computers in libraries 2011: data curation workshop

24 Mar

This post-conference workshop was the first of many as part of the Data Curation Profiles Toolkit project at Purdue University Libraries, which is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).  Below are my notes from the workshop, but be sure to visit the website if you’d like to learn more.

Reasons for the workshop and project:

  • assess information needs of researchers
  • raise awareness of curation issues with researchers
  • grow the collection of data curation profiles to analyze and develop a community of practice
  • understand the needs of librarians in engaging with faculty

First, what is research data?  It’s recorded factual material commonly accepted in the scientific community as necessary to validate research findings.  Data can be in the form of images, samples, surveys, tapes, raw numbers, algorithms, etc.

What is curation?  Curation is the activity of managing and promoting the use of data, starting from the point of creation, to ensure its fitness for contemporary purposes and availability for discovery and reuse.

Data used to be viewed as a byproduct of research, so it wasn’t preserved — now, data is seen more as an informational asset, part of the historical record.  Data can be reused and repurposed for future research.

A data curation profile (DCP) is basically the story of a data set — how it starts and is used.  The purpose of DCP’s is to investigate what data researchers have, what they are currently doing with the data, and what they’d like to do with it.  The larger the collection of DCP’s, the more conclusions you can draw from analyzing them and finding patterns — thus, increasing understanding of faculty needs.

DCP’s are created after interviewing researchers about a specific data set.  The DCP Toolkit has four components:

  1. user guide: describes the rationale and process of DCP’s and provides guidance
  2. interviewer’s manual: used in tandem with…
  3. interview worksheet: filled out by the researcher
  4. DCP template: informed by the researcher’s perspective

Uses of the DCP:

  • guide for discussing data issues with researchers
  • give insight into areas that need attention
  • give insight into the differences between data among various disciplines
  • understand faculty research from a production perspective (instead of consumption)
  • help liaison librarians engage with researchers

The DCP Toolkit is an interesting approach to understand what new services librarians can offer.  The process is hard work — but if you really want to work with data, this is the information you need to know.

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Posted by on March 24, 2011 in conferences


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