Director’s Blog 1/04/20

Director’s Blog January 4, 2020

By Ian Billick, PhD

We want to know how we can help you with your data management needs, ideally with a focus on services that are best offered by RMBL.  One of the main foci of RMBL’s strategic plan is better supporting the data needs of scientists.  A major component of that is facilitating archiving of, and access to, valuable historic data.  Opportunities to leverage one of the largest collections of long-term studies is one of the unique advantages of working at RMBL.  We do not require public sharing of data.  Access to data involving ongoing studies, or that was collected by scientists who are still active, is controlled by those scientists.  However, there is still a wealth of publicly available data and knowledge resources (or data that should be publicly available) that that we have seen scientists put to great use.  We think we can do a better job of providing data/knowledge as a service to you.

We took a big step forward with the GIS/GPS system.  That was originally funded by an NSF Major Instrumentation Grant in 2004.  It took us awhile to work out the staffing, operational, and financial model.  But now we have a thriving geodatabase that is heavily used and well maintained.  The geodatabase helps us enormously with managing research sites-coordinating permitting on public lands as well as access to private lands and reducing (but unfortunately not completely eliminating) infrastructure impacts on research on RMBL property.  Our impression is that the geodatabase is increasingly being put to use by scientists as a research tool.  We would like to expand these services beyond the geodatabase (and our publications database) to information/knowledge more generally.

Our approach will largely be demand driven, based upon what will make a difference to you.  A lot of the national efforts, e.g., data-sharing requirements by funders or publishers, are supply-side driven.  Scientists are required to provide in return for being funded or published, on the theory that having lots of datasets in national archives will be good for science.  While that may be true, we want our investments to be driven by what will make a difference to scientists working at RMBL.

So, if there is something we can do for you in terms of data services, tell me!  Ideally sooner rather than later (right now, even!!).  Is there a dataset that we can chase down, or facilitate access to, that would help your research?  Are you struggling with manipulating a dataset?  Do you need help processing an existing data set?  Would it help you to have workflow tools that allow you to integrate data processing, analysis and integration?  We are currently working on improving access to weather station data (a subject worthy of another blog post), but is there additional monitoring data that would benefit you and others?  Is there a grant proposal involving historic data or data services that we can help with?  And please be creative in articulating your needs-what  you need does not need to fit in a certain box.

I can’t guarantee that we can solve your problem right now.  But unless I understand what would help you, I can’t think about making it happen! We intend to ramp up the data services we provide, similar to what we have done with the GIS/GPS system.  The more I understand your needs, the better we will be at investing in resources that make a difference to science.  So if there is something we can do, send me a quick email, schedule a phone call, grab me next summer, or better yet, join me for coffee and a ski!  If there is enough interest, we might be able to put out a request for proposals that would involve us providing monetary or staff support for solving data needs.

Happy New Year everybody!