The Rebecca J. Holz Series in Research Data Management commemorates Research Data Services co-founder Rebecca Holz, who passed away unexpectedly in 2011.

Each talk will be held on a Wednesday from noon-1pm in Memorial Library 126. We invite you to bring your lunch!

Like to talk about your data? Have a topic you’d like us to present on? Please contact the RDS Outreach Committee.

To view previous presentations in the Holz series, check out our archive.

Spring 2016

February 17

Community-Supported Data Repositories in Paleoecoinformatics:  Building the Middle Tail

Jack Williams, Professor of Geography, Director of Nelson Center for Climatic Research  |  UW-Madison

Simon Goring, Assistant Scientist – Department of Geography   |  UW-Madison

Paleoecologists use geological data to study ecological dynamics during past environmental change.  Our data is hard-won and expensive, usually requiring weeks to months of fieldwork and years of laboratory analyses.  Our scientific expertise is dispersed and distributed across taxonomic groups, regions, geological time periods, and research questions.  There is an inherent disconnect between the global-scale questions that motivate much of our research (e.g. the responses of global biodiversity to climate change) and the scale of data collection (site-level spatial data, long time scales).

Because of the above, paleoecologists have a long and proud tradition of sharing their data into community-supported data repositories (CSDRs), to enable them to tackle big questions and work at regional, continental, and global spatial scales.  Now, the on-going revolution in information sciences is creating both challenges and opportunities for CSDRs, but mostly opportunities.  In this talk we will present to you our perspective as paleoecologists who collect primary data, engage in large-scale synthetic research, and are increasingly taking on leadership roles in the building and development of the Neotoma Paleoecology Database (,  a CSDR dedicated to supporting community research into ecological dynamics over the large climate changes of the Quaternary Period.   We’ll present recent developments and then discuss some of the current challenges that we are either solving or seeking solutions.

March 9

Computational Methods for the Social Sciences

Alex Hanna, PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology  |  UW-Madison

With the mass proliferation of digital traces of social life, computational and data scientists have developed many different methods for manipulating and analyzing these data at scale. These data have the potential to bear on enduring questions in the social sciences. In this talk, I discuss some basic skills needed for literacy in computational methods and programming for the social sciences.

April 13

labElephant: A Metadatabase Application for Managing the Research Endeavor

Robert A. Haworth, Distinguished Scientist Emeritus | UW-Madison

labElephant is a Microsoft Access database application that I developed as a biological research scientist at UW Madison for managing my own research laboratory. Most e-notebooks focus on laboratory housekeeping and data management. labElephant covers this, but more importantly facilitates the scientific process itself: tracking of knowledge learned from the literature, hypothesis development, and integration of knowledge with experiments. The application is designed for use in a multi-user lab environment where there is a secure shared lab folder on the department server where each lab person stores their own data in their own sub-folder. labElephant serves not only as a way for the Principal Investigator to organize and track this lab data, but also as a stimulus to thought, and as a training tool with graduate students.