Data Friday: Because It’s My Job

I started thinking about data not all that long ago, and might have even asked a certain Repository Rat what exactly a librarian’s roll in all of this was.  Ahh, young hedgepig.  I didn’t know how prescient this curiosity would be.  While I still continue to feel dreadfully behind, I increasingly get the sense that I’m not the only one in that boat, paddling for all I’m worth.

Now, data is a part of my job.  I had the first meeting with the library e-research committee.  In my institution this is being co-chaired by the Scholarly Communications Librarian and the Head of Systems, the latter of whom I really need to pin down for an interview.  He’s working on DataOne.  Those two people, along with another member of campus (not library), are going to the ARL/DLF E-Science Institute in January and we have a fair chunk of homework before then.  Much of that is a campus data/e-science SWOT analysis and we’re in the early stages of figuring out just what our resources are so as best to determine what our SWOTS are.

We’ve only had one meeting thus far but already this group has brought out a number of things that I didn’t know the university had (still in my first year here–to cut myself a smidge of slack) and a lot of people for us to talk to before we compile our analysis. I was also amused to see that one of the professors I see pretty regularly and really enjoy working with was considered one of the power players for this.  As I commented on Friendfeed, it’s good sometimes to have met people and gotten to work with them before you suddenly find out that they are really important.

There was a question that I raised today with the group because, as yet, I’m not seeing it raised elsewhere. Not in the literature that I’m briefly scanning and promising myself I’ll get back to, nor in the discussions.

What about students?

There is a huge push on talking to faculty, researchers, grant writers, etc etc etc.  I understand that. It makes perfect sense why we’d target them, particularly as they are those future faculty researchers and grant writers.  And they’re already generating things! We ask for undergraduate thesis and papers. What better way to bring them into the data fold than to start them thinking about it now, when it is more likely to be a grade rather than a grant that means a job or not.

Is someone doing this already? Have I missed a big push for this on an undergraduate campuses? Are we too flooded right now with just what our faculty and researchers are producing? I certainly may have missed it in the literature, I’d love some links if you have ideas or names of people to talk to.

DataOne (again, need to do that interview) is developing learning materials with students as a target. So it’s not going entirely by the wayside, but I think there needs to be more done.

And then it raises another point and issue: how to get librarians up to speed. Part of my professional abilities is to be able to look at and evaluate information and to teach my students and faculty to do similarly.  This means I need to have that skill set.  I’ll be the first to admit I’ve got a ways to go on data. Sometimes it may be obvious that there are flaws in data, and Retraction Watch shows me more in published articles every day with flawed data sets, but it’s going to take a lot of instruction librarians getting more education in location and evaluation of available data sets, lest our students use poor data, tarnishing their reputations before they even get started.

Many more things to add to the To Do list….