“Creeping commercialisation” of ‘big data’ may force university researchers to pool their resources, a Queensland media and cultural studies specialist has warned, The Australian reports.

Queensland University of Technology commentator Axel Bruns said social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter were limiting access to “application programming interfaces”, the underpinning software that makes it easier for researchers to analyse their data.

This, combined with the emergence of social media data resellers, was preventing researchers from making a “considered choice” about whether to use bigger or smaller datasets.

“Increasingly, a handful of (commercial, or strongly commercially–supported) research institutes dominate the ‘big social media data’ field,” Dr Bruns wrote in First Monday, a peer-reviewed journal about the internet.

“The majority of ‘regular’ scholars must scratch for crumbs and make do with the more and more limited data which the platforms’ open APIs still provide.”

He said a new “digital divide between data haves and have–nots” threatened the quality of social media research. University–based researchers should pool their resources rather than “continue to waste time and effort by continuing to reinvent their data–gathering approaches in isolation from each other”, he said.

“One option worth exploring is the development of coordinated, federated data access consortia to acquire access to social media data and make these data available to accredited researchers at consortium member institutions.”

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