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Archive for the ‘Staff’ Category

In our latest post, our Executive Director Melissanne Scheld sits down with Dryad’s Board of Directors Chair, Professor Charles Fox, to discuss challenges researchers face today, how Dryad is helping alleviate some of those pain points, why Dryad has had such staying power in a quickly changing industry,  . . . and then we move on to dessert. 

Chuck Fox

Can you tell us a little about your professional background and how that intersects with Dryad’s mission?

I wear two hats in my professional life – I am an evolutionary ecologist who studies various aspects of insect biology at the University of Kentucky, and I am a journal editor (Executive Editor of Functional Ecology).

My involvement with open data and Dryad began fortuitously in 2006. The British Ecological Society was invited to send a representative to a Data Registry Workshop, organized by the Ecological Society of America, to be held that December in Santa Barbara, California. I am (and was at that time) an editor of one of the British Ecological Society’s journals, Functional Ecology, and I live in the U.S. So Lindsay Haddon, who was Publications Manager for the BES, asked me to attend the workshop  as their representative. Before that meeting I don’t recall having thought much about open data or data archives, but I was excited to attend the meeting in part because the topic intrigued me and, selfishly, because my parents live in southern California and this was an opportunity to visit them. The discussions at that meeting, plus those at a couple follow-up meetings over the next couple years, including one at NESCent in Durham, North Carolina, and another in Vancouver, convinced me that data publishing, and open data more generally, should be a part of research publication. So I began lobbying the BES to adopt an open data policy and become a founding member of Dryad. I wrote a proposed data policy – just a revision of the Journal Sata Archiving Policy, JDAP, that many ecology and evolution journals adopted – and submitted that proposal to the BES’ publication committee. It took a few years, but in 2011 the BES adopted that data policy across their suite of journals and became a member of Dryad. The BES has since been a strong supporter of open data and required data publication as a condition of publishing a manuscript in one of their journals. Probably because I was a vocal proponent of data policies at BES meetings (along with a few others, most notably Tim Coulson), I was nominated to be a Dryad board member, and was elected to the board in 2013.

As an educator,  what are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the classroom during your career?

When I started teaching, first as a graduate student (teaching assistant) and then as a young university professor, we didn’t have Powerpoint and digital projectors. So I made heavy use of a chalkboard (or dry erase board) during lecture, and used an overhead projector for more complicated graphics. Students had to take detailed notes on the lecture, which required them to write furiously all throughout the class. Nowadays I produce detailed PowerPoint slides that include most of the material I cover, so I write very little on the chalkboard. And, because I can provide my slides to students before class – as a pdf that they can print and bring to class – the students are freed from scribbling furiously to capture every detail. Students still need to take some notes (my slides do not include every detail), but they are largely freed to listen to lecture and participate in class discussions. I am not convinced, though, that these changes have led to improved learning, at least not in all students. Having information too easily available, including downloadable class materials, seems to cause some students to actually disengage from class, and ultimately do poorly, possibly because they think they don’t need to attend class, or engage when they do attend, since they have all of the materials easily accessible to them outside the classroom?

What do you think the biggest challenges are for open science research today?

I have been amazed at how quickly open data has become accepted as the standard in the ecology and evolution research communities. When data policies were first proposed to journals there was substantial resistance to their adoption – journals were nervous about possibly driving away authors, and editors (who are also researchers) shared the views that were common in the community regarding ownership of their own data – but over just a few years the resistance largely disappeared among editors, societies and publishers, such that a large proportion of the top journals in the field have adopted policies requiring data to be published alongside research manuscripts. That said, some significant challenges remain, both on the researcher side and on the repository side. On the repository side, sustainable funding remains the largest hurdle. Data repositories cost money to run, such as for staff and infrastructure. Dryad has been relying on a mix of data publication charges (DPCs) and grants to fund its mission. This has worked for us so far, but constantly chasing grants is a lot of work for those writing grants, and the cost to researchers paying DPCs, albeit small, is not trivial for those without grant support.

On the researcher side, though data publishing has mostly become an accepted part of research publication in the community, there remain many important cultural and practical challenges to making open data universally practiced.  These include the development of standards for data citation and reuse (not restrictions on data reuse, but community expectations for citation and collaboration), balancing views of data ownership with the needs of the community, balancing the concerns of researchers that produce long-term datasets with those of the community, and others. We also need to improve education about data, such as teaching our students how to organize and properly annotate their datasets so that they are useful for other researchers after publication. Even when data are made available by researchers, actually using those data can be challenging if they are not well organized and annotated.

When researchers are deciding in which repository to deposit their research data, what values and functions should they consider?

