Photo courtesy of Brianna Marshall

Photo courtesy of Brianna Marshall

By Erin Carrillo, Information Services Librarian, Steenbock Library

In November, RDS held a two day data management workshop for graduate student researchers. Participants were from several departments across campus, including Limnology, Entomology, Forest and Wildlife Ecology, Geography, and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, and were part of a cohort of graduate students doing research in the area of biodiversity conservation, funded by an NSF Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship grant.

We planned the workshop with two graduate students, Kara Cromwell (Zoology) and Alex Latzka (Center for Limnology), who saw a need to provide new researchers with the knowledge and skills to navigate the changing research data landscape. From funder and publisher requirements for data management plans and data sharing, to the ongoing development of metadata standards and discipline-specific data repositories, researchers need to be aware of trends within their discipline and practice good data management from the outset. Kara and Alex also wanted to encourage and facilitate the sharing of research data within the group.

The workshop addressed several broad topics within data management, but content was tailored to the specific needs of the group. We administered a survey to the group at the beginning of the planning process to gauge students’ current knowledge of data management practices, as well as their specific needs. We identified several areas of focus, and modules were developed for each area. Stephanie Hampton, a visiting scientist coming from Washington State and former deputy director of NCEAS (National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis), was invited by grad students in the Center for Limnology. She had recently published a few high impact papers on the future of ecology, especially with respect to Big Data, and gave a short talk giving participants perspective on why sound data management will matter as they advance in their careers.

The final program was:

  • Spreadsheets, Jan Cheetham, DoIT Academic Technology and Barry Radler, Institute on Aging
  • File Organization, Elliott Shuppy, School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS)
  • Storage & Preservation, Brianna Marshall, Digital Curation Coordinator; Luke Bluma, DoIT Storage & Backup; Elliott Shuppy
  • Metadata, Corinna Gries, Center for Limnology, North Temperate Lakes Long Term Ecological Research (LTER)
  • Data Management Plans, Corinna Gries
  • Keynote talk by Stephanie E. Hampton, Kaeser Scholar, Washington State University, Director of the Center for Environmental Research, Education, and Outreach

We built in designated work time at the end of the first day to give participants an opportunity to apply what they had learned and collaborate with their colleagues. Module presenters were available to answer questions.  Presenters deposited slide decks and other workshop materials in a Box folder that we shared with participants after the workshop.

We had participants complete a pre- and post-workshop survey to assess the effectiveness of the workshop. The results revealed that participants generally rated their ability to practice good data management higher after the workshop. We also got this positive feedback from Kara:

“Alex and I heard a lot of positive feedback throughout the workshop… The schedule flowed smoothly, the content was very well suited to the needs of the group, and all the modules were engaging. We really appreciate the time you invested, and I know everyone (including many who weren’t able to attend) will continue to take advantage of the resources posted in the Box folder. It was a definite success!”

It was a pleasure to work with Kara and Alex and their group, and we look forward to using what we learned from planning this workshop to organize similar workshops tailored to the needs of researchers in different disciplines across campus.

Is your lab or department interested in working with RDS to develop a discipline-specific data management workshop? Contact us.