Nicholas Weber | Movers & Shakers 2020–Digital Developers

Social science research involves a lot of non-numerical data, including interviews, images, videos, and speech transcripts. But once results are published, these are often discarded. Nic Weber is working to change that by making such datasets easier to store, discover, and access.

Sidsel Bech-Petersen

CURRENT POSITION

Assistant Professor; Technical Director, Qualitative Data Repository, Information School at the University of Washington 

DEGREE

PhD Library and Information Science, University of Illinois, 2015

FOLLOW

@nniiicc; nicweber.info

Photo by Doug Parry

 

Qualitative Design

Social science research involves a lot of non-numerical data, including interviews, images, videos, and speech transcripts. But once results are published, these are often discarded. Nic Weber is working to change that by making such datasets easier to store, discover, and access.

As technical director of the Qualitative Data Repository (QDR), Weber leads a team "building open-source tools to facilitate transparent social inquiry," says Colin Elman, political science professor and director of the Center for Qualitative and Multi-Method Inquiry and QDR at Syracuse University, NY. Weber’s team has developed several features for the open-source Dataverse platform that underlies QDR and more than 30 other repositories, such as file preview, full-text search, and preservation storage pipelines. Elman also singled out Weber’s work on Annotation for Transparent Inquiry, which enables scholars to annotate specific passages in an article and include links to relevant data sources in a repository.

"People who are doing publicly funded research have an obligation to make the data behind their work accessible," Weber says. "But also…scholarly communities are organizing around principles of transparency…accountability, and…trust. [QDR] is a technical infrastructure and a set of services that…[accommodates]" those goals, as well as greatly simplifying the sharing of non-numerical research data.

"[Weber]…provide[s] a crucial bridge between librarians, information scientists, software engineers, and social science researchers," Elman says. "He sees how the groups complement each other, and how their efforts can best be combined."

Separately, Weber is cofounder both of the open-source Council Data Project, which provides tools to make local government data easily searchable, and the nonprofit Seattle Civic User Testing group, a cooperative of technologists and UX researchers that organizes co-design sessions in public libraries and engages members of underrepresented minorities in testing and providing feedback on city apps. "The long legacy of commitment to transparency…equity, and…literacy makes librarianship really well suited to serve the information challenges of the public right now," he says. 

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