Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Date of this Version



Published in The Critical Librarianship and Pedagogy Symposium: Reflections, Revisions, and New Work, ed. Yvonne Mery & Anthony Sanchez. ACRL, 2023. ISBN 978-0-8389-3953-6


Creative Commons license CC-BY-NC-SA


In the last decade or more, academic libraries have taken up the challenge of providing data curation and research data support, bringing expertise in metadata and digital preservation to key aspects of the research data life cycle. This activity has hastened since 2013, when the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a memo directing federal funding agencies to require data, among other products of research, to be shared as a condition of funding.1 The OSTP memo did not come out of the blue, but recognized changes in data practice in some disciplines as the costs of sharing data digitally declined and the open science movement gained steam. The practice of open science seeks to improve the reliability and efficiency of science by making it possible to share digital tools and products of research, including data, more readily. Data sharing is said to promote scientific transparency, maximize the value of federal research support, create opportunities for reanalysis and reuse, discourage fraud, and perhaps most idealistically, provide a means for reproducibility and replication, indicators of objectivity in high-stakes science.

During this same time, a body of thought within librarianship has coalesced under the phrase “critical librarianship” or “critical library practice” as practitioners apply critical theories available in other disciplines to their work. Critical approaches to library practices have called neutrality, along with the profession’s traditional commitment to it, into permanent question, enlarging the conversation about objectivity within library and information sciences. Conceptions of objectivity and neutrality are also central concerns in the study of scientific practice, a transdisciplinary domain of inquiry that is well developed within some strains of information science. Critical library practice is inflected by this scholarship, and together they can extend rigorous interrogation of practice to data curation, the specialty subdiscipline that cares for the stuff of scientific claims, research data.

In this chapter, I bring these conversations together through a feminist theory of knowledge production, or epistemology, and propose “situated data” as a framework for critical data practice. By connecting feminist epistemology to data curation, I provide a frame for understanding data sharing as a critical library practice with the potential for engaging a wider range of knowers in scientific knowledge production and producing better, more objective, and more just accounts of the world.