Visual arts research data or what makes a cake?

With thanks to Robin Burgess, KAPTUR Project Officer for The Glasgow School of Art for this blog post.

At the KAPTUR Research Data Management workshop held at The Glasgow School of Art (GSA), in response to the question

“What information should be kept?”


the analogy of baking a cake was given i.e. the end product (research output/s) being the cake and the “research data” being the ingredients – but you wouldn’t necessarily want to keep the dirty mixing bowl as you have now got the finished cake?

The group discussion dwelt upon the value of research and the information being collected. It was felt that research data needs to be determined and managed by the individual researcher; that they should ultimately have the control over their information.

The group went on to discuss specific research types and issues were raised in relation to whether the information was being seen as primary or secondary data; how it would be selected for data curation; and finally the distinction between the data and the actual research output.

Defining visual arts research data

Another theme from the day was defining visual arts research data. Laura Molloy offered Leigh Garrett’s working definition for discussion in her presentation (see the bottom of this blog post: What is visual arts research data? revisited).

During the workshop research data was discussed using examples. This raised a lot of questions, debate and conflict in relation to the interpretation of research data including:

  • there was little consensus on a definition for research data as it would depend which discipline and department you were working for;
  • research data should be a ‘thing’ rather than a ‘thought’;
  • the process of research is essential and therefore should be recorded and documented as part of the research lifecycle as research data;
  • the effects of research and the evidence of research were seen as being important within the definition of research data;
  • the importance of expression and reflection were also discussed.

One Comment on “Visual arts research data or what makes a cake?”

  1. mtgwork says:

    Hi Robin, Thank you for the blog. In terms of the baking a cake analogy I have also thought of things such as ceramic glaze recipes such as this one in the VADS collection I also wonder about equating the artistic sketchbook with its potential for recording experiments, thoughts, ideas and observations to a scientist’s lab book. Hmmm… I look forward to discussing more with you and the team at the next meeting!
    Best wishes, MTG

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