The following is a guest post by Erin Engle, Digital Archivist, NDIIPP.
What do you get when you fill a room full of people interested in social sciences and technology? Oh – and DATA! Lots of data! Discussions about data, examples of data, uses of data.
You get the annual IASSIST Conference! The organization has a long name but a fantastic and important commitment: the International Association for Social Science Information Services and Technology focuses on information technology and data services to support research and teaching in the social sciences.
The theme for this year’s conference, held May 30-June 3 in Vancouver, BC, Canada, was Data Science Professionals: a Global Community of Sharing. Data librarians, researchers, archivists and government workers from across the globe descended on Vancouver to share information about data analysis, citation, linking, reuse, access and preservation. And, to the welcomed joy of our Canadian hosts, a late added theme was participation of the home team in the Stanley Cup hockey championship!
I was fortunate enough to present on one of these aspects – preservation – during a session, “Challenges and Capabilities for Long-Term Preservation of Scientific Data” with Steven Morris, head, digital library initiatives at the North Carolina State University Libraries and Bob Downs, senior digital archivist at The Center for International Earth Science Information Network, Columbia University. Our session discussed Library of Congress efforts to improve capabilities to preserve geospatial information and we talked about NDIIPP projects working towards community solutions.
Bob, who was also pulling double-duty as a member of the IASISST 2011 program committee, talked about the development of the Geospatial Data Preservation Resource Center, a.k.a. geopreservation.org, a new website to help data managers, software developers and policy makers learn about the latest approaches and tools available for preservation and access to geospatial information. Bob noted that a key goal of the website is to help “people become more geospatial literate.” Not such an easy task, say as winning a Stanley Cup Trophy, but we are excited about the recent launch of this website and we hope the community will check it out.
IASSIST members are a prime audience for discussing the preservation of geospatial data, but the broad theme gave way for rich and informative sessions. It was my first IASSIST conference, but I soaked up the huge amounts of enthusiasm and interest attendees had during the days – ranging in topics from data management services and plans to data citation and link tracking to open data and controlled vocabularies. I also had the chance to catch up with some NDIIPP partners; ICPSR, The Roper Center and California Digital Library were on the program.
Here are a few of my highlights from the week:
- The rockin’ closing conference song (sample lyric: “so many questions that you just can’t answer/when metadata isn’t standardized) was set to Bryan Adams’s “Summer of ’69.” Does any other conference wrap up in such a fun way?
- Data management planning is really on the minds of research institutions these days. I saw a great session on what Australia, the UK and the US are doing to make publicly-funded research data available.
- In a lively session on Tracking Data Reuse, I learned that, in general, it isn’t happening because there are no standards, consistent practices, or tools to support data citation linking.
- The final keynote speaker, Andrea Reimer, councilor for the city of Vancouver, gave an enthusiastic talk about the Vancouver Open City Data project, advocating for open data, open standards and open source software as key elements to “creating a city that thinks like the web.” This is an interesting concept, along with what underlies it – useful and quality data. That’s something the IASSIST community is extremely passionate about.
And, of course, the community’s passion this year also extends to hockey!