The Art of Discarding

I’m in the process of spring cleaning my house and am getting lots of inspiration from Marie Kondo’s “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” Her big message is that to truly achieve an organized home, one must discard all unneeded/unloved items before you can even begin to tidy. We hold on to a lot of junk and it’s preventing us from enjoying and relaxing in our homes. Using the suggestions in Kondo’s book, the purging process is working really well for me and I’m already feeling better about a lot of my home spaces.

The act of cleaning my home by getting rid of unnecessary junk has me thinking about how underrated the discarding step is in the process of data management. It’s actually important to periodically get rid of useless data so that the good data is easier to find. Why wade through a bunch of files you’ll never use in order to locate the ones you want?

Besides clearing out the cruft, there are two other reasons to consider discarding data. First, junk data takes up hard drive space. I’m totally guilty of holding on to everything and anything digital – such as when I recently transferred all of my old laptop files to my new laptop – but this means I devote more and more disk space to stuff I don’t really need to keep. In the long term, it’s not a very sustainable solution.

The other good reason to discard is if you’re dealing with sensitive data. Sensitive data can be a pain to keep secure, but such security concerns go away after the data is destroyed. You can’t lose data that no longer exists! It’s usually best practice to destroy the data after a fixed retention period so you have access to it for some period of time but not forever.

In many ways, data management is comparable to tidying your home; one must keep things organized and put away in the proper place in order to find them later. This analogy continues for the discarding process. Discarding is an important step in keeping a handle on what you have. So as you manage your data, I hope you consider how strategically trashing files can help keep your digital house in order.

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Copyright and Data

In my quest to educate everyone on research data management, I’m always looking for easier ways to explain things. On the top of this list is copyright, which is weird to begin with and gets pretty squirrelly when applied to data.

My latest effort in this sphere comes as a flyer that covers that basics of research data and copyright. Hopefully, this will give you a better sense of how copyright does (and does not) apply to research data and how this affects what you can do with your and others’ data.

The flyer is CC-BY licensed, so you are free to use and reuse as you like so long as you attribute!

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Love Your Data

It’s Love Your Data Week, an effort coordinated by one of my amazing data librarian peers, Heather Coates. Love your data week celebrates how prevalent and important data is to research while also acknowledging that we need to give our data some love from time to time.

Each day has a theme and I encourage you to check out the resources on the main site and those appearing on Twitter under the #LYD16 hashtag. I’ve also identified some posts and videos I’ve created over the last few years relating to the 5 topics. Do check them out and think about ways to love your data a little more this week!

Monday – Keep Your Data Safe

Tuesday – Do You Know Where Your Data Is?

Wednesday – Write It Down!

Thursday – Give and Get Credit

Friday – Transforming, Extending, Reusing Data

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Hello, I’m Kristin Briney and I’m number 0000-0003-1802-0184

It’s only January, but it’s looking like one of the biggest trends of 2016 is going to be linking every researcher to a unique ID. I’m speaking, of course, of ORCID numbers and the recent news that even more publishers are now requiring authors to have an ORCID number when they publish articles in their journals. So if you don’t have an ORCID number, now is the perfect time to get one!

So what’s the big deal with these 16-digit numbers and why would anyone want to be a number?

The problem is best illustrated by the John Smith’s and Zhang Wei’s of the world; have you ever tried to find a paper by someone when there are at least 2 people with that name in the same subfield? The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that people change institutions, women change their name after marriage, and that journals don’t abbreviate names in the same way. How is anyone supposed to find someone else’s scholarship, let alone keep track of their own complete scholarly record?

The answer is to correlate a unique number to each researcher. That way, you know that 0000-0003-1802-0184 always means me and only me. I’m lucky to have a pretty unique name, but I’ve also worked at multiple institutions and in two completely different fields (chemistry and librarianship). Having an ORCID number means that someone else can find all of my scholarly work in an easy way.

I’ve been a big fan of ORCID for a while now and am very excited to see these major adoption milestone happening. I know that many people have already grabbed their own ORCID numbers and now is definitely the time to claim your number if you haven’t! Getting an ORCID number is free and pretty straightforward. Registration is quick, though it may take a little time to associate all of your old papers with your new number when you fill out your profile. Once this is done, however, it’s very easy to maintain your ORCID by occasionally adding new publications. More information can be found at

I really expect that the recent news about ORCID integration will only be the tipping point for this useful system. So don’t be surprised if your publisher, funding agency, or other research-associated organization starts asking for your ORCID soon. This means that you’ll want claim an ORCID number of your own, if you haven’t already. 2016 is likely to be the year that you need it.

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My Data Christmas List

In the spirit of the holidays, I want to end the year with a fun blog post – my data Christmas list. Here is what I’m wishing for this year:

  • I wish that all lost datasets may be found. No dataset should be away from home, especially at Christmas.
  • For the data elves to visit in the night and work miracles on documentation.
  • A good backup system under every researcher’s tree.
  • For data to be shared as freely as Christmas joy.
  • Folders all lined up along the mantle in a logical organization structure with a good naming system and filled with brilliant data.
  • Data analysis that is easy to prepare and won’t make a mess of the kitchen; researchers never enjoy an undercooked (or overcooked) analysis.
  • World peace. Or at least making peace with one’s data.

I hope you all have a lovely holiday season. May your data be merry and bright!

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Rethinking Research Data

How do you persuade the average person to care about open research data?

This was the challenge that I faced in my recent TEDxUWMilwaukee talk on “Rethinking Research Data“. The theme of the talk was that whenever we publish the results of research, we also need to publish the corresponding data. There are so many examples – from economic austerity to Joachim Boldt – that make this relevant to everyday people.

Untitled | Flickr - Photo Sharing! : taken from - TEDxUWMilwaukee Team
Untitled | Flickr – Photo Sharing! : taken from – TEDxUWMilwaukee Team

So if you’ve never thought about how open data impacts you or are wary of this new data trend, do check out the video to see why open data is important!

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