Last summer we announced that we were going to begin two new collaborative projects on data, one focused on teaching, and one on research. While we couldn’t have anticipated then the conditions we are facing now, we believe the research is more important than ever. The first project will examine instructors’ support needs teaching with data in the social sciences, while the second project will study the support needs of researchers who work with big data. We are excited to share that both projects will launch this month in partnership with 37 research libraries

Working with and understanding research data is emerging as a major issue during the pandemic. It is critical for researchers to share data to map the progression of the disease, to develop best practices for treating patients, and find a vaccine. At the same time, the public at large is confronted daily with data visualizations that they may not comprehend and misinformation is proliferating. Data was growing in importance as a topic for the higher education sector for several years, but its importance is now critical. 

The projects were designed well before the pandemic, and this work seems especially pressing now as the pandemic disrupts teaching and data collection. For example, the ability to leverage pre-existing datasets is now making the difference for which research can continue and which must be suspended. However, the availability and norms of data re-use varies widely by field and data sharing works most effectively through voluntary, interdisciplinary data communities. How can those supporting research and teaching accelerate opportunities to work with data at a time when this is needed more than ever?

The projects aim to engage mindfully with stakeholders to generate evidence-based insights for supporting teaching and research in a rapidly changing environment. While past Ithaka S+R projects have been conducted mostly in person, the pandemic has meant that we’ve needed to make several changes to our workflow. Instead of hosting training workshops on site,we have now translated these into a series of virtual engagements. Through cross-institution peer learning groups, the collaborators will have the opportunity to connect and learn from their fellow partners remotely throughout the project. As the project participants will most likely be unable to interview instructors and researchers in person, we are holding a session on how to best conduct interviews virtually, a method that we regularly use at Ithaka S+R. 

Research and teaching practices are shifting and it is imperative that universities understand and make the best possible decisions to support the needs arising from those practices. The Teaching with Data project and Big Data project are two examples of how that work can be done, leveraging the power of both individual and collective insight.

Teaching with Data in the Social Sciences Project Partners

American University
Boston University
Carnegie Mellon University
Florida State University
George Mason University
George Washington University
Grand Valley State University
Kansas State University
Michigan State University
North Carolina State University Raleigh
Purdue University
Rice University
University of California Santa Barbara
University of Chicago
University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of New Hampshire
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
University of Richmond
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Washington University in St. Louis

Supporting Big Data Research Project Partners

Atlanta University Center Consortium
Boston University
Carnegie Mellon University
Case Western Reserve University
Georgia State University
New York University
North Carolina A&T State University
North Carolina State University at Raleigh
Northeastern University
Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus
Temple University
Texas A&M University-College Station
University of California-Berkeley
University of California-San Diego
University of Colorado Boulder
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Oklahoma
University of Rochester
University of Virginia
University of Wisconsin-Madison