The Social Science Librarians Boot Camp remains the highlight of my conference-going year. As usual the morning featured two research panels.
The first panel dealt with urban data. In different ways both panelists raised questions of data quality. Catherine D’Ignazio (Emerson College) started with an important question: why does urban data matter in the first place? She brought up our climate of more data, more open data, and more widespread use of data (for ex. fitness trackers). Then she shared some of her projects for making data more approachable and participatory. In one case she held a “renaming party,” where people suggested alternate names for places in Cambridge. Laurie Zapalac (Zapalac Advisors) discussed her dissertation research on entrepreneurship in historic maritime cities. As she she gathered data, she encountered data silos, differing standards, and outright inaccuracies. She ended the panel with some valuable questions for scrutinizing data:
- Who generated the data?
- Can I contact them?
- Why did they create the data?
- What are the likely strengths and weaknesses?
- How well does the data suit my research needs?
The second panel concerned information about and for refugees. Cate Klepacki (Tufts University, Fletcher School) discussed factors impacting a nation’s refugee and asylum policies. Though leaders appeal to security concerns, economic, bureaucratic, and other factors can also play a role in policy decisions. Madeline Otis Campbell (Worcester State University) noted the lack of attention to root causes of displacement. She also noted how refugees themselves are bearing more and more of the responsibility for securing their own aid. Dana Janbek (Lasell College) spoke of refugees’ precarious access to quality information and their lack of image control. She mentioned some of their problem-solving strategies, including the use of Facebook to counter media misrepresentation.
A single post cannot convey how powerful these panels were. Still, you have a taste of some important research being done.