This post was authored by intern Jodecy Guerra, as part of DCN’s partnership with the National Center for Data Services (NCDS). These internships are funded with Federal funds from the National Library of Medicine (NLM) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).*
I am currently a graduate student in the Master’s of Management in Library and Information Science program at the University of Southern California, and had just started to learn a bit about data librarianship in my program when I saw the call for the National Center for Data Services (NCDS) internship. I applied because I wanted to learn more about data services and the technologies often used for data librarianship, and because I wanted to get some hands-on experience in the field. After I was (gladly!) accepted, this internship allowed me to gain valuable hard and soft skills in data librarianship that I would have not been exposed to in my degree. I learned more about why data is important (especially in our advanced technological age), the importance of the data lifecycle, and various programming languages.
Through this internship, I was paired with the Data Curation Network (DCN) to collaborate with two other interns (Maria Lee and Rachel Marquez Priesman) to create a primer on Git and GitHub. It is important for the DCN to have a Git and GitHub primer because research data outputs are increasingly including code and software. GitHub is being more heavily used by researchers, hence the importance of having a primer for those researchers who do not know how to utilize the platform when curating their code or when sharing their code with a persistent identifier; this way it becomes a guide for non-experts.
During the project, the three of us dove into what Git and GitHub is; Git is a standalone version control system tool while GitHub is a collaborative web-based version control system tool. After learning about both and trying to use both on my own after a workshop, I realized Git is not very user friendly. It is easy to follow along when someone is teaching you step-by-step, but I learned very quickly that it is difficult to experiment with alone. However, using both Git and GitHub made me feel like a “hacker” from the black screen and lines of code. Whenever I successfully ran a command line, I would laugh to myself because it felt cool when the code would work (even if it was a simple command line).
The process of the primer was like a research paper which I enjoyed since I am comfortable cranking out research papers since my undergraduate studies in Classics. The two sections I was assigned were “Git is not GitHub” and “Reproducibility.” In researching code reproducibility, I was exposed to the concepts of FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable). This concept of FAIR reminds me a lot of the American Library Association Core Values of Librarianship. Some of these core values such as access, preservation, and education and lifelong learning come to mind when I think about the concept of FAIR. Combining those two conceptual elements with practical steps for code reproducibility connected all together, because at the end of the day, as librarians or code producers, we are working in an efficient way that will be beneficial for future use. I never really thought about data or code in this way before and it was interesting being able to connect it all back to what I have been learning about in my masters program. All in all, two big takeaways from researching code reproducibility are that researchers using code should treat it like data, and it should be shared and handled accordingly, and also that mistakes will always be made, but those mistakes create continuous learning experiences for all.
I could not have asked for better mentors in Shawna and Mikala, who supported us in our project every step of the way. I feel like I really made good connections with both my mentors and my teammates. I felt like I was also successful in networking (another benefit about being accepted into the internship) in a sense of putting myself “out there” in a remote environment. I enjoyed our check–in meetings with them and with my teammates as they created a friendly space for us to converse, collaborate, and learn together, which made the idea of our meetings less intimidating. They were both very helpful in guiding our primer, answering our questions, and provided a space where I and the other interns were able to ask questions and think outside of the box; even though sometimes we may have thought way too outside of the box, they were both still open to hearing what we had to say. In our check-ins I felt comfortable voicing what was going on outside out the internship and also voicing when I felt like I was not doing enough in our project.
During the final week of the internship, the three of us presented to the entire NCDS internship cohort and all mentors. It is always scary to do presentations in front of others but my teammates, Maria and Rachel, made our research and presentation flow and we did a great job teaching NCDS interns from other site locations about our findings. It was also fulfilling being able to teach others on a topic they may not know too much about.
Reflecting back on this internship, I am grateful NCDS paired me with the DCN, because I was able to utilize my background in research to learn about data and code reproducibility. Although I did not work with a lot of data or programming languages as the other interns, I felt competent in my project. I think if I was paired with the other project sites I would have felt a lot more intimidated and maybe even stressed. I could not have asked for better teammates as well, Maria and Rachel, who made this project easy and fun to work with. This will forever be a valuable experience I will take with me in my future career, and I am grateful to the NCDS for this opportunity, and hope to present on the GitHub primer at upcoming conferences.
To cite this blog post, please use: Guerra, Jodecy. (2023) “My Summer Code-Ability.” Retrieved from the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/257328.
*This project was partially funded by Federal funds from the National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health (NIH), under cooperative agreement number UG4LM01234 with the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, Lamar Soutter Library. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.