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Spotlight on the ACRL New England Research Data Special Interest Group

Posted by on August 20th, 2020 Posted in: Blog

NER staff recently spoke to Patti Condon from the University of New Hampshire, and Melanie Radik from UMass Amherst, the co-chairs of the ACRLNE RDSIG. Those are a lot of letters, which stand for Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) New England Chapter  – Research Data Special Interest Group. The group has recently reorganized their leadership, so we thought this would be a good time to let the group introduce themselves and how they support research data services in New England. Our interview is below.

What is the RDSIG and when was it founded?  

The Research Data Services Interest Group (RDSIG) became part of ACRL-NEC in 2018. RDSIG supports communities of library professionals with research data responsibilities (Community of Practice) and library professionals with an interest in research data (Community of Interest). We strive to accomplish this by hosting low-cost/no-cost events that cater to discussion with peers about current topics, trends, and issues, and that deliver education and training on a variety of topics, including good data management practices, current funding agency and publisher standards, and tools to streamline data manipulation or analysis. We support our communities by being responsive to the evolving needs of data professionals and endeavor to work collaboratively with other ACRL-NEC SIGs and regional partners towards shared goals and initiatives.

RDSIG began life as the New England Research Data Management Event & Roundtable, known colloquially as “the Roundtables.” In 2015, Carolyn Mills (University of Connecticut), Thea Atwood (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), Tom Hohenstein (currently of U.S. Army Cyber Command), Donna Kafel (currently of Northborough Free Library), and Sally Wyman (Boston College) organized the first roundtable event, which was a morning tour of the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center and afternoon roundtable discussions. With support from the Network of the National Library of Medicine, New England Region (NNLM/NER) eScience Program, the Roundtables continued to provide low-cost/no-cost events for data professionals in the region. In 2018, the planning group successfully petitioned to become an ACRL-NEC special interest group. Since 2015 there have been twelve roundtable events.

At the heart of this group is dedication to low-cost/no-cost professional development and networking opportunities. RDSIG is founded on the ground rules of the Roundtables:

  1.     Expect to both give and get information – contribute in both ways
  2.     Allow all to talk; do not dominate the conversation
  3.     Bring materials that you are willing to share, related to the topics
  4.     Ask permission to use materials provided at the event by others
  5.     Keep sensitive information divulged at the event confidential

To learn more about the Roundtables, read Grassroots Professional Development via the New England Research Data Management Roundtables.

Who runs the SIG? How can others get involved?  

Longevity and sustainability of RDSIG depends on the involvement of the community. Volunteering for a leadership role is a great service opportunity and a great way to get involved with ACRL-NEC. If you are interested in becoming more involved with RDSIG or volunteering to host or help plan an event, please reach out to the co-chairs.

RDSIG current leadership includes:

  •         Co-chair: Patti Condon (University of New Hampshire)
  •         Co-chair: Melanie Radik (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)
  •         Communications: James Burke (Mount Holyoke College)
  •         Secretary: Jennifer Chaput (University of Connecticut)

Vacant leadership positions are filled by invitation of the other members of the leadership team, though announcements of open positions and calls for interested volunteers are sent to relevant listservs such as datalibs and the ACRL-NEC list.

What does the SIG do?

RDSIG is best known for the Roundtables. We pair a professional development event – such as a panel discussion, presentation/talk, training in tools or instruction, or tour of a regional facility – with roundtable discussions that all participants take part in. The atmosphere is casual and networking/peer-to-peer learning is encouraged!

At the end of each event we have participants fill out evaluation forms, in which we ask for topics of interest for future events. The planning group reviews those topics and selects one or two as the topic of the next event. Some of our most recent events have been about research data in institutional repositories, data ethics, and data visualization.

While we will be hosting the Roundtables online for now, we are always looking for places to hold the events and help with local arrangements. In-person events are usually capped at about 30-40 participants and we like to highlight expertise or facilities at our host’s institution, if possible.

How is the SIG connected to ACRL NE?

RDSIG is one of the 9 special interest groups that are supported by ACRL-NEC. The SIGs carry our specialized programming to accommodate the numerous professional areas of librarianship and help support the mission of ACRL-NEC.

In turn, the activities of the SIG are supported with funding, access to an executive board that is invested in our success, and assistance with promotion of events and SIG membership.

If the SIG could do anything, what would it be?

In July, RDSIG just wrapped up our first collaborative Roundtable with the Scholarly Communication Interest Group (SCIG) – which was also our first online event – and it was a great success. We would like to collaborate more with SCIG as well as other ACRL-NEC SIGs and regional partners to highlight common goals and areas of interest. Also, we have been effective at building our Community of Practice and would love to begin building our Community of Interest – and collaborating is a great way to do this.

The current shift to online events presents challenges for fostering the networking that is a key part of the roundtable, but also presents opportunities for colleagues who might otherwise have been unable to travel to participate.

We want to build our community, and our connections to each other, to a place where when a data professional encounters a dilemma they don’t know how to solve on their own, they know who to contact or where to turn for advice.  To do this, we try to involve all members of our communities – both the Community of Practice and the Community of Interest – and bring them together with relevant and informative programming and opportunities to learn about each other’s roles and strengths.

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NNLM Region 7
University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School
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This has been funded in whole or in part with Federal funds from the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012347 with the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School.

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