, including locations and reporting unit boundaries, so that researchers can explore alternative approaches to achieving consistency over space and time without requiring an army of assistants for each new project. We explore a range of possible approaches, concluding that existing social science data repositories are insufficiently integrated; that we cannot leave it all to Wikipedia, although an open collaborative approach is essential; that Geographical Information Science technologies are necessary; but they are not sufficient, and concepts from other areas of Information Science are also needed, notably including ontologies and linked data. A set of more specific research challenges are identified, including the need to link vector- and ontology-based data structures for social science history with raster and grid-based resources in environmental history.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationArlington
    PublisherNational Science Foundation
    Number of pages6
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


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