This post is part of a new series we’re calling the Curators Corner. Over the coming months we’ll feature a different DCN Curator each week or so. The series grew out of a community-building activity wherein curators at our ten partner organizations interview each other “chain-letter style” in order to get to know each other and their work outside of the DCN better. We hope you enjoy these posts!

Shanda Hunt is an Assistant Librarian at the University of Minnesota and Liaison & Data Curation Specialist to the School of Public Health. Shanda was interviewed by Erin Clary in April of 2019.


How did you come to your current position?

I took an unusual path to the library – I went back to grad school for public health, and was later a research coordinator in the school of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota. I worked on numerous grant funded positions, which led to a constant job search. As one position was ending, I would search for another.  In one of those searches, a position in the library popped up. They wanted to hire a liaison to the School of Public Health, and I applied.

What do you do?

As a liaison, my responsibility is to serve the students, the staff and the faculty in the School of Public Health. I teach in classes, support instructors as well as researchers, teach data management, work with the dean’s office, etc. At the UMN we are also faculty-equivalent, so we must serve our departments, the Libraries, and the University – which means a lot of committee work. As part of my position, I am also the human subjects data curator for DRUM.

How much of your job involves data curation?

I work specifically as a human subjects data curator for DRUM, which accounts for about 5% of my time. As of now we haven’t been able to accept many human subjects datasets. The data I see are often submitted because a funder or journal requires it, and the research team may not have anticipated sharing their data at the outset of the project. Many consent forms are overly restrictive. The consent form may indicate that data will only be seen by the research team, or that the data will be destroyed at the end of the study. In these cases we cannot accept the data in DRUM, even if they are appropriately anonymized. We find ourselves acting as an unofficial ethical guardian of the data. Much of what I do for DRUM now is not curation, but rather I am working with researchers to educate them about the informed consent process. I work with researchers so they can plan for data sharing at the outset of their next study.

Why is data curation important to you?

As a former researcher, trained by the school that I later worked for, I want data and information to be available and accessible. I want public health practitioners to be able to find and access the research they need to do their jobs. There is limited funding for public health research, less now than 10 years ago, and small scale, localized projects may benefit from knowledge generated in other similar studies. A macro view of multiple studies could inform policies on a larger scale. 

Why is the Data Curation Network important?

I want the opportunity to work with more human subjects data, and specifically, qualitative data. 

If you weren’t doing data curation, what would you be doing?

I would consider a PhD in Urban and Regional planning. I am interested in how we will use space moving forward, and how our current use of space will evolve. I have an undergraduate degree in Women’s Studies, a degree in Public Health, and an interest in issues of social justice. I have been perfecting how to find information in my work as a librarian. I think my combination of interests would serve me well, and Urban and Regional planning could benefit from a social justice lens. 


To learn more about Shanda, and some of the datasets she’s curated for the DCN see her curator page!