Researchers should choose a repository that best fits the type of data they have to deposit and the community that will likely be reusing it. There are many repositories that handle specialized data types, such as genetic sequence data or data to be used for phylogenetic analysis. If your data suits a specialized archive, choose that. But the overwhelming majority of data generated by ecologists don’t fit into specialized archives. It’s for these types of data that Dryad was developed.

So what does Dryad offer researchers? From the perspective of the dataset author, Dryad links your dataset directly to the manuscript you have published about the dataset. This provides users detailed metadata on the contents of your dataset, helping them understand the dataset and use it correctly for future research. Dryad also ensures that your dataset is discoverable, whether you start at the journal page, on Dryad’s site, or any of a large number of collaborator services. The value of Dryad to the dataset user are similar – easy discoverability of data and clear links to the data collection details (i.e., links to the associated manuscripts).  

You’ve held several roles on Dryad’s Board of Directors – what about this organization compels you to volunteer your free time?

My experiences as a scientist, a journal editor, and participating in open data discussions have convinced me that data publication is an essential part of research publication. For decades, or even centuries, we’ve relied on a publishing model where researchers write manuscripts that describe the work they have done and summarize their results and conclusions for the broader community. That’s the typical journal paper, and was the limit of what could be done in an age where everything had to fit onto the printed page and be distributed on paper. Nowadays we have near infinite space in a digital medium to not just summarize our results, but also provide all of the details, including the actual data, as part of the research presentation. It will always be important to have an author summarize their findings and place their work into context – that intellectual contribution is an essential part of communicating your research – but there’s no reason that’s where we need to stop. I imagine a world where a reader can click on a figure, or table, or other part of a manuscript and be taken directly to the relevant details – the actual data presented in the figure, the statistical models underlying the analyses, more detailed descriptions of study sites or organisms, and possibly many other types of information about the experiment, data collection, equipment used, results, etc. We shouldn’t be constrained by historical limitations of the printed page. We’re not yet even close to where I think we can and should be  going, but making data an integral part of research publication is a huge step in the right direction. So I enthusiastically support journal mandates that require data to be published alongside each manuscript presenting research results. And facilitating this is a core part of Dryad’s mission, which leads me to enthusiastically support both Dryad’s mission and the organization itself!

Pumpkin or apple pie?  

Those are my two favorite pies, so it’s a tough question. If served a la mode, i.e., with ice cream, then I’d most often pick apple pie. But, without ice cream, I’d have to choose pumpkin pie.

Stay tuned for future conversations with industry thought leaders and other relevant blog posts here at Dryad News and Views.

 

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Dryad is excited to announce the appointment of Melissanne Scheld as Executive Director.

Melissanne joins as Dryad embarks upon our 10th year of providing open, not-for-profit infrastructure for scholarly data, and as we begin a strategic partnership with California Digital Library (CDL) to address researcher needs by leading an open, community-supported initiative in research data curation and publishing.

We are pleased Melissanne is joining us at this auspicious point in Dryad’s trajectory. With over 25 years of experience working with the academic community, and with her knowledge of the scholarly communications industry, we are confident she will successfully lead Dryad into our second decade as a community-supported provider of open data services.

–Charles Fox, Dryad Board of Directors Chairperson and Professor, University of Kentucky

Melissanne most recently served as Managing Director of Publishers Communication Group, a scholarly publishing consultancy, and has previously held positions at the university presses of Cambridge, New York University, and Columbia.

To welcome our new ED and/or inquire about ways to get involved with Dryad, send an email to director@datadryad.org.

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Over the past 3 ½ years, Dryad has become an independent organization with a committed team and organizational capacity. During this time, integrations and partnerships have expanded and sustainability plans have grown. From these efforts, we increased the amount of curated and openly published data available to the public. With great pride and bittersweet feelings, I will be moving on to pursue a new opportunity on Feb 23.

Working with the staff has meant collaborating with a group of committed, mission-driven professionals. Leading this group to become a collegial and very high-functioning team has been my absolute pleasure. I have also been honored to be accepted as an equal in the field of open data advocates and crafters of scholarly communication workflows, and to be able to share my vision of Dryad as a critical service. The support, encouragement, and concern of the Dryad board of directors was always behind me, and I’ve been energized at what we’ve accomplished in support of curated, open, and FAIR data.

A search for a new Executive Director has begun. This person will have the opportunity to develop mission-critical business strategies and to offer an innovative vision for promoting data openness in the scientific community and securing Dryad’s place as a key facilitator of data sharing. With the Dryad board’s support, Elizabeth Hull, Dryad Operations Manager, is filling in during the interim.

I want to thank our incredibly supportive community of submitters, members, partners, and collaborators for their dedication to open data and to Dryad’s mission. This next phase for the organization is now beginning. We invite you to join us and grow Dryad!

