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!
Wendy is the Data Curation Specialist at Cornell University’s John M. Olin Library and Research Data Management Services Group Coordinator. She also serves as the representative for Cornell on the DCN Governance Board. Wendy was interviewed by Adi Ranganath in October 2021.
How did you come to your current position?
I had a research associate position for 18 years at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography before I came to Cornell. In the job at Scripps, I managed a lab whose project was to study polar phytoplankton, and we would spend up to six months a year in the Arctic or Antarctic. With all that field work, I eventually began thinking about other things I could be doing. At the time, I was sharing an office with someone who was attending library school, and she said that given my experience, something in information management might be a neat career change for me. Around that time, I left San Diego and moved back here to Ithaca, which facilitated that career change when Cornell had a position open up for a data librarian. I applied,even though I didn’t have a library degree, and they hired me.
What do you do?
In addition to curation activities, I also have a lot of consultation work that I do. A third piece of my job is around education, and my fourth responsibility is to coordinate a campus-wide group that works on data management efforts. It brings together our central IT, advanced computing, our social sciences center, our biotechnology resource center, and a variety of other campus stakeholders to talk about and support researchers with their data.
How much of your job involves data curation?
It really varies, but if I tried to average it out, I would probably say that between a third and half of my time involves curation or curation-adjacent work.
Why is data curation important to you?
I think it’s important for intrinsic reasons, like the fact that we’re making data better and more reusable. But when I think about why curation is important to me personally and why I like to do it, I think it comes down to the idea that we’re helping the researchers do a piece of work that is sometimes hard or not prioritized by them. I feel like it’s a service that allows some of us to use our skills to contribute to the bigger research process.
Why is the Data Curation Network important?
I think the DCN ultimately improves the quality of the data curation that’s possible by facilitating a community-wide division of labor that allows all of us all to curate datasets that are broadly within the domain of our methodological oI love that the DCN allows us to benefit from the expertise and skills of those outside our home institutions. On a personal level, I love the community itself, and the fact that DCN members are my peers. The way in which expertise is shared across the community makes me a better curator. And, I also love that we grew this effort from the ground-up; it was about people on the ground identifying a need for this, and we built it together. It’s become something that is working, and that people talk about, and that others try to emulate. It wasn’t that someone said “you ought to be doing this”, but rather something that we conceived of and grew as a community, and that’s really cool.
If you weren’t doing data curation, what would you be doing?
I would probably still be in a lab somewhere, doing field work and research somewhere in the area of natural resources ecology.
What is your favorite cuisine?
Probably Italian; I love pasta, and sauces. And red wine.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I really enjoy hiking and camping with my family. We spend a lot of time in the Adirondacks. We’re trying to finish up all the Firetower hikes in New York state, and we just recently started hiking the “46ers”, which are all the peaks in the Adirondacks that are higher than 4000 feet (of which there are 46). And, I also like to garden, and I keep chickens!
To learn more about Wendy and some of the datasets she’s curated for the DCN see her curator page!