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IASSIST 2015: Blog Post from a Data Librarian in Minneapolis

Topic:

“Hey Charlie I'm pregnant and living on 9th Street”. Wait. I don’t know anyone called Charlie. I’m not pregnant and this isn’t 9th Street. I’m living in a dorm room at University of Minnesota contemplating how I managed to end up back in dorm living before succumbing to assisted living. The reason? IASSIST 2015.

What follows is my take on this Aquarian Explosion: 3 Days of Data & Music.

By the time we got to Minnesota we were a couple of hundred strong. Stardust, golden and superbly organised by the Minnesota Population Centre (MPC), who managed to book a little remembered British R&B combo called the Rolling Stones to perform during the conference.

MPC can be faulted only for their failure to prevent a thunderstorm on Wednesday afternoon.

Lynda Kellem and Sam Spencer did a great job managing the conference programme, as did workshop, poster, and Petcha Kutcha coordinators, giving IASSIST 2015 legitimate claim to be the best ever.

Plenary sessions

The conference, entitled “Bridging the data divide”, was orientated around three challenging plenary sessions, which covered the destruction or construction of metaphorical bridges between data creators and users.

Steven Ruggles (MPC) outlined the downfall of the United States Census from the world’s leading innovator in data gathering, analysis, and dissemination to one hampered by policies of contracting out government services.

Curtiss Cobb from facebook presented a view we rarely get at academic conferences, a commercial company that needs and uses data and wasn’t actually trying to sell their creation at the conference (no need really as the person in front of me spent an hour utilising Mr Cobb’s product regardless). Whatever your view of that company, or speculations on the motives behind their stated aims, their needs embrace IASSIST’s organisational goals of supporting high quality meaningful data.

Andrew Johnson, Minneapolis city councillor and assuredly not the 17th President of the United States, recounted his campaign platform of using open data in government -- another bridge built, and one I hope connects governments to electorates and - ultimately - better governance. Cllr. Johnson’s session also revealed a set of cultural challenges familiar to anyone who’s interviewed researchers on data sharing: “[It] will be used to make us look bad”, “people could do anything with it”, and one I haven’t seen yet in data sharing excuses bingo: “Geeks will have an unfair advantage”.

Concurrent sessions

My first session produced three good presentations on RDM services.

Jungwon Yan’s research at University of Michigan indicated knowledge of RDM may vary across discipline and a stakeholder analysis may be helpful to understand the kind of RDM service needed.

Mayu Ishida (University of Manitoba) and Sarah Williams (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign) claimed libraries are responding to funding agencies data mandates and developing research data services to include different types of data, domains, and needs.

Two Amies, Neeser and West (University of Minnesota), ended on a positive note for those of us struggling to deliver RDM support: it takes a long time, no one else is better/faster/more, and there is no “done”.

Kelly Chatain (ICPSR) began the session on “Integrating Principles, Practices, and Programs to support Research Data Management” by mentioning outreach to build goodwill.

Lizzy Rolando (Georgia Tech) highlighted the distinctions between data services and archives, which have implications for service provision.

Bethany Anderson (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign) emphasised the importance of documentation for reuse, reproducibility, and replicability, urging us to take whole-lifecycle view into mind and think of preserving scientific memory as without context, data has no historical value.

Session C3 on “Data Sharing Behaviour and Policy” featured your friend and humble narrator going on about UK Higher Education Institution Research Data Policies.

After the audience had recovered, Amy Pienta (ICPSR) presented on the differences in data sharing attitudes between disciplines even if there is no apparent explanation in the data for those differences.

Alexia Katsinidou (GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences) offered preliminary survey analysis on non-compliance in data sharing that suggests surprising counter-intuitive reasons for not sharing.

D1 featured “Data Professionals”.

IASSIST 2015 fellow Adetoun Oyelude, (University of Ibadan) talked about her interviews with data specialists in Nigeria and the considerable financial and working culture challenges they face doing their job.

A. Michelle Edwards (Cornell) mapped the data lifecycle we all know and love into an approach for starting a new job.

The session then ended with Line Pouchard (Purdue) outlining differences between regulatory environments in United States and United Kingdom on video feeds in the CAM2 project, stating existing regulations were written before “Big Data” came, and subsequently they make sharing difficult.

Restricted-Use Data Support in Academic Libraries” found a “catalogue” (suggestions for a better collective noun are welcomed) of US based librarians speaking about attempts to facilitate sensitive data access in their institution.

It seems this is often on a basis of the librarian having prior knowledge and experience in these areas.

Reasons a secure data room was requested are essentially a) graduate students do not have their own space in which to work with sensitive data, and b) the supplier's request data only be provided with a consummate level of security provided.

Researchers need help with restricted data: facilities to ensure data security, and a professional to mediate applying for, receiving, and handling data, advice on complying with restricted data controls.

The final session I attended featured librarians working in the Data Management Plans as A Research Tool (DART) project.

This project uses NSF and NIH DMPs as a means to develop research data services at academic libraries thorough a standardised review process.

The findings are that DMPs are getting better over time, but there is a need for better, clearer “boilerplate” language to manage researcher expectations and halt their misinterpretation of what data services can offer.

Pecha Kucha

Doing the Pecha Kucha session justice in this blog post is impossible for a writer of my ability, and someone conscious of an already lengthy word count. You had to be there for the experience as IASSISTers unleashed their comedic and creative talents for six minute 40 second takes on a range of data (and wine) related topics.

Thanks to this year’s session, attendees are now aware of what it takes to draw an owl.

Poster session

The poster session was also full of good presentations. A few singled out for relevance to me included University of Toronto on RDM training, The UK’s new Administrative Data Research Network, and the simple, but effective, idea of collecting RDM stories.

Workshops

I’m sure they were great. I just didn’t go to one.

And finally…

Amy West did the data viz job in capturing #iassist15 tweets While Kristin Briney’s session notes became a work of art*.

Slowly, surely, presentations will start to appear on the conference or IASSIST website. And of course in the end there was a song.

What’s next?

Next year we move the show to Bergen, Norway. Oil, fish, Black Metal, and data. Join us!

* Briney, Kristin (2015): IASSIST 2015 - Whole Notebook of Sketchnotes. figshare. http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.1439792 Retrieved 10:55, Jun 11, 2015 (GMT)

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