Dr Jo Bates

BA (Keele), MA (Nottingham), MA (Manchester Metropolitan), PhD (Manchester Metropolitan)

Information School

Senior Lecturer in Information Politics and Policy

Jo Bates
Jo Bates

+44 114 222 2648

Full contact details

Dr Jo Bates
Information School
Regent Court (IS)
211 Portobello
S1 4DP

After completing a degree in Politics and American Studies at Keele University, I took a number of years away from academia working in the Housing Benefits department of Manchester City Council.

I then returned to study for an MA in American Studies at Nottingham University, before moving into the information field via an NHS librarian graduate traineeship. Whilst completing my librarianship qualification at Manchester Metropolitan University, I became increasingly interested in the social shaping in information environments.

This led to me staying on at Manchester to complete my PhD on the politics of the UK’s Open Government Data initiative. I joined the Information School at Sheffield as a Lecturer in 2012.

University responsibilities

  • Co-Director for Postgraduate Research
  • Data Science Deputy Programme Coordinator
  • Information School Strategy Group (Staff Rep.)
  • University Research Ethics Committee (Faculty of Social Science Rep.)
  • Faculty of Social Science Digital Society Network Steering Group
  • Module Coordinator: Data and Society (PGT) and Digital Media and Society (UG)
  • Member of the Digital Societies Research Group
Research interests

My research is situated in the field of Critical Data Studies – an interdisciplinary field that uses critical social theory approaches to examine the social drivers, implications and power relations of emergent forms of data and algorithmic practices.

I work collaboratively with other scholars in the field of Critical Data Studies and cognate fields, as well as computer and information scientists who are engaged in the algorithmic processing of data.

I am a co-founder with Prof. Helen Kennedy and Dr Ysabel Gerrard of the Data Power conference, and on the Editorial Advisory Board of Big Data and Society.

My research has examined:

  • Socio-material dynamics that influence the production and use of data, and that enable and restrict the movement of data between different people and organisations. This work was largely conducted on the AHRC funded project ‘The Secret Life of a Weather Datum’, and includes the development of the ‘Data Journeys’ approach and work on the concept of ‘Data Friction’. See Bates et al (2016); Bates (2017); Bates and Goodale (2017) and Bates et al (forthcoming)
  • Affective dynamics in cultures of Data Science practice. See Bates and Elmore (2018)
  • Socio-cultural biases and transparency in image search results conducted in collaboration with Prof. Paul Clough and Dr Frank Hopfgartner in the Information Retrieval group and Prof. Jahna Otterbacher at the Open University of Cyprus. See Otterbacher et al (2017) and CYCAT project (Horizon 2020)
  • Socio-technical approaches for improving crowdworkers’ labour conditions in ongoing research with Dr Alessandro Checco in the Information Retrieval group. See Checco et al (2018)

I am interested in supervising PhD projects that advance the critical study of emerging data and algorithmic practices and flows. This includes, but is not limited to, issues around:

  • socio-cultural and/or political economic drivers of emergent practices of data production, processing, distribution and/or use in different contexts
  • bias and discrimination in data and algorithmic processing
  • cultures of data science practice
  • notions of data justice, fairness, accountability and transparency

I am a member of the Digital Societies Research Group and on the steering committee of the Faculty of Social Science Digital Society Network.

Research projects

CyCAT (Cyprus Centre for Algorithmic Transparency)

European Commission Co-Investigator €999,965 1st October 2018 36 months

The Cyprus Center for Algorithmic Transparency (CyCAT) is hosted at the Open University of Cyprus and is collaborating with four leading universities across Europe and Israel through an H2020 Twinning grant. The aims of the project are to promote digital literacy through raising citizens’ awareness of the ways in which data analytics and algorithmic processes affect their access to information and opportunities, and to develop computational methods, personalized tools, as well as innovative training and education programs that address these issues.

The Secret Life of a Weather Datum

Arts and Humanities Research Council Principal Investigator £79,460 1 January 2014 15 months

The Secret Life of a Weather Datum project developed and piloted the "data journeys" methodology which aims to illuminate the ways in which socio-cultural factors influence how data are produced, used and distributed across different sites of data practice. The project focused specifically on the journey of meteorological data from our local weather station - Sheffield Weston Park - through the Met Office, and on into re-use in climate science and financial markets. We also examined the intersecting journey of data produced by citizen scientists. Throughout these journeys we stopped off at various organisations, projects and communities in order to explore the data practices people were engaged in, the socio-cultural values that frame their data practices, and the public policies that influence data sharing and distribution. You can find out more at lifeofdata.org.uk.


