Utrecht Data School


OA Book Call for Contributions

Making a Difference!
Novel Research Methods in the Datafied Society


Schäfer and Lauriault are critical, theoretical and practice based scholars who do data work within and beyond the academy. While doing so they have experienced the tension between the expectations of traditional forms of scholarly funded research, and doing novel forms of socially relevant empirical work. This rewarding research is engaged, and often involves relationship building with partners from  government, the private sector and civil society. This also requires relationship building, time, learning by doing, and knowledge mobilization often at odds with the publish or perish model.

They want to hear from others whose research practices actually make a difference in the datafied society.  This edited book Making a Difference! Novel Research Methods in the Datafied Society invites scholars, instructors, practitioners and professionals in academia, government, the private sector and civil society who do the same and want to share their critical, participatory and entrepreneurial data work to improve social and material outcomes, and create systems that are fair, accountable and transparent. 

Making a Difference! also matters in the classroom, especially with students at different stages in their academic and professional life trajectories who seek impactful and meaningful learning opportunities. This is also true in boardrooms, as there is also the call for evidence-informed decision making and for responsible data practices. It has proven difficult for many however to balance the traditional mission of the university and the desire to have a positive impact on society. This is especially the case when doing data work with practitioners, administrators and professionals. Some in the university are adapting and evolving their research practices in unique and interesting ways, others are doing critical research outside the academy, and some are doing both. We want to hear how you address these challenges.

Making a Difference! will feature bold ideas from researchers, practitioners, designers, and instructors who have developed collaborative ways of doing critically informed data work. This may include digital methods and analytical approaches to conduct joint projects with government, media, corporations, and civil society partners. This work may be funded by both traditional and novel forms of financial arrangements. This direct engagement with external partners often connects research agendas to address urgent societal needs, which often allows students to incubate new ideas and create new occupations. In addition to reconfiguring relationships with practitioners, entrepreneurially minded scholars have maintained independence while producing rigorous and critical research. These emerging and mutually beneficial approaches to doing critically informed data work increasingly recognize team efforts, transdisciplinary cooperation, and entrepreneurial skills that have made difference.

Chapters for this OA book will be between 3000-8000 words and will be organized into the following broad areas: 

  • Theoretically informed applied research; 
  • Methodological approaches to doing engaged and participatory research;
  • Transdisciplinary and multi-sectoral research projects; 
  • Case studies (may be shorter chapters 3000-4000 words); 
  • Novel pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning (3000-4000 words);
  • Position statements that identify pressing challenges about doing this type of critically informed data work (could also be shorter chapters 3000-5000 words).

The following is a list of potential topic areas:

  • Action, engaged, and participatory scholarship and research
  • Entrepreneurial research (as an example see this video)
  • Socially transformative interdisciplinary collaborations 
  • Multi-sectoral team-based collaborations 
  • Applied basic research and practices from STEAM disciplines, in the humanities, social and/or natural sciences, data science, HCI, etc. 
  • Academic-community knowledge transfer
  • Co-creation, co-design and forms of public engagement
  • Citizen science, crowdsourcing, and open data
  • Engaged pedagogical approaches, community partners in the classroom; multi-purpose assignments, and etc.
  • Maintaining impartiality, autonomy and research integrity with private funding
  • Scholars as experts, practitioner, and as academics
  • Impact measurers, metrics, indicators, and theory of change
  • Data practices that address equity & inclusion and anti racism, sexism, LGBTQ, ableism, Indigenous issues, labour, etc.
  • Other issues that arise from AI/ML, data infrastructures, systems, and technologies through these novel forms of conducting research
  • Suggest an idea!

Making a Difference! Will be organized as follows. 

1.    Theoretical Approaches about doing critically informed transdisciplinary and multi-sectoral data work that challenge traditional humanities and social science scholarship 

In this section chapters (3000-8000 words) contextualize emergent forms of engaged scholarship through in-depth theoretical reflections about how to transform the academic status quo in terms of research and pedagogy. Here we also imagine chapters that might include methodological and pedagogical approaches.

2.    Case Studies about Doing Critically Engaged Data Work  

Chapters here might be shorter (3000-5000 words) and include one or more case studies that apply theory and describe novel approaches to engaged research, teaching and collaboration. We are particularly interested in contributions that track a project’s societal impact, and that emphasize how challenges to traditional forms of university research have been overcome, including  those encountered by those outside the academy working with scholars.

3.    Position Papers on Pressing Challenges

Chapters here might address practical solutions to the challenges imposed by the transformation of the academy and societal needs for critically engaged data work. Authors would take a position on productive paths forward on topics such as (but not limited to) obtaining funding, ensuring research integrity, awarding recognition, avoiding co-optation, implementing new metrics, creating incentives, conducting open access and open data research, and conceptualizing new roles for researchers and students.

About the editors:

Mirko Tobias Schäfer is an Associate Professor at Utrecht University, and a co-founder of the Utrecht Data School. m.t.schaefer@uu.nl

Tracey P. Lauriault is Associate Professor of Critical Media and Big Data, School of Journalism and Communication, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Tracey.Lauriault@Carleton.ca


We seek contributions from scholars, instructors, practitioners and professionals in academia, government, the private sector and civil society. 

We hope to receive works from any of the following: geography, anthropology, media studies, communication, journalism, organizational studies, business, public administration, sociology, social work, gender studies, criminology, philosophy, digital humanities, HCI, data science and others that do critically engaged data work for an open access book entitled Making a Difference! Novel Research Practices in the Datafied Society to be published by Amsterdam University Press by the spring of 2022. 

Submission Instructions:

Please send a 250 word abstract proposal by August 13th, 2021 to both Mirko Schäfer, M.T. (m.t.schaefer@uu.nl and Tracey P. Lauriault (Tracey.Lauriault@Carleton.ca). 

In the subject line of your email, include:

  • Making a Difference! 

In the body of your email include:

  • Chapter title
  • Section you are submitting to
    • Section 1: Theoretical approaches; 
    • Section 2: Case studies; or 
    • Section 3: Position papers. 
  • 250 word abstract
  • Name of author(s), title(s), institution(s), & email addresses.
  • We will send out confirmations by August 30th, 2021 
  • First drafts are expected by November 30, 2021.
Do you have any questions or feedback? Please let us know! Contact EN


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