Thursday, 15 January 2009

Symposium on Institutional Data Services - 5th December 2008


A recent recruit to the EUDL and something of a data services novice, I had the very good fortune to attend this highly informative, thoroughly enjoyable and extremely sociable event at the University of Edinburgh’s Pollock Halls.

Being also the 25th anniversary of the Data Library at Edinburgh, the first presentation was most appropriately given by its Director, Peter Burnhill, who gave us a densely-packed yet entertaining account of the first quarter century of its existence, modestly conceding that it had all actually started without him! Peter’s whistle-stop tour took us through the early years of data service provision at the University of Edinburgh , involvement with IASSIST, collaboration with others working in the same field, the turning point which was the award of RAPID, the establishment of EDINA and, most recently, the DISC-UK DataShare Project, with lots more stuff in between!

The key message for me from the presentation from Sheila Anderson, Director of the Centre for E-Research at King’s College, London, was the need for service providers to understand research needs and respond accordingly, with emphasis on the need for appropriate training and support in outreach, accessing, exploring and using data services.

Chuck Humphrey, Head of the Data Library at the University of Alberta, identified three principal strands of change over the last 25 years, specifically in the areas of responsibility for access, computing technology and service complement. He also outlined new opportunities for data services providers throughout the data stewardship life cycle. Echoing Sheila, Chuck also placed emphasis on keeping patrons a priority, essentially by finding out what they needed and providing it.

The general bridging of the gap between services and researchers also featured in the account by Ann Green, Digital Life Cycle Research & Consulting, of the development of data services in the US, as did the degree to which data professionals can lead the way in building a knowledge-base of expertise, developing standards, forming partnerships and influencing government policy.

Short presentations by ANDS’s Andrew Treloar and Henk Harmsen, DANS provided an insight into the range of activity and initiatives currently taking place in the national data services of, respectively, Australia and the Netherlands. DANS’s ‘Data Seal of Approval’ was of particular interest!

The general theme of understanding between data users and providers was also a feature of EUDL’s Robin Rice’s concluding contribution to the Symposium, which also acknowledged the need for the ‘repositioning’ of the role of the library in data intensive research. All in all, a highly informative day one which gave me, a recent recruit to the DataShare Project, valuable insights into the issues and current concerns of data service providers nationally and internationally.

For further information visit: http://www.datalib.ed.ac.uk/25anniversary/presentations.html Also here are some notes sketching the day's events.

Anne Donnelly
DataShare Project Officer

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