Journal articles


  • Bates J (2021) Big Data and Data Analytics In ? (Ed.), Routledge Social Science Handbook of AI Routledge View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
  • Quinn K & Bates J (2019) Everyday activism: challenging neoliberalism for radical library workers in English higher education In Tett L & Hamilton M (Ed.), Resisting neoliberalism in education: local, national and transnational perspectives Policy Press View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
  • Bates J (2017) Big data, open data and the climate risk market In Brevini B & Murdock G (Ed.), Carbon Capitalism and Communication (pp. 83-93). Palgrave Macmillan View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
  • Bates J (2017) Data cultures, power and the city, Data and the City (pp. 189-200). View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
  • Bates J, Checco A & Gerakopoulou E () Worker perspectives on designs for a crowdwork co-operative In Hepp A, Jarke J & Kramp L (Ed.), New Perspectives in Critical Data Studies: The Ambivalences of Data Power. Palgrave Macmillan RIS download Bibtex download

Conference proceedings papers

Website content

Theses / Dissertations

  • Bates J (2013) Politics of Open Government Data: A Neo-Gramscian Analysis of the United Kingdom's Open Government Data Initiative. RIS download Bibtex download

Working papers

  • Bates J (2015) Data Cultures, Power and the City. Programmable Cities: Data and the City. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Bates J (2014) Climate Risk, Big Data and the Weather Market. SPERI, 13. RIS download Bibtex download


  • Bates J Open Government Data, Online Collective Action and Policy Change in the UK: a Neo-Gramscian Approach. RIS download Bibtex download
Research group

Current PhD students

Ruth Beresford: Algorithmic bias: patterns, consequences and alternatives

Dan Grace: Creating the convivial library: exploring the effect of technology on the public libraries capacity to promote community resilience.

Sally Sanger: Alcohol online support groups: the role of discussion forums in constructing users' understanding of their condition/disease.

Jun Zhang: A study based on the analysis of deploying an integrated smart transportation system within the context of China.

Itzelle Medina-Perea: The socio-cultural life of personal health data flows in the UK healthcare sector.

Teaching interests

My teaching is research-led and is focused on the development of students’ critical understanding of the social drivers and impacts of emergent data and media practices.

I use a variety of traditional and innovative teaching methods to help students engage with their learning, including making significant use of digital technologies.

I have received a number of teaching grants including a £1500 grant to work collaboratively with international students to produce four teaching case studies about internet use in different countries around the world.

I have presented work on my Data Science teaching at Data Power 2017.

I completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in 2014, and I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Authority.

Teaching activities

I co-ordinate and teach two core modules in the School: ‘Data and Society’ on our MSc Data Science and ‘Digital Media and Society’ – an innovative 40-credit UG module that is part of the Faculty of Social Science’s new Digital Media and Society degree that I developed with Prof Helen Kennedy in Sociological Studies.

I am also deputy programme co-ordinator for the MSc Data Science, and in my role a Postgraduate Research Co-Director I run the School’s Doctoral Training in Information Studies module.

Professional activities
  • Co-editor of Online Information Review journal (2016-present)
  • Editorial Advisory Board for Big Data and Society
  • Co-founder and co-organiser of international Data Power conference since 2015
  • AHRC-funded research project - The Secret Life of a Weather Datum - cited by RCUK in their submission to the UK government inquiry on the Big Data Dilemma
  • Gave oral evidence as an invited international expert on Open Government Data to a public hearing of the Canadian Federal Parliament
  • Invited speaker at ERC funded Data and the City workshop organised by Prof. Rob Kitchin
  • Peer reviewer of grant applications and research articles for ESRC, Big Data and Society, Policy and Internet, Social Theory and Health, Government Information Quarterly, Journal of Further and Higher Education, iConference.
  • Speaker at various external events including Yorkshire and Humberside Information Governance Group, Department for Work and Pensions, White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership.
  • Research has been reported by a number of media outlets, including Forbes, New Statesman, BBC Radio Sheffield.
  • Advisory Board for EPSRC funded research project: Everyday Growing Cultures in the North of England: participation, citizenship and local economies