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Humans of Data is an art / research intervention project that was launched at International Data Week 2016 (, to open up a human conversation through portraits and quotes from individuals from around the world who are part of the research data community.  The project has since visited various other international meetings including the annual International Digital Curation Conference ( and meetings of the Research Data Alliance (  Now, Humans of Data is growing to involve members of the public in thinking about the data they create and use, and how they feel about being part of our connected world. 


The project began in the context of the information science communities that create and discuss research data, and the systems, policy and infrastructure that is necessary to create, manage and share research data.  In this world, much discussion happens around the technical and legislative challenges and opportunities relating to research data.  But it's our human behaviour – our desires, ambitions, fears, traditions and habits – that shape how effectively we create, manage, share and reuse research data assets, and how open we are to collaborating on research data infrastructure - or, indeed, anything else.  The technical challenges are usually susceptible to scoping and tackling, but the really intricate work is the work of creating social change and new behaviours.


As an artist and a researcher, I’m passionate about creating art that connects humans.  I'm also passionate about digital curation, digital preservation and research data management, and how those skills are useful to everyone in contemporary society to one extent or another.  Research data – and visual art – have so much potential to transform our lives, societies and the world around us.  As I’ve continued to attend data-related conferences, I’ve become fascinated with this human element.


I also noted that the research data management, preservation and curation crowds are a welcome mix of nationalities, genders, ages and ethnicities.  When we're building policy and / or infrastructure, it’s critical that our conversations include people unlike ourselves.  Also, there is so much to be gained from getting to know each other better in order to build the kinds of relationships that can help us make progress across communities, nationalities and disciplines.


To that end, I launched this project called Humans of Data.  It’s a really simple idea – basically the same as the ‘Humans of New York’ project online, where there is a photo and a quote from each (unnamed) person.  I hope this helps to get a more personal, human conversation going among the amazing people I meet at data conferences and other events all over the world, connecting with their lives as individuals and having them say something about what they’re passionate about when it comes to data-related issues.


‘Humans of Data’ was originally published on the CODATA blog (, and also at my Research Data Alliance blog ( to help connect with as many of the data community as possible. It is also now available at

If you’d like to participate, have questions or want to give feedback, please email me at laura AT, or contact me via Twitter @LM_HATII.

Photographer: David Leddy

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