What is a Census Research Data Center and Why Should You Care?

This semester, FSU became the newest consortial member of Atlanta’s Census Research Data Center. Funded primarily by the College of Social Sciences and the Office of Research, the Florida State community can now use Census micro-data without paying lab fees, which can range upwards of $15,000 per project.  There are currently 18 Census Research Data Centers in the United States, and outside of North Carolina’s Research Triangle the only one located in the southeastern United States is The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

So, what is a Census Research Data Center? The Center for Economic Studies defines Census Research Data Centers (RDCs) as U.S. Census Bureau facilities, staffed by a Census Bureau employee, which meet all physical and computer security requirements for access to restricted–use data. At RDCs, qualified researchers with approved projects receive restricted access to selected non–public Census Bureau data files.

Where do college graduates work? Visualization based on 2012 Census data.

To understand the true value of doing research with non-public data from the RDC, it’s important to note the difference between micro data and macro data, which is often referred to as aggregate data. When most of us use datasets for research or analysis, we’re looking at summary figures. For example, if you extract Census data for analysis, you’re typically looking at some sort of summary or aggregation for a specific geographic unit. These geographic units range from state, county, city as well as much smaller units such as census tracts and block groups. Regardless of unit of analysis, the data itself is a summarization of individual survey responses for participants in that specific area.

Introducing our Newest Librarians…

FSU Libraries is proud to be growing our team, especially into new positions and service areas. Look for more posts in the future introducing more folks, as we have quite a few! 

Learning Commons is our front-line librarians and staff, and is located on the first floor of Strozier Library. Serving primarily undergraduate students, Learning Commons is where you can check out a laptop, read the New York Times, meet a tutor, participate in a marathon reading of great and influential literature, or just grab a [Starbucks!] latte and hang out in the air conditioning! Emily Mann and Lindsey Wharton are both new librarians in the Learning Commons department, and introduce themselves and their roles below. Continue reading Introducing our Newest Librarians…

What is the Internet Slowdown?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014 is the Internet Slowdown, a protest in support of “net neutrality“. Currently internet service providers (ISPs) are not required to provide the same internet delivery speeds to all traffic.  In theory they can decide to speed up or slow down data from individual websites. The fear of the supporters of net neutrality is that the ISPs will only provide fast access to those sites that pay them extra money.  This has the potential to have a large economic impact on small businesses and noncommercial entities (such as Universities and Libraries) who can’t afford to pay to be in the “internet fast lane”. It could also have ethical consequences if ISPs have the ability to suppress the messages of certain sites by controlling their network speeds. For a visual representation of what preferential network speeds could look like in practice, see A Guide to the Open Internet.

Continue reading What is the Internet Slowdown?

Building Data Sets with FSU’s Digital Library

Data science is all the rage lately. Harvard Business Review even named it the sexiest job of the 21st century. Even though the term is rapidly gaining mind share, many are still confused about what data science actually is. When you cut through the hype, the core of data science is actually pretty simple: it’s the study of data. What kind of data is being studied, how it is being studied, and what the individual data scientist is looking for all depend on the specific case. Data science is just another field of study using digital methods, putting it firmly under the umbrella of Digital Scholarship.

Continue reading Building Data Sets with FSU’s Digital Library

What is Digital Scholarship?

The number one question I get when talking about digital scholarship, is what exactly that means. How is digital scholarship any different than regular (analog?) scholarship? Does one have to be a technophile in order to consider what they do to qualify as digital work? These sentiments are being echoed around higher education, so its no insignificant problem for those of us who walk around talking about this as something we do. Offering clarity is the key to creating connections, so… here is my take.

Digital scholarship is project-based, collaborative, innovation-prone and embraces new modes and means of dissemination.

The reason we call this “digital” work, is because of how this type of scholarship is done – through, because of and invested in internet and technology-based tools. A key aspect of my proposed definition of Digital Scholarship is that each part needs to be represented in the whole. For example, plenty of science scholarship could be characterized as project-based, and collaborative without necessarily being interested in innovating how or where it is presented to an audience. On the flip side, traditional humanities scholarly works seem to have a lot more ground to cover to meet these criteria, which is why, I’d argue, the digital humanities garnered so much attention quickly and widely in recent years.

Beyond my speculations, here are two specific examples that I believe prove my point.  Continue reading What is Digital Scholarship?

Federal Funders Open Access Policies

The Department of Energy has become the first federal funding agency to release a public access policy under last year’s Office of Science and Technology Policy Directive. Broadly speaking, the newly announced policy will make published research resulting from DOE funds available to the public on the Web. This policy follows a similar, and long-standing policy by the National Institutes of Health. The DOE Public Access Plan is being received with mixed criticism by stakeholders on both sides of the open access debate, evidenced by commentary from Michael Eisen, an OA advocate, and The Scholarly Kitchen, the generally OA-skeptical blog of the Society for Scholarly Publishing. Andrea Peterson, for the Washington Post, offers an overview and balanced perspective also.

One source of contention is the mechanism by which access is provided. Rather than directly hosting full text documents, the DOE portal, PAGES (Public Access Gateway for Energy & Science) will contain basic metadata with links to the full text on the publisher’s website when the Version of Record can be made available, or in a repository when the final Version of Record can’t be made available due to the terms of the publication agreement. Much of this is accomplished via the publisher-administered CHORUS (Clearinghouse for the Open Research of the United States). Critics have argued that CHORUS, itself a controversial topic, tips the scale of control too far towards the publishers, whose profit motive doesn’t always cohere with free and unfettered public access. Yet another point of difference centers on publisher-mandated embargoes, which delay release of the full text for a period of 12 months.

Of course, much remains to be seen as to how the public access policy will actually play out, which makes sense given that this is just the initial announcement. PAGES exists in beta right now and the DOE is inviting user feedback on the system. We should be seeing many more policies similar to this one in the near future as other agencies role out their own public access policies.

Florida State University Libraries offers support and resources for compliance with public access policies through our Office of Scholarly Communication.