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18 Sep 2016

Humans of Data

'Humans of Data' is a new art / research intervention project that was launched at International Data Week 2016 (, and aims to open up a human conversation through portraits and quotes from individuals from around the world who are part of the research data community.

Much discussion happens around the technical and legislative challenges and opportunities relating to research data. But in many presentations and group meetings, we have repeatedly heard that our human behaviour – our desires, ambitions, fears, traditions and habits – shape how effectively we create, manage, share and reuse research data assets, and how open we are to collaborating on research data infrastructure.  As many speakers have noted, the technical challenges are usually susceptible to scoping and tackling, but the really intricate work is the work of creating social change and new behaviours.

As an artist and a researcher, I’m passionate about digital curation, digital preservation and research data management, and how those skills are useful to everyone in contemporary society to one extent or another.  And I’m also passionate about the way that research data – and visual art – have so much potential to transform our lives, societies and the world around us.  As I’ve continued to attend data-related conferences, I’ve become fascinated with this human element.

I also noted that the International Data Week crowd is a welcome mix of nationalities, genders, ages and ethnicities.  It’s critical that our conversations include people unlike ourselves, and there is so much to be gained from getting to know each other better in order to build the kinds of relationships that can help us make progress across communities, nationalities and disciplines.

To that end, I launched a project called “Humans of Data’. It’s a really simple idea – basically the same as the ‘Humans of New York’ project online, where there is a photo and a quote from each (unnamed) person.  I hope this helps to get a more personal, human conversation going amongst the amazing people I meet at data conferences all over the world, connecting with their lives as individuals and having them say something about what they’re passionate about when it comes to data-related issues.

I’ll be posting the ‘Humans of Data’ on the CODATA blog at as each photo and quote becomes available, and reposting here at my Research Data Alliance blog to help connect with as many of the data community as possible. 

If you’d like to participate, please email me at laura.molloy AT, or contact me via Twitter @LM_HATII.  Otherwise, please feel free to comment on posts if you have something to share.  Looking forward to our collaboration!


Grateful thanks for CODATA for their support of this project.

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