Link Roundup September 2017

In this series, members of the RDS team share links to research data related stories, resources, and news that caught their eye each month. Feel free to share your favorite stories with us on Twitter @UWMadRschSvcs!

Ann Engler

Encouraging data sharing in journal policies shows promising results.

Can you balance open data and human subject privacy? This author says yes.

One journal no longer accepts “data available by contacting the author”. Read why they made the change here.

 

Cameron Cook

Here at RDS, we suggest that you use UW-Madison versions of certain cloud services while at the university. If you’ve ever wondered about the difference in those tools, DoIT has released a great chart comparing the UW-Madison versions of Box, Google Drive, and OneDrive.

A data sharing win – “Open data from the Large Hadron Collider sparks new discovery

Mattie Burkert, who spoke at our September 2015 brown bag about this project, recently published “Recovering the London Stage Information Bank: Lessons from an Early Humanities Computing Project“.

Documenting DH: Reginold Royston

Written by Laura Schmidt

Documenting DH is a project from the Digital Humanities Research Network (DHRN).  It consists of a series of audio interviews with various humanities scholars and students around the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. Each interviewee is given a chance to talk about how they view data, work with data, manage data, or teach data to others.  Most recently, we interviewed Reginold Royston, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin’s iSchool. His research focuses on civic innovation, online education, and media in Africa and in underserved communities in the United States. His interview is now accessible on the DHRN website.

How do you teach data management to your students?

Reginold’s focus has mainly been on digital literacy, because he feels that content production with new media tools is the first place to start when it comes to producing and interpreting academically relevant media content. He doesn’t believe that his pedagogy around data management has been particularly strong, but he strongly believes in metadata and a basic archival directory system. He believes that using digital tools and data management is something that students should learn on their own, as a first pass. He will gradually work them through best practices as their projects progress, but trying and failing is a key part to his pedagogy.

Now that Reginold is at the iSchool, where archives and library science are a major focus, he understands that topic modeling, data management, and metadata is extremely important, as is learning how to use data that students have collected or produced. Students in the social sciences and humanities are often stewards of their own information, so they need to have a sense of how to organize their data in the best way.

How do you manage the diverse data you work with?

Reginold’s data ranges from in-person audio and video recordings at live events to basic academic research, like writings, historical archives, and bibliography. His biggest focus is on basic naming conventions. For example, when he uses screen-capturing software, he will organize the titles by which site he captured (TW for Twitter, FB for Facebook, etc.) and the date. His media is organized in a basic directory structure, paying particular attention to format. Reginold believes that this is extremely necessary, especially if you want to use your computer’s search feature, which saves a huge amount of time.

When thinking about rich media, particularly metadata, tagging, and keywords, Evernote is an essential tool in his arsenal of research. He captures dozens of screen grabs every day and he tags them to group them up at least once a month. Reginold understands that every researcher, academic, and social scientist has their own particular way of doing research and cataloging their data and he thinks that people should use what works best for themselves.

What do you find most interesting and exciting about working with data?

Reginold’s enthusiasm for this question was not lost on us. He thinks the search tools we have allow us to organize our information in ways that are useful and quickly available. For example, a project like Slave Voyages–which is a huge archive of nautical maps, inventories of names, some oral histories of the Transatlantic Slave Trade–lets you search across archives and databases and locations. Whereas a researcher in a physical library would have to rely on their own notetaking sensibility, their personal conventions, and their memory. Better questions can be asked with more distributed databases and better tagged data.

Reginold says it best in his own words: “One of the interesting things I find about the use of data and sometimes the reliance on database or computational methods of investigation, are the limits of database approaches to the understanding knowledge.” He uses an example of when he was examining tweets around the 2014 World Cup. He collected a week’s worth of tweets that focused on about thirty keywords and examined the tweets of sixty individuals. This created a dataset of six million tweets, which he said, “was relatively small for Twitter grabs.” His goal was to examine the relationship between politics and football, but he couldn’t devise anything through the data using computational or observational methods. This made him understand that, “there are limits to the ways we think about traditional database questions and how to ask those computationally. I didn’t find anything statistically relevant about the four or five questions that I asked, but it’s incumbent upon me to go back and to look at that data and to figure out what was statically relevant.”

 

Tool: Research Cores – New Resource Directory

Information from the Research Cores website.

The Office of Campus Research Cores recently debuted a new tool to connect researchers to the resources, services, and cores they need. Cores are groups or facilities that provide shared access to resources such as instruments, technologies, or expert consultations for researchers, and the Directory of Resources for Researchers includes over 60 of them. It also includes data for 300 resources and 170 services. You can search the directory, use a sample search, or browse the directory as a list.

