The following post was written by an RDAP 2021 Summit Scholarship recipient. Scholarships were prioritized for those from under-represented groups, first-time RDAP attendees, early career professionals, and current students. Each recipient was asked to write a brief post on their conference experience.
Joining a field in the midst of change
As a new data practitioner, I found the theme of “Radical Change and Data” to be reflective of my own journey with research data management. The conference theme initially made me think of change in terms of societal shifts and their relation to the future of data. Until I attended the RDAP conference, I had not given pause to consider how radical my own personal and professional change has been during my first year in the field of data management.
Attending the RDAP 2021 Summit was a huge step of bravery for me, because I am a graduate assistant, first year master’s student, and new to the field of research data management. Attending a conference as a beginner in a field (albeit an enthusiastic one), swirls up the imposter syndrome demons that remind you of your ineptitude. I appreciate the continual support from everyone that I have met in the RDM community who pushed me to believe that my voice has value.
By joining the data management field during a time of radical change, I get to learn from where we have been and shape where we are going. People who work with data have the dual edged sword of having the power to change, for better or worse. Dr. Tonia Sutherland's keynote speech clearly showed that information continues to be stolen and commodified from minority groups in ways that challenge our idea of digital rights and death itself. Our responsibility is to make a future where people have sovereignty over their data and continue the shift towards open access to remove barriers to information.
At the conference I was excited to see the work that the community has been doing and apply the findings to my own work. Alisa Beth Rod, NuRee Lee, and Sandy Hervieux’s learning experiences with developing curriculum specifically for virtual RDM instruction will be used to help improve my own workshop sessions. Sam Leif, Ari Gofman, Hannah Gunderman, and Nina Exner's wonderful lightening talk on including a non-binary as an option for gender identification throughout the research lifecycle will be applied to my assessment work as part of a taskforce on diversity, equity, inclusivity, and accessibility (DEIA) at the University Library. Hannah Gunderman's lightening talk about breaking up with best practices cemented in my brain that if the community of data professionals feel pressured to meet best practices, then the burden must be even more extreme for researchers to achieve ‘perfect’ data.
I am extremely thankful that I was able to get a scholarship to attend the RDAP 2021 Summit. Being able to see what other researchers and data professionals are doing in the field allowed me to take stock of where I am and where I want to go. I anticipate a lot of hard work and growth ahead to achieve my goals as a data professional, but radical change does not happen unless it has radical effort behind it.