The 2019 RDAP Summit took place May 15th – 17th in Coral Gables, Florida. Around 150 people were in attendance – including a few members of the DCN! DCN Project Coordinator, Liza Coburn, was there to present a poster detailing our progress and the early results of both our data curation service and specialized data curation workshops.

The theme of this year’s summit was “Building Communities” specifically “how different communities are impacted by our systems, technology, values, and practices; who our communities are by and for; and data services examined through a critical lens” (RDAP Association website). During her opening keynote presentation, Kristen Briney briefly shared her experiences of attending RDAP over the years – relating that she’d always felt a strong sense of community at each summit, and that she always felt like she belonged. In that spirit, the rest of the keynote was spent encouraging the audience members to get to know their neighbors – where they were from, why they were there, the nature and challenges of their work, etc. Not a typical approach to a keynote, but a very effective one at engaging everyone, recognizing the diversity of the backgrounds and experiences of those present, and breaking the ice!

This year’s program was chock full of interesting presentations by data professionals and librarians from a variety of libraries, institutions and organizations on data sharing, repositories, data curation, data services, data management planning, education, tools and technology.

Our poster – Community-Developed Infrastructure for Curating Research Data – provided a visual representation of the early results of both Network’s curation work to date and the IMLS-funded Specialized Data Curation Workshops. We were happy the poster was so well-received and to see so much interest in the project, and it was a little surprising to hear the DCN mentioned by so many presenters and panelists and even in questions and comments from the audience. We greatly appreciate the support and feedback!

All of the presentations at this year’s Summit were great, and so many directly related to our project, but by far the best presentation was the the last – the closing keynote. At the end of a long day it seemed to wake everyone up and seemed to so perfectly capture the meeting’s overall theme.

Valencia Gunder, Founder and President of Make The Homeless Smile Miami/Atlanta and community-activist, is a dynamic and engaging speaker and her presentation was fascinating! To not-so-briefly summarize (and in no way do it justice), in her presentation Valencia outlined the systematic gentrification (in the form of multi-million and multi-billion-dollar development projects) and displacement of people in low income (but relatively safe in terms of their higher elevation) black and minority communities in Miami in the face of climate change and sea-level rise.

It was obvious to the people in these communities what was happening, but they weren’t gaining traction with local authorities and representatives until they engaged with a group of scientists at a community meeting on climate change, among them Dr. Hugh Gladwin. Dr. Gladwin developed maps illustrating the patterns of gentrification and displacement (developers buying up property in certain communities at certain sea levels) the communities were seeing. These maps provided validation, the basis for more studies, and the ability for these communities to advocate for themselves. (To read more about climate gentrification in Miami and Dr. Hugh Gladwin see this story featured in Scientific American’s ClimateWire Series.)

In the second part of her presentation Valencia described how community efforts at data collection (and some more support from Dr. Gladwin) were integral in securing crucial support and services to communities in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, and have led to the development of some really impressive community resilience programs.

One of the big takeaways of this presentation was of the real value and importance of open, accessible and reusable data. Valencia’s experience serves as a reminder that the full value of a dataset can’t necessarily be anticipated at the point of its creation, and that most datasets shouldn’t be considered “single use”.

Another major takeaway (and Valencia was emphatic on this point) is that the specialized set of skills librarians and data professionals possess are needed outside of their communities! Librarians’ and Data professionals’ dedication to providing access to information and ensuring that data are and remain open, accessible and reusable (and ultimately available for some future and as-yet unanticipated future use), can be applied outside of the library or the lab or one’s immediate community – with great success and to great effect. These ideas may not be new, but a reminder every now and then seems necessary!

Valencia and her presentation received a prolonged standing ovation – an energized response for an energized presentation and a great story told by a natural storyteller, but also an indication that she struck a major chord.

The general purpose of meetings, summits and conferences is to bring communities together to make connections, present and receive feedback on their research, and provide opportunities for engagement. This year’s RDAP Summit did all that and more (perhaps most effectively with its closing keynote speaker) by reminding everyone that the community surrounding research data is actually much larger and more diverse than it may seem and the impacts of our work may stretch far and wide!

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