This is the inaugural post in a new series called “So What Do You Do?” in which we will talk about our experiences in internships. We wanted to showcase the wide range of things people are doing in the world of library and information science.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Chris Eaker, and I’m a second year student in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. I’m specializing in scientific data curation and data management. I have a background in civil engineering, a career I held for nine years before going back to school.
So what do you do?
As part of my graduate research assistantship in the Data Curation Education in Research Centers project, I spent the summer of 2012 in Boulder, Colorado, working at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The goal of the project is to educate information science professionals in the field of data curation by putting them alongside active researchers.
My project for the summer consisted of conducting a data management audit of four research groups in the Earth Observing Laboratory at NCAR. I investigated areas such as metadata, tools used in data processing, and archiving practices. The final deliverable was a report describing my findings and making recommendations for how each group could improve. Among the report’s recommendations were suggestions to write a data management plan for each project, make use of a project tracking system to keep projects on task, and to employ a scientific related metadata schema.
Are you finding your coursework helpful in that position? In what way?
Yes! I’ve chosen my courses to prepare me for a career in data curation. However, even the core courses that every LIS student takes were helpful. The most helpful core course was The Organization of Information, which is the one where we learn about classification systems, cataloging, and metadata. These skills were essential in auditing the data management practices of the researchers. Another course, Foundations of Data Curation, taught me the basic building blocks of data curation, why it’s important, and how to go about doing it. Skills acquired in this course helped me to understand data management, metadata schemas for scientific research, and archiving principles.
What would you say are the lessons you’ve taken away from this internship?
This internship has given me a clearer understanding of how scientific research is done in practice and how I, as an information science professional, can aid that process. It has reinforced my belief that we need to teach data management in our science programs at our colleges and universities, because it is so important to the long term viability and accessibility of scientific data.
How do you think this will help with your career?
This internship has already helped my career by strengthening my resume and proving that I have practical experience. My future career aspirations are to become a data curation librarian at an academic library. I hope to work with researchers across the campus — both faculty and students — to educate and assist with their work. We as information professionals have skills that are valuable in the management of data.
Overall, this internship was a great experience. I learned more than I could have learned in a classroom setting and made valuable contacts in the atmospheric research field. Of course, getting to spend the summer in Boulder, Colorado, was a huge bonus!