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!
Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to your current position?
I started in May 2020. It was quite a time to begin any sort of job. After graduating, I had worked in clinical research up until 2020. The last trial I worked on was going into a low key follow up stage and transitioning staff. I looked into openings within NYU and one from the library really appealed to me. They were looking for a junior level project coordinator to primarily support the expansion of the NYU Data Catalog project through outreach. I’ve found it rewarding to work with researchers and help them not just share their data more broadly but optimize how and what they can share. I was promoted last year to a senior position to grow the project further, recognize my contributions to data management support, and take more of a lead on training and supervising junior personnel.
Tell us more about your data catalog project!
We recently published a paper in JAMIA on the NYU Data Catalog which we are very excited about. The paper goes into more detail about its development but it’s an in-house platform that we created to share and enrich discovery of researcher data sets. The code is open source. It displays researcher outputs as metadata records, with information on how to access them, like a bibliography. Of course, it’s not quite as easy to find some sort of “one stop shop” for data sets as there is for at least certain types of publications. Since our library supports the School of Medicine, we pull a lot of our publication data from PubMed, but there’s nothing equivalent for data sets. So we’re trying to kind of bridge that gap, provide researchers with an alternate way to share data, and potentially, as we grow, work with APIs that are available to maybe ingest metadata from existing repositories.
How much of your job involves curation?
I would say, it’s quite low since I mainly support the NYU Data Catalog and by the time we see those data sets, they have already been shared. But at times I do get approached by people who are starting to think about sharing their data. NYU Langone doesn’t have a public repository like the main NYU campus, where they have UltraViolet. A lot of our researchers receive grant funding from the NIH, so we direct them to deposit their data in NIH-recommended repositories. And of course, with the new NIH policy, that’s very much in alignment with their guidelines. When it comes to data curation, the help I provide depends on the make-up of their team. For example, I might look into any transformation (formatting or standardization) needed to conform to repository requirements. Or they may have a dedicated data manager or analyst who performs that role, so I help them prepare the metadata for their submission.
Why is data curation important to you?
It’s increasingly important to curate data because we have new mandates for data sharing and what’s shared ought to be useful data. We don’t want someone spending their time going through the effort of sharing (or at the other end, requesting) data unless it’s reusable. Ideally, a well-curated and shared dataset would reflect the funding that’s put into research.
Why is the Data Curation Network important?
It’s active and we do a good job staying abreast of what’s happening in the research community. It’s great to be able to draw upon one another’s expertise, ask questions, and have other voices validate or build upon concerns, workflows, or issues that are developing locally or not. I also think we do a great job with the primers. We have so many of them, and I joined a workshop that updated them during the recent All Hands Meeting. They’re a really great resource. When I was looking for one to update, I was struck by the utility of those resources. They provide relevant details, instructions, and guidance without being overly lengthy. I think it’s fantastic that we also support training and education with our CURATE(D) workshops. We’ve been able to make them more accessible with the online modules.
If you weren’t doing data curation what would you be doing?
Something not data related at all, but I’ve always enjoyed studio art in general. So in line with librarianship, maybe preservation or conservation work. It integrates chemistry and history to understand objects and artifacts. It’s always fascinating to me to watch the process, like through the conservation videos shared by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Their departments have Instagrams where they take you behind the scenes of conserving various objects in their collection. That’s something I find fascinating to follow along with.
What is your favorite cuisine?
I really do like Chinese food. And that is definitely cheating, because it’s a huge country. One thing I’ve been doing is teaching myself to cook from different regions of China. My family is Cantonese, so at home, of course, we had Cantonese style meals, and that’s something I’ve enjoyed cooking for myself. Some dishes are very nostalgic. But I’ve also recently bought Fuchsia Dunlop’s The Food of Sichuan and am trying that out as well.
What do you like to do outside of work?
Well I’ve talked about cooking and how I enjoy it. I also go to museums and play video games, especially nowadays when it’s too hot to go out. I have too many games in my Steam library, which is the platform I use to play video games… as well as in my Kindle library in regards to books. I’m currently reading a book about the ecological history of Manhattan, Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City. It’s quite interesting because I’m so used to going to work, taking the subway and not really thinking, for example, about how the literal bedrock below Manhattan impacted its construction or that of the buildings above it. Now that’s something that I appreciate a little more.
What is your favorite city?
Of all the cities I’m familiar with, New York City may be my favorite, because of the diversity and convenience of accessing things I like to do or places to visit. Although sometimes I’ll come across articles or advertisements titled “10 things to do this weekend in NYC” and I’m like, “no, thanks, I’m tired”. But it’s great to have the option.
Where would you most like to travel to next (state/country/continent/city)?
Australia! Literally the other side of the world, which would be a huge trip. My current partner is Australian and hasn’t seen his family since before the pandemic. I’d like to go there and meet them. It would also be my first time traveling to that side of the world.
To learn more about Michelle, and the datasets she has curated for the DCN, see her curator page!