Playing to My Strengths

Posted on July 9, 2010 by


In a former life, I was once a fiction writer and amateur music writer. It wasn’t actually so long ago and occasionally I still dabble. However, returning to the narrative format within a more scientific framework may prove to be a larger challenge.

For some context: At our mentor/intern meetup this week, we presented our initial findings as well as some challenges. I had a draft of an article (more like the most basic ideas of an article) and many in the group suggested I rewrite the article in a more narrative tone as an opinions/perspectives piece. Most of my friends would agree that I don’t have a shortage of opinions. However, anything anecdotal is not real scientific evidence (at least not what I’ve gathered from the various scientific blogs I’ve read).

This is where my data comes in. Along with this piece, there may also be a poster for future presentations. Yet I have to wonder how much of this really is just my opinion? I am sort of curious about doing a survey of researchers and information professionals to see if they have also had difficulty finding data citations (not to mention see if there are any knowledge gaps between researchers and information professionals regarding this type of search). Granted, my project was just a general search for data citations across a narrow sample. However, if a general search truly is difficult, then how hard is it to find a specific set of data given a limited amount of known information about the data set (like my previous analogy where finding a data citation by author, repository or accession number was sort of like trying to find someone on Facebook by using their hair color and favorite breakfast cereal)?

I’ve always liked telling a good story. However, in this case, the story must be accurate as well. For my argument to work, there should be a truly demonstrated need for this information to be found easily. However, what is the awareness of this need? How many researchers look for the data that others create? Or, do scientists prefer to run their own experiments/make their own observations? How helpful would it be for them to compare or contrast their data to the data of others? A question unasked is a question unanswered.

Does anyone have thoughts about this? Once again, I’m going back to the ideas of crowdsourcing and open science where people create and share data throughout the scientific research process. On that note, Heather has forwarded this link to me and the other interns: I rather like this idea, a place where the scientific community can share, discuss and solicit requests for information or help with projects.

For now, I’m on my way back to Boston to continue working, continue drafting, continue trying to help figure out better ways to document and share science.