Research Cores aims to support research at UW-Madison in the biological sciences, physical sciences, social sciences, and arts and humanities. Visit their website for more information or to offer feedback on this exciting new tool.

New RDS Marketing Materials

New RDS Flyer.

In February, we teased new materials for RDS and discussed the impetus to change our images. Now we’re rolling them out!

Above you can find our new main flyer, which you may have already seen at last week’s Showcase, as one of the screen savers on a campus library computer, or on our Twitter page @UWMadRschSvcs.

We hope you enjoy our new materials and if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to us!

Link Roundup March 2017

In this series, members of the RDS team share links to research data related stories, resources, and news that caught their eye each month. Feel free to share your favorite stories with us on Twitter @UWMadRschSvcs!

Cameron Cook

If you aren’t sure how to best document your data for reuse, Mozilla Science has a checklist just for you!

The Economist shared a beautiful visualization of the flowering dates of the sakura in Kyoto, Japan from 800 AD to today. This visualization was made by Yasuyuki Aono of Osaka Prefecture University who shares their awesome data here.

This preprint analyzes and discusses the data sharing policies of biomedical journals.

Documenting DH: Brianna Marshall

Written by Heather Wacha

Documenting DH is a project from the Digital Humanities Research Network (DHRN).  It consists of a series of audio interviews with various humanities scholars and students around the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. Each interviewee is given a chance to talk about how they view data, work with data, manage data, or teach data to others.  In March, we interviewed Brianna Marshall, Digital Curation Coordinator and lead of Research Data Services (RDS) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As part of this position, she promotes and supports digital humanties scholarship across the university. DHRN feels very fortunate to be able to record Brianna’s experiences and insights before she leaves the University of Wisconsin at the end of March to enter into a new position as Director of Research Services at the University of California, Riverside. Her interview is now accessible on the DHRN website.

How do you define data?

When talking about data, Brianna likes to keep it simple: Data is the “digital stuff” humanist researchers use to do their research.  Data comes in all shapes and sizes, and Marshall encounters a wide diversity of data formats since she works with both STEM and humanist reseachers.  Basically almost anything that serves as a researcher’s methods, results, or evidence can be seen as data.

According to Marshall, there are two important fallacies that can create unnecessary barriers, especially for humanist scholars.  First, researchers may not always see their work as containing “data,” but as Marshall likes to point out, every researcher has “data,” whether it’s digital or not.  Second, with all the talk about “big data”, researchers who deal with small “data” may not see what they do as applicable to digital computation or analysis. As lead for RDS, Marshall sees her job as helping the university community understand that everyone works with data at some stage and that any data is open to using digital tools to help manage and analyze it. 

What do you recommend for humanists to manage their data?

“The first thing is to recognize that one has data,” states Marshall. “I love those lightbulb moments when I’m talking to someone about their digital stuff, and they realize that this digital stuff is really data that can be used for further digital analysis and inquiry.”

At that moment, Marshall uses her knowledge to talk about the variety of ways to work with data to make it more interesting and use for asking new questions.

Marshall is an expert in connecting researchers with organizations and individuals who can continue the conversation, with a view to deepening scholarship in new digital directions.

What do you find most interesting about working with data?

“It’s vexing! It’s messy! It’s frustrating.”  For Marshall, working with data is a two-edged activity.  At the initial stages it’s important to realize that it’s going to be a challenge and there will be a lot of trial and error.  Data can be overwhelming and isolating, but it’s everywhere, both in our personal live and in our professional lives.

But when we can share best practices, that makes the job more interesting and more rewarding. Marshall enjoys using her toolkit of best practices and adapting them to individual projects and individual challenges.  She mixes and remixes her tools to make them most effective for the context with which she is presented.

When the product is finished, the goals achieved, and the challenges overcome, that’s when the satisfaction can feel that much more rewarding.

How do you see RDS fitting into the wider Digital Humanities community?

Marshall freely admits that data can be a hard sell and outreach is an important component to working in any organization that offers services for dealing with data.  She is an avid advocate for digital humanities and helping the university community to create and use its data in efficient and interesting ways.

Marshall sees RDS as a trusted partner on campus and she sees her position, as the head of RDS, as someone who connects people and organizations. One of the main functions of RDS and any organization on campus that wants to promote and encourage best practices in data management and analysis, is to be a connector.  RDS offers a variety of services for anyone who wants to rethink the data they have – how to manage it and what to do with it to uncover new approaches and analyses.