Spotlight on: Lora Armstrong
Every other week, the Thematic DCCs and the Data Steward Interest Group (DSIG) put the spotlight on one research data steward working in the Netherlands, to stimulate knowledge exchange and peer-to-peer learning.
What drew you towards the research data management field?
I first heard about research data management (RDM) in 2020 when I started my previous job at TU Delft. I got interested in it because a lot of the advice would have been genuinely helpful for me when I was a researcher. My last year doing research was 2014 but even then, I wasn’t aware of any RDM support or requirements from the universities I worked at. I faced common challenges like file and sample organization, how to best document my data and code, and what metadata to collect. I like the idea that researchers today have more support and resources to help them, and I also find it fulfilling to provide help.
What is an activity / task of your role that you find yourself looking forward to?
I like talking to researchers and students. There’s such a variety of research going on in my faculty, and it’s fun to get introduced to new topics and methods. Face-to-face conversations also feel like an effective way to support researchers - once we get talking, many questions usually come up that I can help with. Sometimes I have to spend a day or two doing my own research to help solve a particular problem, which is also satisfying. I get to learn something new and help someone out at the same time.
What is something unexpected that you can offer help with, if a colleague reaches out to you?
In between my last postdoc and working at TU Delft, I had a job that involved collaboratively developing code with a team of software developers and content experts. So, I have some experience with workflows related to that. I also enjoy working with people to help them present information in a clear way (for example in presentations or papers) and did that a lot for colleagues in previous jobs.
What do you think your community of research data professionals is missing?
A clear pathway to learn more than the basics when applying other fields to research data management. Things like data engineering, ethics, legal aspects, integrating metadata into research projects, privacy/GDPR, and so on. For some of these topics, there are experts at our institutions we can turn to for help, but for others, there aren’t. We can and do investigate these topics on our own but it would be nice to have more learning resources or certifications.
What is a topic you would want to collaborate on with others?
Anything that gives researchers practical examples or steps to help them carry out recommended research data management practices. For some topics, there’s already lots of good information, but for others, there’s more focus on the end goals rather than on how to achieve them.
How would you like to see your current field of work evolve in the next 5 years?
I’d like to see even more of a focus on discipline-specific research data management strategies, especially in collaboration with research communities themselves.
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