Inside Zoological Collections: Perspectives of the Academic (Re)user


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Presented at The Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections June 17- 22, 2013, Rapid City, South Dakota.
Great effort has gone into digitizing and aggregating natural history collections, but what data from the collections are being reused and by whom? This panel presentation draws from interviews with 27 zoologists who reuse data from specimens other people collect. The zoologists were interviewed about their recent data reuse experiences, including their research questions and data discovery and selection processes. Findings from the interviews will be presented, including a discussion about the data’s contextual information that zoologists needed during reuse. This study is part of the Dissemination Information Packages for Information Reuse (DIPIR) project. DIPIR is three year Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) funded project that is examining data reuse in three academic disciplines – quantitative social science, zoology, and archaeology. One of the project’s major objectives is to understand how the context of data production that supports data reuse can best be curated and preserved.

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Inside Zoological Collections: Perspectives of the Academic (Re)user

  1. 1. The world’s libraries. Connected.Inside ZoologicalCollections: Perspectives ofthe Academic (Re)userThe Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, June 17- 22, 2013, Rapid City, South DakotaIxchel M. Faniel, Ph.D.OCLC
  2. 2. The world’s libraries. Connected.• Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) funded project led by Drs.Ixchel Faniel (PI) & Elizabeth Yakel (co-PI)• Studying the intersection between data reuse and digital preservation inthree academic disciplines to identify how contextual information about thedata that supports reuse can best be created and preserved.• Focuses on research data produced and used by quantitative socialscientists, archaeologists, and zoologists.• The intended audiences of this project are researchers who use secondarydata and the digital curators, digital repository managers, data center staff,and others who collect, manage, and store digital information.For more information, please visit
  3. 3. The world’s libraries. Connected.Research Motivations & Questions1. What are the significantproperties of quantitativesocial science,archaeological, andzoological data thatfacilitate reuse?2. How can these significantproperties be expressedas representationinformation to ensure thepreservation of meaningand enable data reuse?Faniel & Yakel 2011
  4. 4. The world’s libraries. Connected.DIPIRProjectNancyMcGovernICPSR/MITIxchel FanielOCLCResearch(PI)Eric KansaOpenContextWilliam FinkUM Museumof ZoologyElizabethYakelUniversity ofMichigan(Co-PI)The Research Team
  5. 5. The world’s libraries. Connected.Methods OverviewICPSR Open Context UMMZPhase 1: Project Start upInterviewsStaff10 Winter 20114 Winter 201110 Spring 2011Phase 2: Collecting and analyzing user dataInterviewsdata consumers44 Winter 201222 Winter 201227 Fall 2012Surveydata consumersOver 1,600 Summer 2012Web analyticsdata consumersServer logsOngoingObservationsdata consumers10OngoingPhase 3: Mapping significant properties as representation information
  6. 6. The world’s libraries. Connected.A Snapshot of the 27 Data Reusers63%96%93%reuse datafrom colleagues26%reuse data from otherrepositories and websitesreuse data frommuseums and archives37%are systematistsstudy ecological trendsreuse data fromjournal articles26%
  7. 7. The world’s libraries. Connected.The Data Discovery ProcessI knew from prior experience which museums had largecollections of material from the part of the world I wasinterested in (CAU19).… we started from that [author] paper and then added to it fromother people’s work…So mostly from…reading other people’spapers (CAU22).I’m at the point now where people know that this is kind ofone of those things that I do. And so, people say “Oh, I have thisdataset” or “I know someone who has this dataset...” (CAU11).…that [aggregator repository] targets so many differentcollections that once you have access you know prettymuch…You can identify very quickly what you need (CAU13).
  8. 8. The world’s libraries. Connected.Data Selection CriteriaData coverage Geographic precisionMatches another datasetAvailability of voucher specimenTime period specimen collectedCondition of specimenSequence has been publishedResults of pre-analysisIdentification or location errorsRelevant taxonomically
  9. 9. The world’s libraries. Connected.Data selection based on research objectivesFor things like measurement, you want a well-preservedspecimen that’s relatively straight and intact. (CAU01)…often when it doesn’t meet my needs the mostobvious reasons would be there’s just not enoughdata or it doesn’t cover…Like geographically itdoesn’t cover the area I’m interested in wellenough (CAU03).…that’s the first filter…looking for specific species. And then forme, yeah, it’s been mostly about the geographic precision of thedata, to say whether or not I can use that record for something.(CAU26).
  10. 10. The world’s libraries. Connected.Data selection based on other datasets…we decide, okay, these georeferences have an error that isprobably higher than, let’s say, five kilometers but our climatedata is the resolution, the pixel size,…is may be 4.5 kilometers.So, anything that is above that size of pixel that we have,we actually cannot use. (CAU14)I include it [the sequence] in my dataset, do the analysesI’m going to do and then based on the results of thoseanalysis look to see how those data match with thedata that I’ve collected. (CAU05)
  11. 11. The world’s libraries. Connected.Trusting the dataI can sort of qualitatively assess what the quality of taxonomicdata might be just by it being, having some mention of themuseum record. I know [a] …museum worker who is often... Idont know about an expert in say, my group, but at least hasaccess to the relevant literature to make good taxonomicdecisions about those fishes from which they took the tissue.(CAU02)I would go back to the literature to look at the paper it camefrom. I guess there is also to some degree the particularresearchers’ that actually produced that sequence; I mightactually know their reputations or what they kind of work onand trust it more or less. (CAU12)
  12. 12. The world’s libraries. Connected.Trusting the dataA lot of times, its just a matter of looking at what the Latinname is that they supply because I cant really make a decisionbased on the information that Im given. If I had a picture, Icould use that when Im taking into account their ability toidentify something. But the main way that I do it is by looking atthe geography of where they claim a specimen is located.(CAU17)Well, if theres a voucher specimen available then I canrequest that specimen from the museum where its housed,re-examine it, confirm or deny that it is that particular species. Ifthe vouchers there and its the right species, then I have to gowith it. If the voucher is not there, and I really question theidentification…Because its unreliable in my mind. (CAU20)
  13. 13. The world’s libraries. Connected.Acknowledgements• Institute of Museum and Library Services• Elizabeth Yakel, Co-PI• Partners: Nancy McGovern, Ph.D. (MIT), Eric Kansa,Ph.D. (Open Context), William Fink, Ph.D. (University ofMichigan Museum of Zoology)• OCLC Fellow: Julianna Barrera-Gomez• Students: Adam Kriesberg, Morgan Daniels, RebeccaFrank, Jessica Schaengold, Gavin Strassel, MicheleDeLia, Kathleen Fear, Mallory Hood, Molly Haig, AnneliseDoll, Monique Lowe
  14. 14. The world’s libraries. Connected.Questions?Ixchel