This post is part of our Curators’ Corner series. Every so often we’ll feature a different DCN Curator. The series grew out of a community-building activity wherein curators at our 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!

Jon Petters is Assistant Director of Data Management and Curation Services at Virginia Tech. He was interviewed by Marley Kalt in July 2020.

How did you come to your current position?

I’ve been working at Virginia Tech for four years now. My wife got a professor position in Blacksburg, and I was lucky enough to get a data management position similar to what I was doing at Johns Hopkins previously.

What do you do?

I do four main things: I help researchers with data management planning, administer the data repository – VTechData – which is our research data repository, supervise geospatial services, and coordinate training and instruction around data management.

How much of your job involves data curation?

I would say curation is about one third of my job. Mostly that’s repository administration and we’re doing a repository migration – it really depends on the week.

Why is data curation important to you?

My background is in atmospheric science – I’m an ex-researcher. As a researcher, I worked with other people’s data and code. It was a miserable experience nobody should have to go through, but we all do. No matter how often people say “nobody wants to see this dataset, nobody wants to use my code,” it happens all the time. It would be a better world if data and code is reusable and well-documented in the first place.

Why is the Data Curation Network important?

It’s a great opportunity to pool resources across institutions and share expertise around curation. The level of curation and augmentation of data that we can provide as a network is greater than what we can do on our own. All of us can benefit from and provide expertise to other groups and make datasets that are better documented and more usable. There’s really only so much we can do at our individual institutions!

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

I’d either be in forestry, because I really like trees and forests, or I’d be working on science policy – I previously worked in Washington as a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. I’d also enjoy field work and more time outside as long as the weather is nice. When the weather is not so nice I’m glad to be inside working on a computer!

To learn more about Jon and some of the datasets he’s curated for the DCN see his curator page!

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