Kouper – Question 3
3Why is data curation important to non-data curators?
CLIR/DLF Data Curation Postdoctoral Fellow, Data to Insight Center – Indiana University
¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 This question can apply to two groups: those who are involved in data collection, analysis, or storage, but who do not see curation as one of their primary activities (researchers, students, or librarians); or those who benefit from data availability, but who use it primarily to make decisions in their non-data-oriented work (administrators, policy makers, or the larger public).
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 The former group works with data at the earlier stages of the data life cycle. Curation is important for them because of the changes in the system and the relative value of epistemic products. We curate, or take care of, epistemic products and objects, such as publications or material samples, because they are valuable to the research community over time. Data are a crucial component of reproducible and trustworthy research, and when they are reused in other research they minimize the cost of data collection. Therefore, it is important to curate data at the earlier stages of the research life cycle if we want rigor and accountability in research. In this sense, data curation is just another component of the collective enterprise called science that builds upon prior work and constructs knowledge by testing, proving, and falsifying hypotheses and theories.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Having said that, I think that we still have a long way to go to recognize the collective value of research data. In many areas of inquiry, data are still rather private, intended for internal use not public communication. Patterns of private use are usually different from those of public use. We may pile up books and magazines in our bedroom, but we would probably put some thought into arranging them in the living room and probably make sure they fit with the overall décor. If we keep thinking about data as something for private use and try to curate them afterwards, we will always end up with “piles” that require a lot of effort to organize and incorporate into the overall ecology of research products. Such data will always be difficult to discover and use. That is why we need to find ways to make data open for public use and discussion; mandates from funding agencies are not sufficient in this regard.
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 For the latter group of decision makers and the public, the argument for data curation is similar to the argument about the importance of science: Having well-preserved data that are easy to discover and work with helps us join efforts and better explain and understand the world, which ultimately improves our lives and our future.