The recent focus on big data and its potential applications has proven that data management, far from being boring or just nice-to-have, is becoming wildly relevant and useful in everyday life. Now with research agencies like SSHRC and CIHR requiring it as part of their funding protocols, there are a lot of reasons for researchers to take notice of how data management can propel innovation and their own research.
Dr. Ellsworth LeDrew, Professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Management, is one of the scientists leading the cultural shift in the way that researchers discover, share, and preserve their research data.
“Data management is no longer just about the data,” Dr. LeDrew remarks. “It’s about how to convert the data into something people can use in their lives.”
Using his own research in polar studies as an example, LeDrew describes how radar imagery of polar waters can be converted into a map of sea ice to help individuals navigating to know where the ice is and how hazardous it may be, and, how polar information on snow cover and vegetation and whale migration might be used one day to immediately communicate transportation and tourist information.
For many scientists, data management requires a new way of looking at their data and a commitment to handing it as part of a continuum that moves well beyond simple data storage. LeDrew’s own experience with this shift is captured in the evolution of the Polar Data Catalogue – a resource for sharing polar research data that he helped to create over 15 years ago.
“The forerunner of the Polar Data Catalogue, the Canadian Cryospheric Information Network, was initiated with the primary purpose of facilitating data sharing amongst Arctic and Antarctic scientists,” LeDrew explains. “It has since evolved into a resource that is now just as much about connecting people as it is about numbers.”
With its most recent update, the Manager of the Polar Data Catalogue Dr. Julie Friddell has launched a Twitter feed, Polar Google feed, Kids’ Corner, and an Ask an Expert application to its interface.
Now it’s not just researchers collecting and disseminating polar information. LeDrew gives the example of Snow Tweets, a citizen science project developed by Dr. Richard Kelly of Geography and Environmental Management whereby volunteers measure snow cover in their areas and share it over Twitter using the #snowcover hashtag.
The Library and the Polar Data Catalogue are co-hosting Data Management Day on October 25th. Occurring during uWaterloo’s Open Access Week, its purpose is to raise awareness and discuss the issues surrounding the discovery, access and preservation of research data. This is a free event, although registration is required.
The day will start with a keynote address by Dr. Sallie Ann Keller, VP Academic & Provost, and continue with presentations to highlight data management from the perspectives of the funding agency, researcher, digital curation & data preservation.
Speakers will include Dr. Chad Gaffield, President of the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council, Dr. Warwick F. Vincent, Professor of Biology and Canada Research Chair in Aquatic Ecosystem Studies at Université Laval, and Alan Darnell, Director, Scholars Portal Services, Ontario Council of University Libraries.
For more information on Data Management Day, including how you can register or apply to present a poster, visit the Data Management Day website.