Big Data on BHR: Innovative Approaches to Analysing the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre Database

James Allen-Robertson and co-authors Nicole Janz, Rajeshwari Majumdar and Shareen Hertel offer a glimpse of the benefits to be gained from pioneering new research using the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) database.  As discussed in their article, published in the Cambridge University Press on 30 September 2020, data limitations in the field of business and human rights (BHR) are a significant challenge to developing transparent and replicable scholarship.  However the authors have identified a promising development with the emergence of large-scaled automated coding of company-related ‘stories’ from the BHRRC database.  Information held on this database has been difficult to analyse, in part, due to the necessity to hand-code related content which is a time consuming and complex process. However research teams from the University of Connecticut, University of Nottingham and University of Essex have been able to develop and use application programming interfaces (APIs) to code units of data from the BHRRC database.  Their resulting analyses of trends in stakeholder consultation (Hertel, 2019) and trends in industry patterns of rights issues demonstrate the potential the BHRRC database holds for transforming quantitative and mixed-methods scholarship in BHR and its broader policy implications.

Using the BHRRC repository as an example, this article considers new approaches to big data in the BHR field, including using custom-built analytics and data visualisation tools and discusses the challenges of working with this data and what steps can be taken to mitigate problems.