This post was authored by Mikala Narlock, DCN Director.

In May 2024, I had the opportunity to attend the NoCTURN All Network Meeting, held at the University of Florida in Gainesville. I am incredibly grateful to the planning committee for the kind invitation to present at and attend the meeting, especially project PIs Morgan Chase, Paul M. Gignac, Brent Gila, Jessie Maisano, and Edward L. Stanley.

NoCTURN is the Non-Clinical Tomography Users Research Network. This community is supported by an NSF Research Coordination Network grant, and seeks to establish, socialize, and normalize sharing tomographic research data from different disciplines. Led by a team of Principal Investigators from across the US, NoCTURN is developing community standards that enable the sharing of research products through Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, Reuse, and Open Science (FAIROS) strategies (NoCTURN Community Goals). I learned of this work through co-PI Dr. Paul Gignac, University of Arizona, as he was a key member of the Specialized Data Curation Curricula grant funded by IMLS. Through this project, I was able to learn more about NoCTURN and their exciting efforts — which made it all the more exciting when I was invited to attend! 

From the first presentation, the connections between DCN and NoCTURN efforts was apparent (not to mention connections with my own research interest!). Early in the event, conversations highlighted the challenges that come with data that is open along a spectrum: how do museums retain an appropriate level of curatorial control over tomographic data? How can we best advocate for open data while recognizing that there are a host of reasons data may need to be closed? This is an area of open science that disciplinary communities are well-suited to provide guidance on and set standards for, as they know the nuances of their data. 

Other connections included, of course, Big Data and the challenges that come with attempting to upload, share, and preserve large amounts of data. How do we decide what data is kept, especially in instances where the data may be duplicated (e.g,. different versions of the same data for different use cases)? I was reminded of the project “What about model data?,” which developed a rubric for researchers working with simulation data to better understand what data should be kept for replicability and preservation. And how do we build the appropriate infrastructure and incentives to change the culture and make this sort of selection for sharing a normal part of the research process?

While we could write an entire article about the connections between DCN work and NoCTURN, I wanted to take a second to highlight an area from my research that emerged at the All Network Meeting. Dr. Edward Stanley noted in his presentation from the Accessibility working group that access does not mean availability. In addition to the requirements of assistive technology, putting something online does not suddenly mean that the digital item will be used, or even understood. The NoCTURN community emphasized that some of the formats used by the community are not intuitive for those outside of academia — in particular, the use case of K-12 educators working with items published through the oVert project was discussed. This is an amazing wealth of resources, but requires more than an internet connection to fully utilize the materials. Similarly, I think about this a lot from the perspective of cultural heritage materials. A colleague and I recently wrote about how online collections appear to democratize artifact information for public consumption, but in reality fall short of living up to their democratic ideals when it comes to digital collections projects. While the article was our first effort to capture these thoughts, I am hopeful we’ll find more space for these conversations!

There are some other really exciting projects coming out of NoCTURN in the coming months I can’t share here, but will amplify with the DCN community when they go live. I hope that some of their work can inspire similar projects in our network. 

I have already warned Paul that I will be looking for continued collaboration venues for our communities. Thank you, again, NoCTURN Community for your kind invitation, warm welcome, and the opportunity to see two (2!) alligators at the University of Florida, including this lil dude.

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