Some of my coworkers may think that the 2013 IASSIST conference was mostly beer-fueled, especially after the night of the 93 beers (keep in mind that they are served in .2 liter glasses), but we did some serious work too. This post will mostly be the highlights of the week. IASSIST is the international data professionals organization and conference that brings together data archivists, data management specialists, and librarians to talk about data. We don’t discriminate, so you get all kinds of data (and dataheads) here. From qualitative to quantitative, from ‘big’ data to GIS, we’ve got it covered. You should join.
So here are my highlights of a few sessions I attended. The slidedecks will be going up on the IASSIST site very soon f you are interested.
Chaired by Katherine McNeill of MIT Libraries, this panel discussed the process of providing in-house access to restricted data (primarily secondary data). These restricted sources have conditions such as only accessing the data from a secure, non-networked computer. Many faculty would have difficulty meeting these conditions, so it make sense that the library could play a role in providing the space. Out of the panelists, Cornell has the most extensive service including remote access to restricted data. Johns Hopkins provides a restricted data room with card access and a stand-alone PC. You can see more about the Restricted Data Room. Rutgers has the most basic service with a non-networked computer in a locked room. Interestingly everyone with access to the room (the IT person, the administrator, and an administrative assistant) had to be IRB certified.
I only saw the last presentation in this session, but I heard great things about the first two and can’t wait for those slides to go up. Justin Joque at the University of Michigan talked about creating a data visualization service. He argued that we need to focus on the design aspects and the context of the data first and then to choose the tool that best fits the user’s capabilities and design needs.
This was one of my favorite sessions mainly because it combined so many elements of data (visualization, GIS, government documents, open data). Jack Reed, a GIS Developer at Georgia State University, talked about government data in the public domain that is not easily accessible and trying to make it more accessible and user-friendly. In his project he created a map of restaurant health inspection ratings in the metro Atlanta area by grabbing publicly available data. Joe Hurley, the data and GIS librarian at Georgia State, talked about a project called Planning Atlanta: A New City in the Making that combines oral histories, planning maps, and historical data from a printed publication called Housing and Population created by the Atlanta Regional Commission. Geographic Research, the creator of SimplyMap, extracted the data from the print volumes (for a fee). Georgia State will have the dataset for their digital collection, but Geographic Research may make the data available through SimplyMap as well. It sounded like a great example of a successful library-vendor collaboration! Finally, Louise Corti at the UK Data Archive talked about archiving qualitative data primarily in the form of field notes and essays. She describes her project in this abstract.
Finally, I attended a session on the development of a data archive(s) in the Western Balkans (Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia primarily). The project is called SERSCIDA. Because of my interest and experiences in Croatia, I found it interesting, but it is also fascinating to think about countries develop data archives and what is most appropriate for a country’s researchers. In the US we have a decentralized (and at times confusing) approach while (most?) other countries are more unified in their gathering and dissemination of data. At the same time that centralized data archive may not be easily accessible to outsiders or the data are not public, so there are trade offs.
While I attended other sessions, these were the main ones applicable to my work. Also, Stuart Macdonald’s CartoGrammar poster was quite excellent. You can play with some uploaded cartograms at the Edina site. And I finally attended a few DDI developer sessions! Well, a couple. Mostly, we drank koelsch.
And of course, we closed with the conference song making this the best IASSIST ever! (Until 2014)