This blog post is to augment the very brief lightning talk that was pre-recorded for the OBFS meeting this week. The recording and abstract are below. 

OBFS Abstract: 

There is an increasing demand from funders and publishers to share scientific data using the FAIR Principles (Wilkinson et. al, 2016). This means that scientific data and the descriptive metadata should be findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable or FAIR. However, with this push to share data, many researchers face a steep learning curve because this practice has not been part of their work and isn’t something learned from mentors or in formal education. Attempting to change the scientific practice often faces resistance or “data friction” (Edwards et. al, 2010). Data therefore remains fragmented and generally not well preserved for reuse. This is problematic at field stations where researchers from a variety of institutions come together at a site to do their work, but take physical specimens and data back to their home institutions. I am a Ph.D. student at the University of Colorado-Boulder interested in data sharing. In August, I was part of a National Science Foundation program, Starting Blocks, which helps researchers get out of our offices and talk to experts about challenges in the real world. My focus was to learn about how permitting and declarations are currently handled by researchers accessing field sites across the U.S. In the next phase of this work, I would like to use ethnographic methods, both participant observation and semi-structured interviews with field station staff and researchers, to understand the history of the scientific infrastructure at field stations and/or scientific practice around data sharing past and present.

Recorded Lightning talks:

Preliminary Findings: 

After reviewing and coding my notes together from across field stations these are a few items that stand out: 

1. Field station access is limited and often there are many that return year after year. Graduate students come with advisors and then have easier access when they are post-docs and faculty. I sensed there is difficulty gaining access as a complete, new person from some stations. 

2. The process to access is non-standard. It often starts with an email, especially for new visitors, it is then followed by questionnaires or a form to gain more details and then a conversation. The review varies by site from informal, as long as it seems that the team can do ‘sound science’ to scientific review boards. A few stations mentioned how they engage with Indigenous, local communities and this is an area of work I would like to come back to. 

3. There is little support for individual permit requirements by the project, but field stations will guide in general terms. Some stations had blanket permits to make access more efficient. There was a feeling from several interviewees that understanding the permit process and IACUC, the institutional review for animal welfare is essential parts of professional developed, learned through doing field work. Field station staff ask for as part of the access to have copies of required permits and approvals. 

5. There was no follow-up indicated by any interviewee on permit reporting, but it was acknowledged that it has to happen. Similar results were also found around handling and managing data. Several pointed to EDI, but there were often no way for field station staff to know what happened as a result of work at and enabled by the station.  

Next Steps: 

Building on this initial project, I am curious to dive more deeply into understanding scientific data sharing and research coordination at field stations. I would like to interview several field stations about their practices. 

Participate in this data sharing study!

As a next step, I am looking for 10 field stations to talk about data sharing and data management at their field stations. You can be at any stage from no management to speak of to advanced and well-curated and anything in between!