Liveblog: BRDI: Briefings from Federal Interagency Data and Information Groups

I’m attending the first meeting of the new Board on Research Data and Information today and tomorrow, and will be liveblogging. Standard liveblogging disclaimers apply. The presentation slides are on the meeting site. Because the slides are online, I’ll focus on what’s not on the slides.

Notes from the first open session, Briefings from Federal Interagency Data and Information Groups.

[missed part of the beginning]

Interagency Working Group on Digital Data

Recommendations:

  • working group should become National Science and Technology Council subcmte
  • departments and agencies should develop their own policies but make their policies publicly available
  • agencies should promote a data management planning process for projects that generate preservation data

Q: What about Obama’s CTO?
A: Chris Greer: This is a good sign for us.

Q: Working with libraries?
A: Greer:

Q: Universities may have counter-sharing cultures, e.g. concerns about tenure.
A: Greer: NSF has some experience here. Proposal should describe impact not just on your area of science, but on society as a whole. Initially we got 15 page proposals with 2 sentences on broader impact. Later, we got better responses. Researchers got serious about it. We could change the culture in a similar way.

Q: What incentives might we use?
A: Greer: We find carrots easier to use than sticks. Ex.: Physical research organizations: Limit access to equipment. Virtual organizations: Your prestige depends on how *many* people are using your equipment. Similar for data. We need ways to track use of data by others, important for promotion, prestige, rewards. Sticks: If you have a management plan, you can review performance under that plan and deny further increments or renewal if they don’t follow through.
Cita Furlani: We don’t have any sticks — it’s all carrots.

Q: Michael Lesk: What needs do you have that this group might help address?
A: Greer: We hoped for a broader look at the role of sectors outside the federal government. One of the most important is the academic sector. What’s the perspective from the university in terms of preserving their faculty’s digital products? What’s their commitment, biz model, what are their needs & expectations from us? Same questions apply to commercial sector: How will we interact with the commercial sector for long-term preservation and access? Ex.: Google Sky built on top of federally-funded telescope. We need to think about how to match needs with business model.

Q: Human consent: Not much standardization in consent agreements. How can we retain datasets from human studies, letting others use them?
A: Greer: There’s significant effort across government in area of EHRs. Point we make in the report: No one size fits all. Different communities of practice, different kinds of data have different kinds of constraints. Many agencies have this as a central issue: HHS, Census. Bottom line: It’s an unsolved problem. But we have expertise and mission-specific interest in these areas.

Q: Have tried to convince wealthier universities to spend more money in this area. But people in the libraries think that someone is supposed to do the work for them before they do anything — originally done by publishers. This is a new idea. Harvard isn’t used to thinking about preserving the output of Harvard. [Is this really true?] What’s the precedent for thinking this way?
A: Greer: Universities have mission for creation & dissemination of knowledge. Role of individual university re: its faculty is up to that university. There are a number of universities conducting experiments in this area: Big 10 repository effort, National Virtual Observatory, California Digital Library, variety of others, Georgia Tech. There’s a lot of space to explore here. Digital preservation doesn’t have to be physically centralized — can be very distributed. This is space worth exploring.
Q: If there were funds made available to individuals or universities — requirement and funding (authority and resources) — to do preservation, then they’d take it more seriously. Universities now think it’d be nice if we could. Nat’l Virtual Observatory: People don’t trust it, think it’s a one thing. Even with Worldwide Telescope, people won’t use it, won’t trust anyone besides the government because they don’t see permanence. If we pair mandate with funding for long-term archiving, then we might get results.
A: Greer: There are people exploring this — there’s not one solution, there’s probably a range of them.

CENDI
Ellen Herbst of the National Technical Information Service, on behalf of CENDI.
CENDI is voluntary inter-agency group of federal STI managers. Member agencies represent 97% of federal R&D budget.

Mission & goals: coordination & leadership, improvement of STI systems, promote understanding.
CENDI shortly will publish list of STI issues for policymakers to consider

Q: Goals, priorities?
A: Herbst: We’re career employees of the federal government — hesitant to advocate on behalf of policy. We come from a broad range of agencies, with our own issues — to rise to the level of CENDI, it has to apply to everybody.
A: Elliot Siegel: Each agency publishes its own report.
Q: Would it be a problem to identify common issues?
A: Elliot Siegel: May not be agreement — agencies may prefer to speak for themselves.
A: Herbst: We also work with non-member agencies across the government.

Q: What would you like this board to do?
A: Herbst: We’ve talked about outreach. December workshop: We got real scientists to speak about what matters to them — a bit novel. One goal is to commit to follow through on common areas of interest, exchanging information.
A: Siegel: We try to point out the value of STI, of collecting & disseminating it. We’d appreciate assistance in articulating this. For instance, we need to articulate the value of libraries — the Internet doesn’t just solve all problems.

Q: Data on value proposition, ROI: Anecdotes are useful.
A: We were going to do a white paper for the new administration, but instead made it a briefing paper. In preparing, we gathered some.
A: Bonnie Carroll: It’s hard to do that — we have vignettes, but it’s hard to quantify.

Q: Paul Uhlir: We did a workshop with OECD on assessment methodologies for economic & social benefits of access to PSI online. We’d like to follow up with a focus on public scientific information. We’ll discuss tomorrow.

U.S. Group on Earth Observations
Greg Withee of U.S. Geological Survey

Discussed GEO, USGEO, and GEOSS
Top international priority of USGEO: Full and open data access

Q: Michael Lesk: Different countries have very different policies re: availability of data. U.S. vs. UK Ordnance Survey vs. Germany weather data. What are the relative merits of these policies?
A: Withee: Wasn’t always like that — in the ’80s and ’90s, Europe moved more into commercial ventures — also France. Many articles on failures of those approaches — they haven’t produced the income to support the ventures, and cut off later value added. [cf. Bayh-Dole?] Data policy for GEO — companion paper might be useful to point these out, but politically it can be challenging.
Q: Paul Uhlir: Paper with OECD compared U.S. and European models, access and re-use, esp. geodata and meteorological data.

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