 

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Did you ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes when Dryad curators review data files submitted by authors?  There are no wizards behind our curtains, just real live information specialists and trained data curators.

by Kaptain Kobold via Flickr

by Kaptain Kobold via Flickr

Dryad’s curation process is intentionally lightweight, so it doesn’t delay the availability of the data. Curators don’t review the scientific merit of the files – that is left to peer reviewers and the scientific community. Instead, we rely on our curators’ expertise in library and information science to ensure the integrity and preservation of the data.

Curators perform basic checks on each submission (can the files be opened? are they free of copyright restrictions? do they appear to be free of sensitive data?). The completeness and correctness of the metadata is checked and the DOI is officially registered. During their work, Dryad curators encounter thousands of data files in any number of file formats. Our team examines all of these data files to ensure they do, in fact, include data, and not manuscripts, or pictures of kittens.

Curators may communicate directly with submitters to address issues and/or to make suggestions about enhancing the description and reusability of the data package. They can also create new versions of data packages should corrections or additions be needed after archiving. Ultimately, the responsibility for the content of the files rests with the submitters, but Dryad’s curators can help to catch and fix many common problems – and some rare ones, too.

fileTypes_wordleSince Dryad’s inception, curation operations have been led by the Metadata Research Center (or MRC) directed by Dr. Jane Greenberg, initially at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and now at Drexel University. The team is supervised by Senior Curator Erin Clary, and currently includes all students in, or graduates of, Library and Information Science (LIS) or Informatics Master’s programs.

So, (wizard) hats off to all our behind-the-curtains data curators, whose vital contributions ensure that the data in the repository is findable and usable. If you have a question about Dryad curation or need advice on preparing your data for archiving, don’t hesitate to email us at curator@datadryad.org.

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mm3We are delighted to introduce Meredith Morovati to the Dryad community. Meredith assumed the role of Executive Director in late 2014, and now that she has had a few months to settle in, we thought this would be a good time to check in with her and hear about her plans for the organization. Before joining Dryad, Meredith was the Vice President of Membership for the American Society of Echocardiography. Her experience prior to that includes stints in the publishing world. with Oxford University Press and Blackwell.

You’ve been on the job just over three months. What has been your impression of Dryad so far?
MM: Dryad is driven by a team of passionate and informed curators, developers, scientists and board members. I have been incredibly impressed by the staff’s commitment and how much they care about what they do. Everyone recognizes that Dryad is not only providing a service, but helping to shape the very landscape of data publishing, which is great to be a part of.

What excites you about this position and how does it build on your prior professional experiences?
MM: I am delighted to be able to apply my experience with academic boards and non-profit management to an organization that is positioned to grow dramatically in the near future. Data publication poses many challenges, yet has so much value to offer to researchers, publishers, librarians, and all of us who benefit from quality scientific and medical research. I am excited to be surrounded by informed and passionate individuals and to put my experience to work making data publication mainstream and sustainable.

What do you see as your top priorities for Dryad?
MM: I see an important role in removing barriers to the natural growth of Dryad’s service, and continuing to build relationships with its diversity of stakeholders. I believe there is a lot more work to be done talking to research communities in different corners of science and medicine on the imperative for data publication and how Dryad can be part of the solution. Dryad is integrated with many well-known journals and has some very prestigious and committed members. But there are many more to whom we need to make the case that data publication is valuable, achievable, and sustainable, and that Dryad is a key piece to that puzzle. Another big part of my job in the coming year will be to getting to know our members and hearing from them about how we can continue to improve the services we provide, both through the repository and through the other activities of the organization.

What can Dryad’s members and users expect to see in the coming year?
MM: First, I think members and users will be impressed with how much Dryad grows and diversifies this year. We are continually integrating manuscript and data submission with new journals, and the diversity of data packages we are now publishing can be seen by those we feature on nearly a daily basis on our social media channels. We are also pleased to be seeing a trend toward having a greater share of articles with data in Dryad from many of our partner journals.

Another trend that we hope will continue is more journals providing their reviewers with access to the draft Dryad data package. I believe that when reviewers pay attention to the data, it will naturally lead to higher quality, more reusable content.

As we grow, we are also working to increase the pool of sponsors, so that submission of data will be free to a greater share of those submitting data to the repository. There are a number of features in the works that will allow stakeholder organizations to see what has been published from the publications and researchers they care about, and how much attention and usage that data is getting, which we hope will make the benefits of sponsorship more apparent.

There’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes to streamline the curation process while continuing to provide personalized user support where needed. This work will allow us to continue scaling up the number of data packages we publish without compromising the attention each one receives.

We expect researchers will also appreciate the enhancements we are making to the data submission experience. We are particularly excited about the upcoming rollout of ORCiDs, which among other things will make it easier for coauthors to collaborate on data packages.

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