Libraries updates: CATalyst welcomes all makers and ReDATA launches data curation services

Libraries updates: CATalyst welcomes all makers and ReDATA launches data curation services

By University Libraries
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Many on campus are discovering the Data Studio for the first time.
Many on campus are discovering the Data Studio for the first time.
Fernando Rios
Fernando Rios
Jennifer Nichols
Jennifer Nichols

University Libraries' commitment to the value of openness is evident, literally and figuratively, in two initiatives: the Research Data Repository, known as ReDATA, and CATalyst Studios, a makerspace.

Both initiatives are reducing barriers to access, innovation and sharing while creating a culture of openness, University Libraries says.   

Research Data Repository

Prior to 2020, the campus did not have a solution in place for the long-term stewardship of research data. For data specialists in the University Libraries Research Engagement department, bringing together research data sharing and cultivating campus partnerships was the answer. Libraries launched ReDATA, a free campus data repository, in 2020 to archive and share data collected by University of Arizona researchers and scholars.

When the University began sharing data on the COVID-19 dashboard in 2020 to address the campus community's safety, research data management specialist Fernando Rios and other members of the ReDATA team saw another opportunity to help advance the University's research enterprise.

"COVID testing data was already available on the University's dashboard," Rios said. "What we wanted to do was take a copy of that data so that when the dashboard eventually goes away, there's a public record of that information retained at the University."

Chun Ly, a ReDATA team member, initiated archiving COVID testing data last year at the height of testing students and employees. Working with the Office of Research, Innovation and Impact and University Information Technology Services, the team regularly takes the data that is fed into the dashboard and puts it into a format suitable for archiving.

Making the testing data shareable could prove to be instrumental for future research.

Nirav Merchant, director of RII's Data Science Institute, said that much of the data that is visible on the COVID dashboard is the result of multiple teams coming together to synthesize the testing data with other institutional data.

The archived COVID data set that ReDATA provides has many possibilities in research, Merchant said. "This would help anyone interested in utilizing summarized testing data, especially from epidemiology, statistics and modeling, or data scientists who want to integrate it with sources of information."

"Reproducibility of analysis has become a research requirement at the University," Merchant continued. "The first step is to ensure that the underlying data is organized and shared appropriately, and resources like ReDATA are foundational for achieving reproducibility requirements."

In addition to archiving COVID-related data, ReDATA is connecting with University departments to assist with their research data needs. Many research funders at the federal level and a growing number of journals require sharing research data using established data repositories, Rios said. "We help researchers not only meet but surpass that requirement by providing data curation services that aim to improve reproducibility."

Curation involves helping depositors improve the documentation, arrangement and presentation of their research data. This critical step allows other researchers and the public to find, access, use, cite and build upon existing data. University departments that have collaborated with ReDATA include neuroscience, geosciences, linguistics and the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

Providing guidance to address sensitive data involving Indigenous communities and sovereignty is another unique aspect of the service. Working with researchers to comply with University-level data policies is a component of the curation support services, Rios explained.

"ReDATA sits at the forefront of University-based repositories implementing policies and practices that support tribal sovereignty and facilitate responsible conduct of research with Indigenous peoples and their communities, territories and resources," said Stephanie Russo Carroll, assistant professor at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and associate director of the Native Nations Institute. "By requiring tribal approval to deposit tribal data, ReDATA contributes to building a just and equitable research environment at the University of Arizona."

"Significant resources have been invested in the University's COVID testing efforts and research initiatives," said Rios. "Ensuring that data remains available for future research is the libraries' commitment to supporting that investment."

CATalyst Studios

What makes CATalyst Studios stand out from makerspaces on other university campuses? Jennifer Nichols, associate librarian and CATalyst Studios director, points out one feature that often gets attention: The space is available and open to everyone.

University of Arizona students, faculty, staff and the public – regardless of college or campus affiliation – are welcome to use the 9,700-square-foot makerspace, located on the Main Library's ground floor. (The Main Library is one of five campus libraries under the University Libraries umbrella. See a list of all the locations on the University Libraries website.)

When the space reopened on the first day of classes, many visitors discovered the Maker Studio, the Terry Seligman VR Studio and the Data Studio for the first time. A wide range of free drop-in programs and workshops provide opportunities to learn hands-on skills from vinyl or laser cutting to sewing and 3D printing. Adobe Creative Cloud software classes are available, and library experts offer drop-in consultations covering topics such as data management and copyright standards.

CATalyst Studios staff members also train participants to get certified to use equipment and technologies that aren't always easy to find, access or afford, said Nichols.

"We're really focused on empowering the users to do things on their own," said Nichols. "It's a DIY and user-friendly approach that allows people at different skill levels to level up to using equipment that's a little more sophisticated or learn how to use a particular machine for the first time." 

Another advantage that CATalyst Studios offers is what Nichols describes as "a connection to community."

Building relationships with student clubs is important to the team of library faculty, staff and student assistants who oversee the daily operations, said Nichols. "Students who have an interest in what we do here can use our space together, but they can also become resources and provide support to one another."

Serving as the meeting space for groups including 3D For Everyone and the 3D printing student club, as well as clubs that focus on photography and women in computer science, is a way for students to grow their communities and introduce their groups to something new, said Nichols. Student Allen Rivera, president of 3D For Everyone, agrees.

"CATalyst Studios is a spacious environment that fosters creativity and welcomes everyone," said Rivera. "This makes it the perfect home for us since our goal is to educate as many people as possible about 3D printing and create amazing projects that utilize this technology." 

To engage with people virtually, CATalyst Studios launched a virtual community on Discord.

"Everyone is invited to join us on Discord even if you never physically come to the space," said Nichols. "You can pop into a channel where somebody can join you and help you on a project you're working on, and we of course encourage everyone to share projects."

Nichols is looking forward to contributing to the University's creative community. "We're excited about working with faculty and instructors to integrate CATalyst into their courses and supporting all types of literacy and learning."

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