RDAP Summit: Judy Spak

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Note: Meet our board members and award winners at our summer meet-up! RSVP here: https://www.eventbrite.com/o/neasist-327359588!

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 account is written by Judy Spak of Yale University:


Greetings all! My name is Judy Spak and I am the lucky recipient of a Travel Award to attend the Research Data Access & Preservation (RDAP) Summit held in Chicago from March 21st to the 23rd. I have been a librarian for many years and have recently turned my focus to data librarianship. Attending the Summit was a fantastic way to become aware of the amazing work that the RDAP community is doing across all types of libraries and institutions.

The Summit started off with a Welcome Happy Hour sponsored by NEASIS&T and hosted by Joshua Dull. I met colleagues from across the country, all of whom made me feel welcome. It is evident that RDAP is a closely-knit group of folks who are passionate about their work and seem to genuinely like each other!

The Keynote on Wednesday morning is a presentation that I am still talking about with colleagues. Tom Schenk, Chief Data Officer for the City of Chicago, shared some of the many ways in which Chicago is harnessing data to make positive effects in people’s daily lives. He described how the Chicago open data portal operated and how his office uses predictive analytics to optimize city services. Some examples included The Array of Things (Arrayofthings.github.io), where University of Chicago has partnered with multiple institutions to build a mesh network of small sensors. These sensors detect sound and vibration and low-resolution infrared cameras can show things like what areas need snow removal, and climate and environmental data such as air-quality and temperature. I strongly encourage you to check out the city’s data portal at https://data.cityofchicago.org/ to read about the many ways data are made accessible to citizens and are being used to make the lives of Chicagoans better.

The remaining day and a half were full of interesting presentations and posters around topics such as, research reproducibility, the role of libraries in RDM, the intersection of publishing and data, and the tension between FAIR and data sharing processes. Lightening Talks from eight institutions highlighted projects including DMPs, interactive toolkits for data storage options, a data catalog for protected data, software emulation and preservation, data from camera traps featuring mammals, the experiences of a library playing in the data management space, data management for transportation researchers, and a report on the first year of the data Road Show.

For me, the most memorable session was the panel titled, Underserved Data Communities: Understanding Access & Preservation Bias. Each speaker shared their unique experiences and insights about how particular populations were affected by explicit and implicit biases in data collection, access, quality, and preservation. Their stories were powerful and I sincerely hope that RDAP continues to integrate the stories of underserved data populations into the entire program, and not just limited to one session.

I was unable to attend the workshops on Friday but left the RDAP Summit with my relationship with data forever changed.  Thanks for the opportunity to learn from and share with all who attended.

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