E-Science–How Can We Teach It?

Michael Fosmire

Michael Fosmire, Purdue University Libraries, followed David Osterbur and said that we must build tools but also the curricula that go with them; in other words, teach students to “fish”.  He quoted the call to action in NSF’s Cyberinfrastructure Vision of the 21st Century Discovery:


A Call to Action

E-science is  not fundamentally new, but it empowers scientists to do things faster and better.  Its limiting factor is how not to lose data or make it unavailable to those people who need it.  It is a social and participatory environment.  Vast amounts of data are being generated, but without curation, organization, and preservation, it is easily lost.

Fosmire participated in a needs assessment consisting of structured interviews of faculty which resulted in 12 core competencies required of e-scientists:

  • Databases and data formats, especially an understanding of relational database principles,
  • Discovery and application of data in repositories, and the ability to import and convert it to a suitable format for further processing,
  • Data management and organization: understanding the life cycle of data and creation of standard operating procedures for processing it,
  • Data conversion and interoperability: ability to migrate data from one format to another, while understanding the risks of doing so,
  • Understanding metadata and the structure and purpose of ontologies to facilitate better sharing,
  • Quality assurance: resolving corruption of data sets,
  • Data curation and re-use: recognizing that data may have purposes other than the original one for which it was intended and understanding that data curation is a complex and often costly process,
  • Cultures of practice:  recognition of the practices, values, and norms of one’s chosen field as well as relevant data standards,
  • Data preservation:  recognition of the benefits and costs,
  • Data analysis:  becomes familiar with the basic analysis tools of the discipline,
  • Data visualization:  understanding the advantages of different types of visualizations, and
  • Ethics:  develops an understanding of intellectual property, privacy, and confidentiality issues and appropriately acknowledges external sources.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor


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