by Cameron Cook

The Rebecca J. Holz series in Research Data Management is a monthly lecture series hosted during the spring and fall academic semesters. Research Data Services invites speakers from a variety of disciplines to talk about their research or involvement with data.

On February 17th, 2016 Jack Williams and Simon Goring, researchers from the Department of Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, gave a talk for the Holz series entitled “Community-Supported Data Repositories in Paleoecoinformatics: Building the Middle Tail”. You can find their slides on the Research Data Services Speakerdeck page.

Jack Williams covered the first part of the talk, “Understanding the Data, Framing the Challenge”, which provided an introduction to the field of Paleoecology, to the characteristics of paleoecology data and data cycle, and to the Neotoma Paleoecology Database.  Neotoma is one of the community repositories that have developed as a response to the need for researchers to access many datasets to create larger networks in order to answer questions that span large chunks of time and space. These community repositories have similar features: they have open data, are community curated, include standardized taxonomy, and have age controls and age models. Jack ended with an important question – “Neotoma is one informatic initiative among many, how best to cross-link and cross-leverage?”

The second part of the talk, “Connecting Users, Data, and Repositories”, was covered by Simon Goring, who gave an overview of the opportunities for community repositories to act as a space to bring together the disparate parts of the research process – the journal and the database. Jack and Simon suggested that repositories can help mediate these pieces by building workflow tools that help make data submission an integrated piece of the research process as well as by acting as a broker between researchers and the myriad platforms and formats available. Simon also covered examples of successful linking and building-upon of initiatives from Neotoma and EarthCube, as well as other cyberinfrastructure tools created by EarthCube.