Dissertation working draft



The cooperation and coordination of different scientific cultures is increasingly important in contemporary research settings. This especially true in the earth sciences where the sharing and reuse of others data, software, instruments, and infrastructures is necessary to comprehensively study interconnected physical systems. Information Science has traditionally studied the phenomena of sharing research objects either private goods, applying behavioral economic principles to their management, or common pool resources, which position policies to encourage sharing as a cultural "conundrum."

This dissertation addresses problems of collective action that result from the sharing and pooling of climate science research objects managed as public goods. Through a case study of a long-standing project, the International Comprehensive Ocean and Atmosphere Dataset (ICOADS), I describe how cooperation in producing and managing public goods has been sustained amongst diversely motivated groups over a thirty year period; and how recent political events have impacted this community. I argue that current models of organizing and funding institutions for collective action fail to accommodate a form of knowledge production that depends upon the pooling and sharing of resources across traditional institutional and organizational boundaries, and that the differences between private goods, common-pool resources and public goods are critical to addressing these problems through policy development.

Drawing on past studies of governance structures for cooperative land management and physical resource pooling I propose a framework that will support the comparative and longitudinal study of the types of complex sociotechnical systems required to support collective action in the earth sciences. I apply this framework to ICOADS, and discuss its success and limitations as a diagnostic tool.

The overarching thesis of this dissertation is that peer production and the shared management of research objects as public goods are an increasingly important feature of successful cooperatives found in systems-based sciences. If future science and technology policies are to move beyond simple panaceas for the sustainability of sociotechnical systems that support this type of work, then it is important to understand not only how successful models of cooperation emerge, but also how they evolve and change over time.


In chapter one I describe two influential views of organizing, managing and funding knowledge production in basic science research; I refer to these two approaches as the cynical and the sentimental. I then describe how and why the cynical and the sentimental models are incompatible with the kinds of broad cooperation required to sustain collaborations that share and pool resources across traditional organizational boundaries. I then state three research questions to be answered by this dissertation.

In chapter two I provide a brief background on the International Comprehensive Ocean and Atmosphere Dataset (ICOADS), which will be used as case study in this dissertation. I then describe my work with this community over the last two years, including a set of published studies of ICOADS impact, value and evolution.

In chapter three I review research literature on collective action, peer production, and shared governance of public goods from the fields of economics and political science. I demonstrate that many of the findings from this body of research are compatible with studies of data sharing, reuse and cyberinfrastructure development found in information science and CSCW.

I use these overlaps to suggest that an analytical framework for studying the evolution and sustainability of sociotechnical systems, like ICOADS, should be developed to better understand the complex political, social and economic settings in which they are embedded.

In chapter four I describe the methods I have used to conduct a case study of ICOADS. I outline the form that the completed case study will take and its contribution to our understanding of the sustainability of institutions for collective action.

Next, I review a number of different analytical frameworks that have been used, in part, to study the sustainability of cooperative institutions in political science, cultural heritage studies, human computer interaction, and information science. I then outline a proposal for a framework to analyze the sustainability of sociotechnical systems in these settings. In the completed dissertation I will apply this framework to ICOADS, and discuss its success and limitations as a diagnostic tool.

I conclude with a discussion of my intended audience, the limitations to the work I have proposed, and a schedule for completion of the dissertation.