Start date

August, 2016


David Ribes
Sarah Inman
Charlie Hahn


salmon / data / integration investigates the efforts of scientists, state and local actors seeking to draw together heterogenous data to form a synthetic understanding of salmon in the American Pacific Northwest: the State of Alaska’s Salmon and People (SASAP). SASAP aims to generate the knowledge necessary for restoring healthy populations of salmon to their natural habitat through the collection, analysis, and synthesis of myriad data types on the one hand, and by bringing together a number of concerned stakeholder communities on the other. Many organizational, epistemic and cultural uncertainties surround how to effectively execute these respective processes.

Our project takes up the different ways that data circulation and stakeholder engagement generate salmon as an object of inquiry: how translating this information into databases creates the foundation for new knowledges about environmental management and the role played by research infrastructures in this process. Focusing on the practical work of coordination among heterogenous actors (such as national and state government, subsistence fishermen, commercial fisheries and processors, Native Alaskans, tribal councils, and actors from the academy) we pay close attention to “contested collaborations” (Lee, 2007) in the interoperation of heterogenous data (Ribes, 2017), studying spaces in which some artifacts and social negotiations are rendered visible while others are obscured.

By studying the specific methods and instruments used to count, measure, and engage around the issue of wild Alaskan salmon, we address questions such as: What can be learned about collaborative work by ‘following the data’? How do data infrastructures assist, capacitate, and delimit synthesis endeavors? And how can following the practices of synthesis science lead us back to the object itself, in this case salmon? More broadly, the analysis we offer is attentive to processes of standardization and translation, to the convergence of scientific disciplines, and to the sociotechnical implications of this synthesis process, both upstream and downstream.