Friday, 27 June 2008

DISC-UK goes to Silicon Valley for IASSIST 08

Four members of the DataShare team were among the 233 delegates at the 2008 conference of the International Association for Information Service and Technology, held at Stanford University, with the theme Technology of Data: Collection, Communication, Access and Preservation.

This theme, chosen to reflect the location in Silicon Valley addressed how technology can affect aspects of data stewardship throughout the data lifecycle. The methods and mediums by which data are collected, shared, analyzed and saved are ever-changing, from punch cards and legal pads to online-surveys and tag clouds. There has been an explosion of data sources and topics; vast changes in compilation and dissemination methods; increasing awareness about access and associated licensing and privacy issues; and growing concern about the safeguarding and protection of valuable data resources for future use.

Three DISC-UK members presented papers, and all were very well received.

Robin Rice presented DataShare in the session Research Data Into and Out of Institutional Repositories alongside speakers from Cornell, UKDA and MIT. The panellists presented their specific projects and talked about how they are managing issues of participation, data sharing, data life cycle planning, and dealing with various access and dissemination requirements. Whilst there were many papers at the conference about data sharing and the DDI, this was the only session specifically discussing institutional repositories.

Tanvi Desai (far right) presented a paper The Development of Remote Access Systems in the session Data Security and Access: Connecting from Afar (chaired by myself, centre left). Her paper outlined the development of remote access systems, in particular for access to microdata, then looked at the types of remote access solution in use today by various data providers internationally. She assessed the strengths and weaknesses of each system in terms of ease of use, data quality, data accessibility, data security, and the support burden on the data provider.

In the session Tools for Data Visualization and Manipulation, Stuart Macdonald (far left) discussed a range of collaborative web utilities which use Web2.0 technologies to venture into the numeric and spatial data visualisation arenas. He described and compared a number of utilities such as Swivel, Many Eyes, GeoCommons and MapTube that to varying degrees visualise data and allow data users the opportunity to interact with and share data in an open environment.

Some of us have noticed that, at each year’s conference, there have been progressively fewer presentations about actual data – new or interesting data sources, examples of data use and research results. We were reminded that traditionally there were three main strands in the conference papers – documentation, technology, data, but this year’s offerings were almost entirely in the first two. However, Celia Russell from MIMAS redressed the balance somewhat with an excellent session on Innovation in the Use of International Data for Teaching and Learning. Many of us are hoping for a better balance next year, when the conference will be held in Tampere, Finland.

[See http://www.disc-uk.org/publications.html for links to presentations described above.]

Jane Roberts

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