Reflections on Research Processes in the Digital Age
Patrick Haggard, Gretty Mirdal (éd.), Reflections on Research Processes in the Digital Age, Paris, IEA de Paris, 2016
The Paris IAS offers a rare opportunity for advanced researchers to share insights and compare perspectives across disciplines. In our recent discussions, one common theme emerged: the rapid change in the kind of research we do, and the way we do it, due to emerging digital research technologies. Informal discussion with IAS colleagues revealed a wide range of benefits, transformations, but also risks and costs of these digital revolutions in the research process. We decided to collate the commentaries of current IAS fellows from several disciplines, to provide a series of unique and personal snapshots of research in the digital age.
The contrasts between disciplines, and even between individual researchers in the same discipline, are striking. In some fields, digital toolkits have enabled dramatic progress in both quantity and quality of research. In other fields skepticism reigns, and researchers fear that digitally-mediated information overload will discourage traditional thoughtful scholarship. In some fields, the digital age has simply changed the way that people answer the accepted key research questions. In other fields, digital methods have changed the questions that researchers ask. Moreover, digital research methods have themselves become an object of research. The IAS fellows’ comments demonstrate the power but also the diversity of the digital transformation of research processes and research agendas.
We offer these perspectives largely unedited, as examples of the impact of the digital age on the research process. We hope they will stimulate useful self-reflection by scholars and students across all disciplines. They can also offer a useful comparative document for understanding similarities and differences between disciplines in research methods, theories and agendas.