by Elena Azadbakht
Health Sciences Librarian
University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
In early 2018, I secured a spot in the National Network of Libraries of Medicine’s inaugural RDM 101: Biomedical and Health Research Data Management Training for Librarians, conducted by the National Training Office (NTO). I learned quite a bit about research data management (RDM) during the eight-week online course. At the time, I was the Health and Nursing Librarian at the University of Southern Mississippi, and I wrote about my RDM 101 experience in a post on the Southern Chapter’s blog, Southern Salutations. I have since moved into my current position as the Health Sciences Librarian at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), but I remain intensely interested in developing a robust RDM program.
During the first week of April, I visited the University of Cincinnati (UC) for a few days, also courtesy of the NNLM NTO. I attended UC’s 4th annual Data Day and had the opportunity to learn about the University of Cincinnati Libraries’ data initiatives in the meantime. Amy Koshoffer, UC Science Informationist and a RDM 101 course mentor, graciously served as my host for the trip. Rebecca Morgan, librarian at the University of Louisville, also attended. It was nice to have a “buddy” who was there with similar aims.
Rebecca and I met with the Research and Data Services (RDS) team as well as liaisons and informationists at the UC Health Sciences Library. We also toured key library and campus spaces. All the while, we learned about how the RDS team does their work, such as taking a close look at their consultation form/log, and how their RDM program came about and has evolved. It was amazing hearing about these things from the people doing the work in the context in which it takes place (as opposed to reading about it in a formal publication or presentation.)
Data Day was a bit different than what I’d expected, but in a good way. Before studying the schedule, I had imagined it would be almost entirely hands-on skills development – the “how” of research data. And while the event featured a power session that introduced participants to the R programming language, most of the day’s sessions focused instead on the big picture of research data – the “why.” Drawing in over 100 attendees, Data Day serves as a community building venture for those interested in data and data issues at UC and within the region. This year’s theme was Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Data. Keynote speakers included Amanda J. Wilson, Head of the NLM’s National Network Coordinating Office, who presented on the All of Us Research Program, and Debra Guadalupe Duran, Director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, who discussed big data’s impacts on health disparities.
I would ultimately like to host a similar, albeit smaller, event here at UNR. My co-workers and I are brainstorming ways we can support RDM and data science skills development on our campus. Amy and her colleagues emphasized educational activities as a starting point, e.g., tailored workshops based on the New England Collaborative Data Management Curriculum, and described how they came together to create a strategic plan and a set of goals for data at UC. Rebecca also noted how her library has established a similar sort of group. Since my return, we’ve made plans to establish a data working group within the UNR Libraries. We already have a LibGuide, a Canvas module available to all faculty and staff, and have led a few workshops on RDM. But we’ll use UC and others as a guide when developing our own goals in this area.
Not everything I encountered or heard about at UC is applicable or achievable at UNR – at least not immediately. But I feel a lot more confident that we’re on the right track with RDM and data science. Over time, some of the distinctive aspects of UC’s program will find their way into our work at UNR. Starting small and planning on a “slow burn” is perfectly okay! Moreover, visiting other campuses and their libraries is invigorating, as is meeting colleagues who are interested in the same topics and issues as you are. Apart from Rebecca, I also met librarians from Miami University (in Oxford, OH) and the University of Kentucky who attended Data Day. Now I have a handful of fellow librarians that I can easily reach out to when an interesting data-related idea springs to mind or when planning a data-related activity or event. Although I’m not adverse to cold calling other librarians who I’ve noted are doing interesting activities, it is great to have built a rapport with specific individuals within the NNLM and RDM communities! This was also one of the primary benefits of the RDM 101 course itself.