Data in Denver

 International Data Week, September 11th to 17th, 2016

Posted: September 23, 2016

by Vicky Lucas, IEA Training and Development Manager

Last week, Denver was buzzing with the great and the good from the world of data intensive research; from particle physicists to paediatricians to publishers, all were there to discuss commonalities and challenges.

Here’s my perspective on some of the conference themes:

  • The open data revolution, having started from bottom up with facilities such as GitHub, will increasingly be driven from the top down. Public funding will increasingly require open access of datasets gathered and generated by researchers.  The European Union, for example, declared earlier this year that it is moving to ‘Open Science, Open Innovation, Open to the World’.
  • Open data will make research outputs more reproducible, transparent, equitable and reusable – but there are challenges. Attendees noted that while most technological solutions are achievable, the slowest mover is often the necessary changes to social and cultural norms.
  • Persistent identifiers should and will be increasingly used for data, documents and people. The Digital Object Identifier System (DOIs) can be applied to any entity – physical, digital or abstract.  For researchers themselves there is ORCID, a code which uniquely identifies academic authors.
  • To lend clarity to searches, metadata and interoperability of datasets, shared vocabularies should be standardised i.e. definitions of units, concepts and things. For environmental and agricultural data the use of the Global Agricultural Concept Scheme was recommended.
  • Training was highlighted as an issue, for researchers, data managers, librarians and data scientists. The need for targeted training and certification for data scientists was highlighted as a growing area of employment, along with the need for good quality data analytics to capitalise fully on data in both research and business.

International Data Week brought together three interest groups for the first time in one seven-day session.  The International Council for Science was represented by both the Committee on Data for Science and Technology for the first three days and the World Data System held a one day meeting midweek.  The Research Data Alliance held its eighth plenary on the last three days of the conference, which brings together practitioners for interactive working groups and interest groups, making for great discussions.  The seven days had an eclectic mix of attendees with a wide variety of interests in big data, from collection and gathering to processing to management and storage.

Just as the gold rush of the mid-1800s created prosperity from natural resources, including Denver, the conference highlighted that the new raw materials for creating wealth are data.  The panning is analytics: the extraction of value from big and open data.

Vicky Lucas, Training and Development Manager
Vicky Lucas, Training and Development Manager at the IEA