Besides providing resources for organising data sprints and teaching data literacy through a societally situated approach, the website of Data Inquiries will also serve as a space for generative encounters between students, data scientists and civil society groups.
More specifically the website is meant to function as a clearinghouse where societal actors can describe the objectives of their data projects and define the kind of contribution they seek and where students and experts can find occasion for practicing data research in real-life situations.
The Data Inquiries website will not host datasets or precise specifications for computational challenges (which would negate the very essence of this approach), instead it will contain a catalogue of inquiry ideas meant to serve as starting points for conversation between different actors and potentially for collaboration. As such, it will be a clearinghouse but also a greenhouse where new projects and collaborations are nurtured.
A typical inquiry idea will be proposed by a civil society organisation (e.g. an NGO, a citizen association, a newsroom, an interest group, a research consortium, a public institution, an informal initiative…) and will be composed of:
- The definition of the long-term objectives presented not as a list of computational tasks, but as a description of the societal context addressed by the proposal, the overall motivation for intervening in it, and the general intervention strategy.
- Using the example of the Fake News Field Guide, a coalition of fact-checkers may add an entry in the clearing/greenhouse to describe their long-term mission of improving the quality of public debate, making online conversation more thoughtful, open to diverse contributions and promoting respect and curiosity for each other viewpoint.
- A short description of the data available (if any), of the sources where they can be found or of ideas to generate them.
- In the case of the Fake News Field Guide, the fact-checkers coalition might have collected over the time a list of accounts responsible for publishing or spreading hateful content in a particular social platform, and they may have an ongoing collaboration with the same platform allowing the collection of aggregated data from a private API - extracting, for instance, the dataset of all the URLs shared by the accounts in the last year.
- A general description of the kinds of contributions that would be most welcome. Here again, the idea is not to list specific tasks or needs, but to start a dialogue, by presenting open-ended ideas, stumbling blocks or opportunities to be exploited.
- In our example, the fact-checkers coalition may be interested in finding creative ways to use the list of shared URLs to gain a better understanding of how radical groups use social media to recruit new members.
- The names of the reference-persons for the inquiry at the civil society organisation and details on how to contact them and start a conversation about possible collaborations.
- In our example, this section may contain the name of the persons who are more closely working on the “radical groups recruitment” project and the preferred ways and time to get in touch with them.