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Get to know a Data Librarian: Cunera Buys

The Northwestern Libraries employ over 70 librarians who specialize in areas such as rare books, area studies, digital scholarship, and archives. In this series, we sit down with librarians to understand what exactly they do, and how you might take advantage of their expertise.

In honor of Love Your Data Week (Feb. 13-17), we talked with Cunera Buys, our Data Management Librarian, about how (and why) we should show our data a little affection.

Cunera Buys, Data LibrarianGive us a little bit of background information. How did you get into libraries?
My path to becoming a librarian was a bit convoluted. I got a BS and MS in Biology from DePaul University and did medical research for quite some time. Then for some insane reason, I obtained a law degree from the Northwestern Law School and practiced law for about 11 years. At that point in my career, I was looking for something where I could get back to using my science degrees. I began looking into areas where I could work with books and use my background. Libraries seemed like a good fit and I decided to get a MLS (Master’s in Library Science). I’ve been at Northwestern Libraries for about 13 years, supporting math and science disciplines in my various roles.

Tell us about the concept of data management. Why is it important?
Data management affects all stages of research from beginning to end, and all types of research, from science and engineering, to humanities and social science research. Researchers have always needed to arrange their data in some way, in order to use and analyze it. That challenge has intensified these days because more and more data is being produced in a digital format. This data requires particularly good management from its inception so it can be easily used and reused.

Researchers are increasingly under pressure to share their data with the public. Some of this is being driven by funding agencies that require an official data management plan at the time of grant submission.

What’s a data management plan?
A DMP outlines what a researcher will do with the data during and after the research project — especially how it will be shared with others, how it will be made available for reuse for the public, and how it will be archived and preserved. Additionally, more and more journals require that researchers deposit the data used in the articles in an appropriate publicly accessible repository, and a DMP ensures that can happen.

Another benefit of the DMP to researchers is that if someone does use their data, the researcher can get credit as the producer of that data.
DMPs are just the beginning. Good data management should occur at all steps of the research process, beginning with inception of the idea.

How can you assist the Northwestern community with data research management and preservation?
The Libraries offer workshops and one-on-one consultations, and we are able to assist researchers with a variety of data needs, including:
• helping researchers comply with Federal mandates
• providing guidance on how to draft DMPs
• helping researchers deposit data in an appropriate data repository or ARCH, the Libraries Institutional Repository
• direct them to useful tools for data management and provide best practices for data management, metadata, and best formats for archiving and sharing data

I think this list of 23 things really summarizes all that the Libraries can do for researchers in this area.

What are your favorite data management resources?
One my favorite resources is the DMPTool, which is designed to help researchers draft data management plans in a relatively easy and straightforward manner. I also like to show a humorous 5 minute You Tube video that discusses why data management is important for sharing data. And, of course, my data management libguide that has links to this video and more.

Just for fun: favorite book you read in the past year?
This is a tough question. I am always reading something. Ever since my first Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books, I love to read mysteries and detective novels. I recently read the latest Harry Bosch novel by Michael Connelly, whose books are always a treat. Penguin Books is currently releasing new translations of Georges Simenon’s Inspector Maigret series. They don’t take long to read, but there are about 80 of them, so it will take a while to get through them all.