RDAP Summary: Allison Gofman

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This year we were able to use the proceeds from our annual conference to help three professionals attend the Research Data Access & Preservation (RDAP) Summit. Held in conjunction with the Information Architecture (IA) Summit, RDAP explores themes such as open data, data infrastructure, metadata, and data preservation. The RDAP community brings together a variety of individuals, including data managers and curators, librarians, archivists, researchers, educators, students, technologists, and data scientists from academic institutions, data centers, funding agencies, and industry who represent a wide range of STEM disciplines, social sciences, and humanities.

The attendees wrote up their experiences to share with our readers. This is the first of those accounts written by Allison Gofman of Tufts University:


Thank you NEASSIST for supporting my attendance at RDAP 2018! This was my first time attending RDAP. I graduated Simmons SLIS this August and began as Social Science Data Librarian at Tisch Library at Tufts shortly afterwards. As I talked to new colleagues about how to learn more about different aspects of my job and pursue professional development and engagement, my coworker Kristin Lee immediately mentioned RDAP. She described it as an opportunity to learn a huge amount about supporting research data in a short period of time, and a welcoming, collaborative group of people who were enthusiastic about collaboration.

It was as great an experience as I had hoped. The keynote by Tom Schenk, the Chief Data Officer of Chicago, was an excellent perspective on the value and use of data. Since I support our Urban and Environmental Planning department as a Liaison, I took copious notes of content and websites to bring to my department, and also joined the entire room in laughing at struggles that unite folks working on sharing and reusing data across disciplines and jobs. “Please cite us! (DOIs help.) We need to track impact. People don’t cite online data for some reason…”) [https://www.instagram.com/p/BgluLUHhpAZ/]

Many panels and discussions between sessions discussed the role of libraries in research data services. It was illuminating to see the many projects and strategies different institutions are taking with different resources available. There was a range of options from “I’m one person with a few hours a week among 10,000 other tasks” to “we have a team of 6 people doing this full time.” One lightning talk that stood out was Jamene Brooks-Kieffer from the University of Kansas Libraries, who talked about “Playing in the Sandbox: A Year of Data, Tools, and Analysis Inside the Library.” I really appreciated the idea of playing as a research methodology for exploration with an openness to failure and wrong paths. The acknowledgement of the role of power and hierarchy in collaborations felt crucial, and the talk left the audience enthusiastic about building empathy with our researchers.

By far the stand-out session for me was “Underserved Data Communities: Understanding Access & Preservation Bias”. Reid Boehm talked about transgender medical data, Siân Evans and McKensie Mack talked about gender and race in Wikipedia through their initiative Art + Feminism, and Jaquelina Alvarez & Hilda T. Ayala-Gonzalez talked about data access and preservation in the face of disaster, discussing their experiences at the University of Puerto Rico. I was shocked to hear that only 3% of RAPID funding after Hurricanes Maria and Irma went to Puerto Rican researchers. While the lessons discussed about backups are relevant to folks everywhere, there is a definite urgency and responsibility to address unequal distribution of resources. During the semi-structured breaks, many attendees gathered to discuss how to build social justice into work as data librarians and related positions. I look forward to seeing discussions of access, justice, race, gender and more become integrated into all work at future conferences.

I had the opportunity to meet with colleagues from New England who are also members of New England Software Carpentry Library Consortium or NESCLiC [https://nesclic.github.io/home/]. The Carpentries is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide researchers with “the computing skills they need to get more done in less time and with less pain” NESCLiC is composed of 15 library folks who have been trained as instructors in Data and Software Carpentry through a consortium. Building capacity for services through collaboration was a clear theme throughout the conference.

I encourage other folks who are involved in research data in libraries, whether or not data librarian is their title, to attend! Thanks NEASIST for the support.

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