We expect big data methods to make rational contributions by means of helping generate research results that are not inferior to those attained in other ways but are possibly better, or hard or impossible to generate in those other ways. Those who apply these methods may also aspire to use them to augment the available arsenal of research methods, offer surrogates for existing research designs, and re-orient research. Moreover, we can critically examine the direct and indirect societal and political effects of the institutionalization of big data methods. To reach its first objective, this article elaborates in its final section conclusions on how big data methods, not only by means of their ‘social life’ but also by their ‘political life’, influence the institutionalization of social research with special reference to political science research. To advance towards its conclusions, the article first pursues a second objective, re-examining a comparative ‘intermediate data’ study of budgetary legislation in thirteen countries to draw conclusions concerning the augmentation of the arsenal of research methods, the surrogation of existing research designs, and the re-orientation of research.