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Data 101: Why Should I Start, Why Do I Care?

Data, of course, has been around for many years, but with new technologies and capabilities for manipulating it and analyzing it becoming available, it has become a topic of high current interest.

Abigail Goben

Abigail Goben, Reference Librarian at the Unviersity of Illinois–Chicago, gave a fascinating and informative look at the current hot topic of data and what librarians must do to become informed on this topic. Many researchers do not realize that the library can be a useful source for them.  In fact, at a recent AAAS meeting, Abigail heard people saying, “We need to go around the library.”  But data is becoming a significant aspect of many library jobs.  Abigail tracks library job advertisements that include a data component on her blog and has listed over 100 of them in the last 6 months.

The major things to be learned are the basics of data, software, and library components.  You need to know what good data looks like, how to analyze it statistically (with software packages such as SPSS, Mathematica, and even Excel).  The library components include metadata, ontologies, and data management plans.  Learn how to find, acquire, describe, and provide data access to users.

Here are three excellent resources to help you get started learning about data:

These are some introductory books on statistics.

These are some useful websites:

Finally, some people that data librarians should be listening to (note, many of them are not librarians!) and blogs they should be reading include:

  • @libskrat (Dorothea Salo) and @researchremix (Heather Piwowar)
  • FlowingData (what people are doing with data, working charts, etc.
  • KDnuggets (industry focused, list data science jobs not seen in libraries)
  • mathbabe (professor, puts things in context)
  • Retraction Watch (tracks retractions in major journals and comments on them–many retractions are data-related).



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