Data - its nature and management

A short note on some of the complexity behind the concept of data


  • Dan Remenyi University of KwaZulu Natal
  • Paul Griffiths EM-Normandie, Oxford, UK



nature of data, definition of data, data objectivity, data versus noise, data ethics, data management, data protocol


This is a wide-ranging paper that discusses a number of issues surrounding the nature and use of data in academic research. As this is a vast subject the authors consider it a short note on this most important topic. It is a noteworthy fact that very little attention has been given to reflection on and understanding of the nature of research data. It seems to have been taken for granted that researchers would intuitively know what data is and how it should be handled. And interestingly this has not historically been an issue but in the light of the proliferation of multi-forms of data it is appropriate to reconsider the nature of research data and discuss how it is used in academic research processes. This is no trivial matter as many of the issues involved can often be used in imperfectly defined ways and thus there is a continuous propensity to ambiguity. The realisation that data is primarily a catalyst to human thought processes is an important insight to what data is really about. The main outcome of this paper provides a fresh or freshly invigorated insight leading to a novel conceptual understanding of the nature, role and potentiality of research data and this leads to emphasising the central importance of the researcher understanding what data will facilitate his/her answering the research question. The issue of the importance of data management is also emphasised as are the challenges of data interpretation. As an aid to future researchers, the paper offers a visual depiction of “The roadmap from phenomenon to idea to pursue”. The discussion in this paper is primarily philosophical although it does venture to address some of the more operational issues related to the effective use of data. The findings benefit from, and are underpinned by, the authors’ experiences over many years of practical empirical research. The authors regard this paper as an invitation to the academic community to engage in a discourse on issues underpinning this new understanding of the nature of research data.



21 Nov 2022