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Chuck's blog

OR2013: Open Repositories Confront Research Data

Open Repositories 2013 was hosted by the University of Prince Edward Island from July 8-12. A strong research data stream ran throughout this conference, which was attended by over 300 participants from around the globe.  To my delight, many IASSISTers were in attendance, including the current IASSIST President and four Past-Presidents!  Rarely do such sightings happen outside an IASSIST conference.

This was my first Open Repositories conference and after the cool reception that research data received at the SPARC IR meetings in Baltimore a few years ago, I was unsure how data would be treated at this conference.  I was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic interest of this community toward research data.  It helped that there were many IASSISTers present but the interest in research data was beyond that of just our community.  This conference truly found an appropriate intersection between the communities of social science data and open repositories. 

Thanks go to Robin Rice (IASSIST), Angus Whyte (DCC), and Kathleen Shearer (COAR) for organizing a workshop entitled, “Institutional Repositories Dealing with Data: What a difference a ‘D’ makes!”  Michael Witt, Courtney Matthews, and I joined these three organizers to address a range of issues that research data pose for those operating repositories.  The registration for this workshop was capped at 40 because of our desire to host six discussion tables of approximately seven participants each.  The workshop was fully subscribed and Kathleen counted over 50 participants prior to the coffee break.  The number clearly expresses the wider interest in research data at OR2013.

Our workshop helped set the stage for other sessions during the week.  For example, we talked about environmental drivers popularizing interest in research data, including topics around academic integrity.  Regarding this specific issue, we noted that the focus is typically directed toward specific publication-related datasets and the access needed to support the reproducibility of published research findings.  Both the opening and closing plenary speakers addressed aspects of academic integrity and the role of repositories in supporting the reproducibility of research findings.  Victoria Stodden, the opening plenary speaker, presented a compelling and articulate case for access to both the data and computer code upon which published findings are based.  She calls herself a computational scientist and defends the need to preserve computer code as well as data to facilitate the reproducibility of scientific findings.  Jean-Claude Guédon, the closing plenary speaker, bracketed this discussion on academic integrity.  He spoke about scholarly publishing and how the commercial drive toward indicators of excellence has resulted in cheating.  He likened some academics to Lance Armstrong, cheating to become number one.  He feels that quality rather than excellence is a better indicator of scientific success.

Between these two stimulating plenary speakers, there was a number of sessions during which research data were discussed.  I was particularly interested in a panel of six entitled, “Research Data and Repositories,” especially because the speakers were from the repository community instead of the data community.  They each took turns responding to questions about what their repositories do now regarding research data and what they see happening in the future.  In a nutshell, their answers tended to describe the desire to make better connections between the publications in their repositories with the data underpinning the findings in these articles.  They also spoke about the need to support more stages of the research lifecycle, which often involves aspects of the data lifecycle within research.  There were also statements that reinforced the need for our (IASSIST’s) continued interaction with the repository community.  The use of readme files in the absence of standards-based metadata and other practices, where our data community has moved the best-practice yardstick well beyond, demonstrate the need for our communities to continue in dialogue. 

Chuck Humphrey

SPARC Digital Repositories meeting includes session on open data

Kathleen Shearer of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries organized and chaired a panel on Open Data was held at the SPARC Digital Repositories meeting on November 8, 2010.  IASSIST members Gail Steinhart and Chuck Humphrey were two of the three members on this panel.  Kevin Ashley, Director of the Digital Curation Centre (DCC), was the third. more...

Open Data Surfaces at the ALA Annual Meeting

On May 11, 2006, the following announcement was made about an upcoming forum at the American Library Association annual meeting that will address issues related to Open Data.

During the past several years, Open Data has become a field of urgent interest to researchers, scholars, and librarians. With the amount of scientific data doubling every year, issues surrounding the access, use, and curation of data sets are increasing in importance. The data-rich, researcher-driven environment that is evolving poses new challenges and provides new opportunities in the sharing, review, and publication of research results. Ensuring open access to the data behind the literature will play a key role in seeing that the scholarly communication system evolves in a way that supports the needs of scholars and the academic enterprise as a whole.

As Open Data moves to the forefront of scholarly communication, librarians, administrators, and researchers will be responsible for considering new access policies for data and data curation issues. This SPARC-ACRL forum will introduce Open Data as an emerging focus, explore the challenges of managing the data deluge, and aid participants in crafting their own digital data preservation and curation policies.

This discussion is arising out of the scholarly publishing movement known as SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition.) Their coalition consists of more than 300 academic and research libraries and likely include the libraries of many of our IASSIST members. The European members of this movement have a separate website at SPARC Europe.

IASSIST members should become involved in these discussions. Many of the Open Data issues are familiar turf for our members.

Contributed by Chuck Humphrey

Data versus Conventional Wisdom: A Book Review

Topic:

Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner provides an economist's analysis of some social issues not normally associated with economics, such as, the causes of crime, the impact of parenting on child development, and the power of information in combating racial discrimination. more...

Report on Access to Scientific Research Data

The final report of the Canadian National Consultation on Access to Scientific Research Data has just been released containing eighteen recommendations to improve open access to research data in Canada. While some of these recommendations are unique to the Canadian context, others share a close relationship with the recommendations of the International Council for Science report, Scientific Data and Information.Supported by the National Research Council of Canada, a task force was established in June 2004 to provide advice about improving access to scientific research data. more...

Postmodern Values that Threaten National Data Archives

Following John Curtice's plenary address in Edinburgh about postmodernism and Session G3 on Transforming Data Archives, I wrote an essay outlining the threat that certain postmodern values pose for national data archives. This discussion summarizes this argument and proposes actions aligned with the IASSIST Strategic Plan to present a line of defense for data archives.

Discovering a Profession: the accidental data librarian

A session at the Edinburgh conference addressed a topic that arose earlier in the year on the IASSIST email discussion list about how people prepare and enter the profession of data librarianship. In general, is there a profession of data librarianship?An interesting question was presented on the IASSIST email discussion list earlier this year asking how one becomes a data librarian. Several people replied by relating personal accounts about their entry into this profession. Out of this discussion came the observation that many were 'accidental' data librarians, that is, they had not pursued a career as a data librarian but by happenstance discovered the profession.

This conversation was continued in a session at the Edinburgh conference: E4. Discovering a Profession: the accidental data librarian. Speaking in this session, Paul Bern (Syracuse University) questioned whether data librarianship qualifies as a real profession. He listed three attributes that W.M. Sullivan in Work and Integrity (2005) uses to characterize a profession:

  • a commitment to public service
  • public recognition of a degree of autonomy to regulate themselves
  • specialized training in a field of codified knowledge.

Paul noted that the first characteristic is one on which we clearly qualify as a profession. Data librarians are known for their dedication to public service. How data librarianship measures up to the next two characteristics, however, is debatable. This blog entry is dedicated to continuing this debate.

A bonnie IASSIST in Edinburgh

Be slow in choosing a friend, but slower in changing him. Source: Scottish Proverb
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