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Syllabus for Data, Data Practices, and Data Curation, Part II, Spring 2014, UCLA Information Studies


In today’s technology-intensive research environments, petabytes of data may be produced in a matter of days, weeks, or months. Those data may be lost in a similar amount of time if they are not captured, curated, and marked up in ways that allow for discovery and reuse by others. Datasets large and small can be very useful not only to researchers, but also to students, to the general public, and to policy makers. Among the classes of data of broad general interest are scientific records of the climate, the skies and galaxies, plant and animal species, social and economic observations, and cultural and historical records. Research policy by governments and funding agencies encourages – and increasingly requires – that investigators make plans for data management, curation, and dissemination. The National Science Foundation announced a new requirement in 2010 for all grant proposals: they now must include data management plans. This requirement is causing a mad scramble for compliance by researchers, universities, librarians, and archivists. The Association for Research Libraries already has issued several reports on the library’s role in data management, adding to a plethora of policy reports in this area. The Institute for Museum and Library Services is funding curriculum development for data librarians. Data management is clearly a growth area for information studies graduates. These two courses (winter and spring) will survey the rich landscape of data practices and services, including data as evidence and their role in research; data-intensive research methods; social studies of data practices; national and international data policy (e.g., intellectual property, release policies, open access, economics); comparisons between disciplines; management of data by research teams, data centers, libraries, and archives; technical standards for data and metadata; and data curation. Part I (winter) lays the foundation for data practices and services across the disciplines. Part II (spring) builds upon this background to provide practical experience in data curation. One large project will be undertaken across the two terms plus several smaller assignments. The courses will be graded separately. Part I is a pre-requisite for Part II. However, by taking Part I, you are not obligated to take Part II. These courses will be a mix of readings, discussion, practicum, field trips, and guest lectures. Invited speakers for this term include local experts and distinguished guests from the National Academy of Sciences and the Library of Congress by videoconference. Librarians, archivists, and other information professionals bring essential skills to the realm of research data. Information activities related to data include developing metadata, standards, and systems of classification, establishing archival plans for data selection, migrating data to new platforms and standards, creating finding aids for multiple user communities, and developing databases and technologies to support data creation, preservation, discovery, and reuse. Funding agencies and faculty are looking to libraries for leadership for the management, curation, hosting, and dissemination of research data. Data librarianship is a growth area in academic and special libraries, and will be an increasingly important set of skills for librarians and archivists in all sectors. This is an introductory graduate course, suitable for masters and doctoral students in information studies and in data-intensive research fields. The course is open to practicing librarians and archivists through concurrent enrollment, with instructor’s permission. The two-part sequence of courses in Data, Data Practices, and Data Curation was developed with the substantial contributions of UCLA doctoral students Jillian Wallis and Laura Wynholds and guidance from students enrolled in prior offerings of the course in 2010 and 2011. Thanks also are due to instructors of similar courses at other universities who shared their syllabi and course materials, especially Margaret Hedstrom and Ann Zimmerman of the University of Michigan, Carole Palmer and Melissa Cragin at the University of Illinois, and Carolyn Hank at the University of North Carolina.

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