By Erinn Aspinall
Duluth’s forecast called for a wintry mix the morning of January 7 — leading to a two-hour weather delay at University of Minnesota Duluth.
But bad weather did not stop a team of six librarians from the Twin Cities campus from traveling 160 miles to teach a half-day course on data management — nor did it stop a group of over 30 participants from trekking through snow and ice to attend the workshop.
Grant funding broadens library’s reach
The librarian instructors from the Health Sciences Libraries have expertise related to the data management life cycle, and they often teach in partnership with campus entities such as the Sponsored Projects Administration or the Council of Research Associate Deans.
“We support the information needs of health professional schools based at the Twin Cities and Duluth campuses, so we made it a goal to bring data management training to our Duluth-based researchers,” said Lisa McGuire, Associate Director and Principal Investigator.
“Funding really opened a door to offer a workshop for Medical School, College of Pharmacy, and other researchers and librarians on the Duluth campus,” she said, adding that a Research Data Award from the Greater Midwest Region of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine made this training possible.
Why data management matters
The goal of the data management workshop was to educate researchers about the data management life cycle so they could be better prepared to fulfill federal funding requirements, increase research transparency, ensure data preservation and reuse, and improve the reproducibility of their research.
“My most valuable takeaways were learning more about best practices and concrete strategies related to file naming, file organization, project documentation, and data preservation,” said workshop participant Julie Davis, Project Coordinator for the Research for Indigenous Community Health Center in the College of Pharmacy.
Davis’ work includes building an online database for information resources related to Native American nutritional health. “I’m responsible for content management and workflows, as well as data architecture,” she explains.
Improving health through data management best practices
In the short term, Davis will use the information from the workshop to implement a more robust backup system, standardize and optimize file naming, and document her data management system and data workflows. In the long term, she anticipates that use of data management best practices will ensure that her work to increase access to information on Native American nutritional health will survive long into the future.
“Preservation of research data from projects like Julie’s is really crucial,” says McGuire. “As health sciences librarians, we collaborate with researchers whose work impacts how we understand health and how we receive care.”
The link between good data and good health reinforces the importance of good data management practices. It underlines the value of the health sciences librarians as they build these important skills in their community of researchers.
“Our work to support data management is really about ensuring that research findings can be preserved and reproduced by others in order to advance knowledge and understanding,” said McGuire. “Because at the end of the day, advancing knowledge is what research is all about.”