Evan (L) and Morgaine (R)
This post on NADDI 2015 was written by Evan Meszaros, one of two recipients of an RDS student scholarship. Read Morgaine Gilchrist-Scott’s reflection.
The NADDI 2015 conference afforded its attendees a smorgasbord of content, from the basic to the advanced, and across a range of contexts, from the narrowly-focused to the bigger picture. As a newcomer to NADDI in addition to being a newcomer to most related topics, the broader and more basic views resonated with me the most.
Jane Fry, a Data Specialist at Carleton University’s MacOdrum Library in Ottawa, led one such basic and broad workshop session, entitled, “Discover the Power of DDI Metadata.” Fry introduced the Data Documentation Initiative (DDI) to those unfamiliar with the international, XML-based metadata specification, and discussed its applications, history, versioning, and the current challenges it faces as its developers improve its functionality and expand its adoption.
A plenary session featuring the UW-Madison School of Library and Information Studies’ Faculty Associate, Dorothea Salo, explored DDI’s place as an emerging metadata standard (mainly for large, social sciences datasets) amidst a zoo of established information standards. Her take-no-prisoners critique of the DDI community’s progress, however, sparked plenty of discussion and revealed that there is lots of work yet to be done to get the word out effectively.
The diversity and scale of projects implementing DDI—as well as the internationality of stakeholders in the initiative was also on display throughout conference. A number of sessions explored noteworthy projects (a growing list of which can be found here), while others focused on the programs and scripts (e.g. Colectica MTNA’s OpenDataForge) used to support DDI in these projects.
Two sessions in particular, both led by academic data librarians, very helpfully painted a picture of the broader world of research data services (RDS) in which tools like DDI are playing an ever more prominent role. Kristin Briney, Data Services Librarian at UW-Milwaukee, summarized her findings-to-date for a study she and her collaborators are conducting on the current state of RDS as it exists in an official capacity at larger research universities across the US. While the findings she described were preliminary, their survey work suggests some interesting correlations amongst the size and research budgets of these institutions and the presence of established data services personnel/departments or data policies.
Perhaps even more applicable to my own position, the subsequent session provided a glimpse into another university’s data services “operation”. Brianna Marshall, Digital Curation Coordinator, and Trisha Adamus, Data, Network, and Translational Research Librarian, both from UW-Madison’s Research Data Services, delivered reports of successful strategies and ongoing challenges faced while carrying out RDS core functions on their campus. A couple takeaways gleaned from this session (and the ensuing conversations it sparked) included suggestions to improve education and outreach, by hosting a ‘brown bag’ series or publishing a digest of RDS stories of interest to researchers) and to develop a toolkit for researchers that would be keyed to the various stages of the research data lifecycle. It’s clear from the many impressive projects and potentialities discussed throughout the conference that DDI, and the community of developers, partners, and software applications it represents, should be an important part of any such RDS toolkit.
Evan Meszaros is a graduate student in the UW-Madison School of Library and Information Studies, having just completed his first year in its online degree program. He is also a newly-hired librarian at Case Western Reserve University, where he plays both research data services and traditional/reference librarian roles.