Feel the Berg! IASSIST 2016
The conference began with a reception from the Mayor of Bergen, beautifully performed Norwegian folk song, and dissent over the conference hashtag (it was #iassist16).
The next morning data talk began with Gudmund Hernes. His plenary theme is data availability or the latest “revolution” is, as it always has, causing a shift in power. The role of IASSISTers and data archives should be to “keep the record straight”.
UK Data Service Director Matthew Woollard’s plenary offered a similar theme of adjustment to a changed data world. In sum, a data revolution is only mature when lots of the data created as part of this revolution is reusable. Therefore we need enhance trust between creators and participants, and advocate data quality rather than quantity. Look for a future IASSIST Quarterly article based on his plenary.
The theme of quality and reproducibility was captured in presentations by Christian (Odum) on data verification, which found reproducibly to be a resource intensive activity with 92 percent of manuscripts submitted to Odum requiring resubmission. Arguillas (Cornell) demonstrated R2 at CISER which runs replications. Their job is not to find errors on behalf of researchers but to check replication values; so if replicated study value is off by fraction of a decimal the study is not replicated. Again, it is a time intensive process so Arguillas advised researchers to “curate as you code and code with reuse in mind”. Brown (Cornell) talked about the CED2AR metadata repository that works primarily with those accessing or wishing to access restricted data files. Peer introduced Yale’s new curation tool. Curation for quality and reproducibility, she argued, will become routinized when research data policies and culture mature to recognise curation and sharing and tools to capture the entire workflow become embedded in the research process.
Highlights in other concurrent sessions I attended included Strategies for Discussing and Communicating Data Services where Herndon (Duke) and O’Reilly (Emory) emphasised how expectations of transparency and sharing have changed. Meanwhile, Terrence Bennett (The Collage of New Jersey) killed of his co-author in the name of data sharing to show how negative messages have more impact.
“Teaching data” themed sessions included a systematic “scaffolding” approach from Sapp Nelson (Perdue) on helping learners move across data management domains over time. Hofelich Mohr (Minnesota) and Motes (Surrey) demonstrated teaching activities at the University of Minnesota which included targeting courses with a research methods component. The results are positive, but the costs in resources are intensive and the need to be flexible is critical. Abbaspour (Lewis & Clark) presented lessons learnt from teaching undergraduate students about data, including the lesson that when it comes to licences undergraduate students have limited mental tolerance for a world that deals in shades of grey, and is not simple black and white.
Simpson and Wiltshire (UK Data Service) had presentations on supporting students and researchers in using either using data for dissertations or on using specific datasets. Scott’s (UK Data Service) audience was a little different: researchers applying to use sensitive data. One thing that was positive to see here is how sensitive data holding organisations in the UK are collaborating on this training.
A sizable cohort from the UK Administrative Data Research Network presented at IASSIST on how this service is tackling access to data and its responsible reuse. Presentations from Knight and Greci provide examples. Continuing the theme of responsible reuse, Segadal (NSD) outlined the incoming European Union regulation on general data protection and how it will affect researchers.
The international in IASSIST was demonstrated in a session on Research Data Management Services, with speakers from Denmark, Canada, and India. Fink and Olesen (DDA) presented the role the Danish National Archive will play in supporting Data Management Planning. Mowers (Ottawa) presented a range of research data on management and sharing practices that will inform support. Gunjal (NIT Rourkela) presented on the RDM challenges in India, his institution as a case study, and on initiatives to build Indian data infrastructure.
A couple of librarian orientated sessions provided insights. Solis (NYU) offered findings on her research into economics graduate students data-seeking behaviour, finding a lot of intuitive independent data gathering activity and, worryingly, a “liberal” attitude to sharing licenced data and a perturbing attitude that if something is online then it will always be online. Hogenboom (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) talked about building small dataset collections, considering decisions on the basis of licence terms, quality, money available, potential future use of data, and who is requesting. Blake (Michigan) talked about a data grants programme they ran which saw researchers competitively apply for data resources. Nobel (ICPSR) presented on their curating content activity, deciding to curate studies submitted to Open ICPSR on the basis of methodological rigour, reputation, high priority data, data and documentation quality.
The other data librarian session was built around a new book edited by Kellam (UNCG) and Thompson (Windsor) and featuring a panel of IASSISTers. No spoilers. Go and buy the book. But it was interesting to hear how people found themselves in data librarian positions, the different aspects of the role, and critically, the wide ranging and (unrealistic?) expectations under which data librarian positions are advertised.
A closing mention goes to this year’s conference paper winners: Lafferty Hess and Christian (ODUM) for their paper "More Data, Less Process: The Applicability of MPLP to Research Data" in which they ask what the “golden minimum” is for archiving digital data.
Finally, IASSIST recognised Libby Stephenson and Ann Green with achievement awards for too many accomplishments to cover in this blog post.
The conference closed with a little less polished singing than the reception featured, hashtag wars resolved, and the IASSIST banner packed and headed for #iassist17 in Lawrence, Kansas.
#iassist16 tweets are Storified (including #iassist2016 tweets).