Purdue Libraries leads effort to train future scientists in managing, curating their data

February 27, 2012

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – In partnership with librarians at the University of Minnesota, the University of Oregon and Cornell University, Purdue University Libraries received nearly $250,000 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to develop training programs for the next generation of scientists to enable them to find, organize, use and share data efficiently and effectively. 

The program is intended for graduate students in engineering and science disciplines who are working their way toward careers as research scientists, said Jake Carlson, a Purdue associate professor of library science who is leading the collaboration.

"Technology has made it easier to share research data beyond the lab in which it was originally created," Carlson said. "The problem right now is that in many cases data are not being administered in ways that enable them to be easily discovered, understood or repurposed for use by other researchers."

This training will be vital to scientists as they look to secure research funding. For example, in 2007 the National Science Foundation issued a report on the need to build public collections of research data and since 2011 has required scientists to include data management plans in their grant applications.

The Data Information Literacy effort will be carried out over a two-year period by five project teams. Two of the teams, consisting of a data librarian, a subject librarian and a disciplinary faculty researcher, are based at Purdue, with one team each at the other institutions. 

The teams are constructed to represent a variety of subject areas, from electrical and computer engineering to landscape architecture, so commonalities and differences in data curation needs across disciplines can be explored. Each team will conduct an assessment of data needs of their discipline, including interviewing and observing researchers. The teams will then develop and implement targeted instruction and assess the impact of that instruction in developing the data information literacy skills of graduate students.  

The results of this first-ever effort at articulating and addressing data information literacy skills will help future scientists and engineers contribute to, and take full advantage of, the potentials that cyberinfrastructure and information technologies are making available. 

"In many disciplines, the standards and practices needed for managing and sharing data are still developing or are not well understood, and, therefore, are not applied," Carlson said. "This collaboration between librarians and faculty will identify the educational needs of future scientists in organizing, describing, disseminating and preserving their data and teach them these skills in ways that can be applied in their day-to-day research activities."

More information on the data information literacy project is available online at http://wiki.lib.purdue.edu/display/ste
Writer: Jim Bush, 765-494-2077, jsbush@purdue.edu

Source: Jake Carlson, 765-494-6665, jrcarlso@purdue.edu