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Student Shadow Emma Rogers Recaps on the Spring Conference

UNY/SLA’s 2017 Spring Conference – Government Data: By the People, for the People

Thank you again for allowing me to participate as a shadow student in UNYSLA’s spring conference Government Data: By the People, For the People. I made many wonderful connections and gained valuable insight into the challenges libraries face in the age of mass data.

The first speaker was Paul Bern from Syracuse University who presented the topic of Government Data and Data Security. Professor Bern’s topic covered threats to public data from the late 1700s onward. Although there were several points of interest for me during his presentation, one concept that recurred throughout the course of the day was the concept of Margin of Error. This concept, from what I gathered, was that data has been manipulated either purposely or mistakenly since the beginning of humanity for personal, sometimes nefarious purposes when the context or whole of the information is not included in the results. A fascinating discussion ensued regarding the role of librarians as instructors on the concept of margin of error.

After the first presentation I introduced Blair Tinker, a research specialist for GIS from the University of Rochester. Tinker discussed the history and evolution of census data mapping and questions to keep in mind when conducting a reference interview. Some of the questions Tinker recommended asking included: what the results will be used for, if the user is willing to put in time and effort to locate the correct set of data or if something more general is needed, will they use it in the future, and what sort of time restraints exist. Tinker warned that physical boundaries on maps have changed over time, so results may not always be available or correct. I enjoyed learning more about online mapping tools that Tinker uses regularly or has used in the past. The number of options to gather information from census data seemed endless.

I introduced the next presenter, Leah McEwen from Cornell University, who discussed the topic of Mining Public Data for Lab Safety. McEwen explained the necessity for risk assessment in laboratory protocols, and argued that a similar protocol for libraries could be implemented for users. I enjoyed listening about PubMed Safety, and how similar safety measures in the application could also be used to alert library users. I had just recently learned more about the semantic web, so trying to picture the future of the application and the concepts that could be taken away from it was particularly appealing to me.

The last presentation was by Jim DelRosso from Cornell University on Data Rescue. DelRosso spoke about his experience and knowledge on preserving data and websites, and why it has recently become a necessity. He explained national effort and those of Cornell University to preserve data for faculty and graduate students and the protocols they have in place. Although I had heard of data rescue events, this presentation was eye-opening for me because I had not known of the different aspects involved in such a process.

The conference ended with a panel discussion that included Jim DelRosso, Stephanie Jacobs, Sarah Prenovitz, and Sue Cardinal. Cardinal had prepared several intriguing questions about the various experience each panelist had with preserving data, and there were also several questions from the audience. One of the highlights of the discussion was about the collection of public data for the purposes of selling it such as genealogy.com, which gathers census records but charges users. It was agreed upon that it was a charge for using their services, but there were other means of finding that information. Another highlight was the rekindling of the conversation over who is responsible for educating the public on the concept of the margin of error and protecting personal information. One solution that seemed popular was to implement a course for students to learn about data protection and comprehension, although situations regarding intrusion of personal information may vary in degrees and context.

Overall, this was a very exciting and informative experience for me. I would highly recommend to any student interested in attending a conference to join a UNYSLA conference. This experience allowed me valuable insight into the opinions of librarians across the state, and to learn more about topics that I am sure will surface in the near future.

 

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