6 Jul 2015 Riga - At the e-IRG Workshop, held on June 3, 2015 in Riga, Latvia,Primeur Magazinehad the opportunity to interview Wolfram Horstmann, Director of the State and University Library at the Georg-August University in Göttingen, Germany, and member of the LIBER Executive Board, which is the European Association of Research Libraries. Wolfram Horstmann held a presentation at the e-IRG Workshop about the long tail of data. There are several aspects that Wolfram Horstmann usually wants to mention about the long tail when he is offered the chance to do so.
The first one is that long tail is not what it seems. It is sometimes thought that the long tail contains smaller and superspecific parts of research but looking at, for example, the distribution of funding, one can see that there are many more projects that receive a smaller amount of budget and very few projects that receive a large amount of funding. There are many more projects that produce smaller kinds of data than projects that actually produce Big Data. The majority of research is about the long tail of data.
The second important aspect about the long tail of research and, correspondingly the long tail of research data, is that once you have accepted the fact that we are talking about ten thousands of institutions worldwide, hundreds of thousands or millions of projects and definitely millions of researchers, rather than a few that produce a large amount of data, then the challenges' diversity, the diversity of the people, the diversity of the data types, the diversity of regions, countries and institutions and how to manage this diversity should not become an obstacle to what we all want, namely an open and excellent framework for performing research.
Rather than focusing on the big infrastructures and focusing on the big projects and Big Data, we actually should focus on the problem of how to overcome that diversity, how to build aggregated environments, aggregated information resources and environments in which researchers can collaborate and build the vision of a globally connected and an open science framework.
Standards and big infrastructures are important, according to Wolfram Horstmann. It is not a contradiction that standards and big infrastructures exist but the point that Wolfram Horstmann is trying to make is that standards and big infrastructures much more need to take into account the individual, the project's, and the institutional perspective because it is often driven by big projects, big data centres, and the institution or the individual university perspective is sometimes neglected.
With respect to the next phase of the e-Infrastructure development and Europe, what Wolfram Horstmann would like to see is a kind of alignment, closer collaboration and connection between the big infrastructure development and the actual institutional and individual research perspective. While we do excellent research in the area of the big infrastructures, the Big Data initiatives, the mainstream part of excellent research is actually in the long tail of research.