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Abby: Science data librarian


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The person represented here is not affiliated with DataONE and use of their image does not reflect endorsement of DataONE services.

Name, age, and education: 

Abby is a data librarian at University of California, Berkeley. She studied earth sciences as an undergraduate at Purdue University, then entered a graduate program at Berkeley. She earned a master's degree but ended up moving to a staff research associate position in the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory when the funding ran out on the grant that was supporting her. In that position, she found herself taking on more and more responsibility for data management for various projects. After interacting with librarians developing the campus digital repository, and with their encouragement, she decided to pursue a masters in library and information science at San José State University to further develop her skills and knowledge in data management. Upon graduating, she was hired as the University library’s first science data librarian.

Life or career goals, fears, hopes, and attitudes: 

Abby finds librarianship and the library a good fit for her skills and interests. She is hopeful that academic libraries will build and maintain a role in data management across the campus, enabling her to make a career in this position. She does sees her role shifting over time from helping individual researchers to developing programs and services that are generally useful and perhaps expanding her responsibilities as more people move into data management (“someday there may be an assistant dean of the library for data”). But to get to that point requires learning more about researchers’ needs and expectations, which is her current focus.

A day in the life: 

Abby spends most of her day interacting with researchers. She finds their research and the data management issues inherently interesting, though she is sometimes challenged by unfamiliar kinds of research and data. In this way, her current job is an extension of her interest in science, just by other means. Abby provides support that is similar to traditional library reference, such as guiding researchers to useful data resources and providing instruction in use of data tools. She also helps researchers develop data management plans by helping them think through the kind of data they have and the issues in managing it. Funding is often written into grants to support her work in carrying out those plans. She is also partnering on larger grants with researchers who are developing data resources, e.g., a data portal.

Reasons for using DataONE to share and to reuse data
Needs and expectations of DataONE tools: 

Abby is hopeful that DataONE will provide tools that will help the researchers with whom she works, most of whom are not data managers nor interested in becoming one. She maintains a list of repositories that are relevant to her researchers and will add DataONE and guide researchers to use it when it is operational. She would like resources to support instruction in use of data and data tools as well as guidance about data sharing standards. For example, groups struggle with issues such as deciding what data are worth depositing and developing consistent metadata—if DataONE can provide help in these areas, it will be welcomed.

Intellectual and physical skills that can be applied: 

Abby brings numerous diverse skills to her position. She brings traditional librarian skills such as knowledge of the subject area data resources, and an ability to assess researchers’ needs and match them to the resources. Through a data interview (parallel to a reference interview), she can help researchers think through their data and its management issues. She has skills in information organization and knowledge of good ways to format data and of controlled vocabulary. Perhaps her most important skills are in personal interaction, being able to listen and her flexibility, such as the capability to interact with multiple granularities of data at the same time, from DataONE and the institutional repository, and then with a lab with single laptop.

Technical support available: 

Abby has some technical skills, but relies on the library and campus information technology departments for system support.

Personal biases about data sharing and reuse (and data management more generally): 

Abby is a strong believer in the importance and value of data sharing and reuse and has always worked with scientists who share that belief. However, she is aware that researchers need to receive recognition and credit for their work to be successful in their careers and that sharing data is only a viable option if it provides that. She is interested in learning about other ways to recognize and assess the impact of data sharing so she can provide that information to her patrons. Furthermore, she knows enough of the science to realize that the value of data is tied to the scientific understanding behind the data, so it is critical to share the later to make sharing the former sensible.

Abby’s current work with researchers is on an ad hoc basis as needs for data management arise in the progress of individual research projects. She is developing her own expertise in a number of steps in the data lifecycle, especially in the methods of data description and discovery of relevant and useful data. She is helping the researchers she works with to discover relevant metadata schemas and tools for creating that metadata. She can also assist them in finding appropriate repositories for their datasets, with some education on the importance of data preservation added to the mix. Her interventions on the data discovery side are making researchers aware of a multitude of data resources that can be valuable to their individual research efforts. What Abby often finds lacking in her work is a way to connect one step to another, to create a comprehensive program of educational modules that could help researchers proceed through the steps of managing and discovering data in a more methodical and seamless manner.

DataONE enables Abby to much more easily help the researchers she works with “connect the dots” in their data management. Best practices documents for Data Management Plans and for data assurance methods—available through DataONE—enable her to intervene in the project planning stages so that the describe, deposit, and preserve steps can be planned for in advance and can flow throughout the project. Tools offered through DataONE for metadata creation and for data deposit into Member Nodes make it easier for Abby’s researchers to become proficient on their own in these steps. In the data discovery area, DataONE offers Abby a powerful, “one-stop shop” resource to offer researchers for data discovery in a broad range of earth and environmental science disciplines. Abby can turn to DataONE for help in keeping her list of data repositories current. DataONE helps Abby to demonstrate to researchers the importance of data preservation as they see the link between their discovery and reuse of other data and the possibilities for the reuse of the data that they deposit. The citation and tracking tools provided by DataONE are also powerful motivations factors for Abby’s researchers to engage in the data deposit and preservation steps.

Comparison of current and DataONE-enabled practices:
Project Planning: 

Data curation and metadata management: Develop data management plan for grant submission -- Use DataONE’s resources for preparation of project data management plans.

DataONE enabled assurance: 

Abby offers training on DataONE-recommended data quality tools

DataONE enabled description: 

Data interoperability, standards and integration: Ensures compliance with DataONE’s standards and best practices.

DataONE enabled preservation: 
  • Data discovery, access, use and dissemination: Data Librarian works with faculty to expose and publish data.
  • Data protection: Data Librarian will advise on intellectual property issues and other use rights considerations associated with DataONE.
  • Data deposition/acquisition/ingest: Works with faculty to ensure proper deposit, proper description, appropriate versions of data.
  • Data curation and metadata management: Implement guidelines for selection and/or sampling of longitudinal data.
  • Data curation and metadata management: Data Librarian provides guidance on usage of DataONE infrastructure.
DataONE enabled discovery: 
  • Data curation and metadata management: Once data are deposited with a member node, the data Librarian delivers usage statistics to faculty on the use of their dataset.
  • Data discovery, access, use and dissemination: Data Librarian identifies relevant resources in DataONE portal.
  • Data curation and metadata management: Collection development (selection, deselection, collection rescue).
  • Data interoperability, standards and integration: Optimize collections for ease of use in the virtual research environment (for use by NEON, LTER, etc. (designated communities)).
  • Data deposition/acquisition/ingest: Build reference collections to support data use, discovery, integration, etc.
DataONE Community Activity: 

Data interoperability, standards and integration: Coordinates member node activities for the campus.


Written by Kevin Crowston based on interviews with Gail Steinhart (Cornell), Lynn Yarmey (Stanford) and Jacob Carlson (Purdue)