Methodologically, we draw on ethnography in social sciences, particularly anthropology where the use of ethnography in studying global phenomena and settings has been both critically and innovatively explored, and recent developments in science and technology studies (STS) and related disciplines.
In the absence of feasible approaches, one of our major objectives is to develop a methodological approach tentatively called ‘scoping the field’ that is sensitive to the extended, emergent, multi-scoped, and complex ontological nature of large-scale knowledge infrastructures. ‘Scoping the field’ builds on the notion of ‘constructing the field’, and augments the prevalent spatially oriented notions of the field.
Empirical research materials are mainly obtained through ethnographic fieldwork, but also via mixed methods. Participant observation in online and offline settings results in field notes, audio and video recordings, and we also collect documents, logs and survey data. Our research on FinLTSER and research infrastructures in Finland took as starting point the previous involvement by the PI in the initial phases of the FinLTSER network over a period of 10 years. Interviews and collaborative timeline development with a variety of actors involved in the formation of the FinLTSER provided a solid ground for understanding the phenomenon as well as opening up the empirical field of investigation to a wider scope to gain understanding of the research infrastructure landscape in Finland in which FinLTSER network is embedded.
Another stream of empirical research focuses on the case of LTER Norway. Norway has joined the LTER network relatively recently. Through interviews and qualitative observations, we study the gradual formation of a network of environmental monitoring sites according to the requirements of LTER, how various research institutions are involved in this initiative, and the role of the authorities. Two streams are followed at present: first, we are investigating the institutional and political factors influencing the maturing of LTER in Norway; second, we seek to develop a better understanding of the way environmental monitoring is conducted in practice today and how environmental data are managed and curated.