Gummy Bears, Grad Students, and Data Wrangling

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At the Oregon Health & Science University Library, our overarching goal is to help young researchers understand and implement data management best practices, but how do you effectively engage a diverse group of graduate students about research data management (RDM)? What information will basic scientists, clinicians, and informaticists find interesting and relevant? These were the questions and challenges the OHSU Library's Data Stewardship Team aimed to address in organizing our second RDM outreach event, supported by the 1K Challenge.

Collaborating with the OHSU Graduate Student Organization (GSO) we built an event structured around incentives important to our students. We advertised free sushi, and RDM as tool for student success: "graduate sooner, impress your PI!". At the session, attendees worked in groups through a whimsical data management case study, preparing figures and a protocol that captured the anatomy and "springiness" of a gummy bear. Although the exercise was fictional, the process was true to many scientific experiences, involving manipulation, data analysis, data visualization, and data sharing.

Each team shared its results with the larger group and received feedback from the Library's facilitators. We discussed various aspects of the data management life cycle, such as capturing instrument metadata and describing manipulation processes. Despite receiving identical data, each group's resulting reported methodology and figures were strikingly different. This outcome allowed us to demonstrate the importance of good data management and workflow documentation to aid reproducibility and reusability in scientific communication.

The session and case study were well received, the event was well attended, and attendees were happily engaged. A majority of the students registered for follow-up consultations to further discuss their specific data management needs - we feel this was an effective strategy for the library to engage our young research community.

About Nicole Vasilevsky

Nicole received her PhD in Cell Biology in 2009 from Oregon Health & Science University, where she studied protein signaling in a cancer immunotherapy model. She has a BA in Biology from Reed College, in Portland, Oregon.
Nicole Vasilevsky is a biocurator and ontologist in the... More

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