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!

Laura Bowman

Laura Bowman is a Data Curator at DRYAD. Laura was interviewed by Yasir Karim in March 2023.

Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to your current position?

I have my masters in accounting, and I was an auditor for six years. I then went into Higher Education and did financial management and compliance at Penn State. I had wanted to move away from accounting because I didn’t feel passionate about it and I wanted to be more engaged with my work.

So, I took an assessment with a career counselor, and “librarian” kept coming out on top. I interviewed a few librarians at Penn State to see if it was a viable career because I knew nothing about it. After that, I decided it was the direction I wanted to go. I went back for my MLIS during COVID and then I interned with the business librarian at Penn State. She introduced me to the Data Librarian (hi, Briana Wham!). Again, I thought, “this is a job?” and decided that’s what I wanted to do.

Would you be able to summarize what you do in your position at DRYAD?

I’m a full-time data curator, so that is most of what I do. We’re not an institutional repository like I think a lot of people at DCN are. We have a very high volume of submissions that come through. We curate probably 70 to 80 datasets a day in our team, which is only a few people. 

There are some side projects that we’re working on, of course, and DCN is part of my position here at DRYAD (which I’m very excited about) but mostly I curate metadata.

And do you enjoy curating data?

I didn’t have a very strong science education during high school, but I’ve always really loved science. So, it’s very cool for me to see all the different research that’s happening. DRYAD tends to receive a lot of ecology datasets, so I’m learning a lot about that field from this job.  It’s really fun for me to read the abstracts of the data that comes through.

Why is data curation so important to you?

I have always been a big proponent of open data and science, but data without clean and understandable metadata is useless; no one’s ever going to find it or know how to use it without descriptive and contextual metadata. 

I think this is an extremely critical piece of open science and data sharing, and it makes me really happy to be able to help researchers add context to their work.

Why is the Data Curation Network important?

I actually attended the workshop in October last year in Minneapolis as the early career scholarship recipient. And it was by far the most fun I’ve ever had at a conference or workshop. Everyone in the DCN is so lovely, and one thing that I love about librarians in general (or anyone in this field) is that they’re so willing to help you with anything.

In a bigger sense, getting people together who have different backgrounds and experiences, but do the same work is so valuable to bounce ideas off of each other and ask questions: How do you handle this? What do you do with this? It’s also good to be able to commiserate with each other and get advice.

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

I think I would have wanted to be an evolutionary biologist. As an adult, I’ve devoured books on evolution and how it works. It’s so fascinating and I enjoy thinking about how, over time, things can adapt and change so much. As I said, I didn’t have the best science education in school, so I never really considered that as a career path, but it’s one of my current interests that I think would have been an exciting field.

What is your favorite cuisine?

I would say anything South or East Asian, probably. Indian has always been my favorite (vindaloo and biryani), but I also really love Thai and Japanese. I’ll accept fried rice whenever its offered.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I take a lot of walks, which I like to call urban hiking to make it sound cooler. I love listening to podcasts or audiobooks while I walk. I also love bothering my two cats. They were my COVID babies, and I was just fostering them because the shelter had to shut down. But I fell in love with them, so I was a failed foster. I regret nothing.

What is your favorite city?

It’s tough to choose one, but I lived in Washington, DC in my early 20s, so I feel like it always has a special place in my heart as being my first big city. I always had something to do. That was also my first experience with public transportation, that sort of halfway worked and I really like that. I’m always excited to go back to DC and go to all my favorite restaurants and neighborhoods.

Where would you most like to travel to next (state/country/continent/city)?

I think my next trip will be to Brazil. That is where my partner is from, and we haven’t been to visit his family since before COVID. I’ve been once and it’s very lovely. The food is excellent, and it’s great to see where he grew up and learn more about the culture. It always surprises me how huge the country is – there’s still so much left to explore down there, so I’m sure we’ll be back many times.

To learn more about Laura, and the datasets she has curated for the DCN, see her curator page!

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