Maybe I’m just becoming increasingly specialised, but this year’s International Data Curation Conference seemed more varied than ever. Last year’s divide between delegates interested in improving library practices and delegates interested in supporting researchers was less in evidence, with research data management seeming increasingly like the continuum of processes that it should be. Themes this year included institutional and funding council policies, legal risks, rewards for researchers, the ethics of openness, research reproducibility, preserving software and scientific workflows, the costs and benefits of data curation, Freedom of Information requests, tweet preservation in the name of social science, new tools for data management, sharing, and curation, and the visualisation and communication of data to the public at large, doubtlessly along with various other bits and bobs that I didn’t get to hear about due to the usual restrictions of corporeal vestiture.
Ruth McNally explained that ‘Data that doesn’t flow is dead data’, whereas Jeff Heywood reminded us that it is storage that is ‘the itch that researchers really want scratched’; Andrew Charlesworth told us not to ignore the legal problems that can be associated with data, whilst Ellen Collins (Research Information Network) worried us with talk of how Freedom of Information requests can have unintended consequences on researcher behaviour even though the threat of being forced to reveal one’s data should in theory encourage better data management.
Thinking about how all this relates to the VIDaaS Project, as I’m supposed to, a number of things occur to me. Firstly, there is the encouraging sense that project, and the Database as a Service tool it is creating, should address several of the concerns raised: it will make it much easier to open up data for public inspection, should the data creator wish to do this (or is forced to); it should assist the citation of data and the ability to link datasets to publications; and finally it should open up some possibility of a sort of data reincarnation – it is very straightforward to import old Access and other databases that may have been lying around in a draw gathering dust for several years which may now get the chance to ‘flow’ again. I was also prompted to consider how we could capture richer metadata about the processes by which the data we serve was gathered – something to occupy my mind whilst others enjoy their festive breaks.
Anyone interested in viewing the non-award-winning VIDaaS and DaMaRO posters I exhibited at the conference can find digital representations of them via the links below: