Regional Report 2008-2009: United States

IASSIST Regional Report 2008-2009
United States
Pam Baxter
Cornell University
May 2009

Inauguration of a new administration brings substantial changes in the executive branch. As preparation for the decennial Census intensifies, there’s been scrutiny of the President’s choice(s) for Commerce Secretary as well as his Census Bureau nominee, Robert Groves. Both Secretary Gary Locke and Groves (director of the Survey Research Institute, University of Michigan) addressed concerns of some in Congress; that is, the latter’s past support for statistical sampling in the decennial Census.

In May, the US government launched the site which is intended as a portal to US government data products. Government agencies were encouraged to identify “raw” data to be included during the launch. These datasets would then be presented in a searchable manner and more datasets would be added as the site developed. During the development phase, IASSIST members San Cannon (Federal Reserve) and Dan Gillman (BLS) helped develop the metadata scheme to be used for the datasets listed on and they included input gathered from the IASSIST community. The site is still a work in progress. Data sets continue to be added although it is unlikely that the site will reach 240,000 datasets by the end of June as was (possibly erroneously) reported in the New York Times.

Developments in IASSIST Members’ Institutions

University of North Carolina’s School of Information and Library Science hosted the second Digital Curation Curriculum Conference in April 2009, DigCCurr 2009: Digital Curation Practice, Promise and Prospects. It was held as part of the Preserving Access to Our Digital Future: Building an International Digital Curation Curriculum (DigCCurr) project. DigCCurr (pronounced “dij-seeker”) is a three-year activity (2006-2009), funded by Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) involving collaboration between SILS and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The goals of DigCCurr are to develop a graduate-level curricular framework, course modules, and experiential components to prepare students for digital curation in various environments.

This year’s symposium attracted over 260 attendees, including 100 presenters from nine countries. The symposium received high marks from attendees for its wide-ranging program covering digital curation synergies and collaboration; teaching and training at the international level; digital curation in relation to archives and museums; current digital curation practices; pressing digital curation needs; and infrastructures in support of digital curation. It also provided a venue for network building among digital curation professionals from a variety of practice settings. As noted by one attendee, DigCCurr2009 did, “the best job I have seen yet of pulling together educators, researchers, and practitioners around these interesting issues.” Program, speaker bios, presentation abstracts, and full Proceedings available on the DigCCurr2009 conference website. The published proceedings can also be downloaded at no charge.

The School of Information and Library Science, through the recently funded DigCCurr II project, will host 3 week-long professional institutes on digital curation. The first, DigCCurr Professional Institute: Curation Practices for the Digital Object Lifecycle, will take place June 21-26, 2009. More information on the professional institutes, as well as DigCCurr and DigCCurr II, may be found on the project website.

Also from UNC: The University is now home to the Data Intensive Cyber Environments (DICE) group (formerly known as Data Intensive Computing Environments group), previously housed at the University of California - San Diego’s Supercomputer Center. The DICE team was awarded the SAA Jameson Archival Advocacy Award in August 2008.

The research team will hold appointments in UNC’s School of Information and Library Science with research space in Chapel Hills Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI). The research group brings expertise in development of digital data technologies, including open source software to share data in collaborative research, publication of data in digital libraries, and preservation of data in persistent archives. For more information, see the August 26, 2008 UNC press release. [Submitted by Michele Hayslett]

ICPSR launched its new Online Learning Center (OLC) in September, 2008. The OLC is a source of empirical activities aimed at undergraduates in lower-division, substantive courses. Its goal is to assist faculty in building students’ quantitative literacy skills across the curriculum. Activities in the OLC match social science concepts to data within ICPSR’s holdings, making it easier for instructors to use real data in introductory-level classes. Use of the OLC should increase quantitative literacy among students, pique their interest in the social sciences, and bridge the gap between substantive and required methodological courses by making the need for, and process of, social science research more apparent. In addition to IASSIST, presentations about the Online Learning Center have been made at regional and national sociology conferences and on various college campuses. [Contributed by Lynette Hoelter]