Data Librarian Conference Round Up

The June 2017 Data Bites Forum provided an opportunity for librarians to share what they had learned from attending the Research Data Access and Preservation (RDAP), IASSIST and other data related conferences.

Several themes emerged from our discussion:

  • Data education is a hot topic right now, particularly the various flavors of carpentry that are out there (software/data/library). There were several presentations on how librarians are getting involved in teaching these workshops or incorporating aspects of them into their educational efforts successfully.
  • Big Data only seems to be getting bigger, as do the social, technical and legal aspects of making it all work. Dr. Jen Clarke, a keynote speaker at IASSIST described her work with the Midwest Big Data Hub in addressing the current state of Digital Agriculture. The advent of farm equipment and tools that are able to collect data is already having an impact on commercial operations like Monsanto. The challenge now lies in helping farmers and others learn tools and techniques to take advantage of the data being generated. Dr. Clarke closed by stating data initiatives need the skills and perspectives that librarians bring to the table.
  • Software is increasingly a component of a data set. Managing, curating and preserving software can be particularly challenging given their dependencies. ReproZip is a tool developed by New York University designed to help address these challenges through tracing the system calls used to identify and capture the necessary data files, libraries, environment variables and options.
  • The context surrounding the data can be as important as or even more important than the data itself.  This may be especially true for the Humanities. Miriam Posner gave a talk on why the term and concept of “data” is so problematic to Humanists. Data sets represent certain ways of organizing and understanding the concept being studies but so many of the decisions and choice made in developing the data are not conveyed.  Thus, a data set in a way looks naked to a humanities scholar.

The next Data Bites meeting will be on July 12th in the Clark Presentation Space.