The Human Side of Data Collection

Data collection is a necessary part of the research process. But is all the data that is collected in the course of a research project necessary? What happens when we think of the information collected not as “data” but as observations? How does the public feel about being the subject of these observations? How do researchers keep the people they are passively observing safe from unintended?

At the center of transportation research is a desire to improve the lives of people and communities. With an eye toward that human well-being, thinking about how the data that is collected impacts the lives of the individuals being observed is important.

This is the premise of the research Dr. Jasmine McNealy is conducting. Dr. McNealy, who has a J.D. in addition to her Ph.D. in Mass Communication, studies information with a view toward influencing law and policy.

Often, in the course of a research project, excess data is collected. Dr. McNealy plans to look at if this excess data is relevant to the initial study. Could these studies be conducted with less data collected? Would less data collection benefit the lives of the people being – often unknowingly – observed in the course of transportation and mobility research? 

Broadly, the results of this research have the potential to re-focus the way researchers look at data collection. Working from a large research institution such as the University of Florida offers the opportunity to further impact the way data collection is done on a large scale.