Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Who Is Teaching Data: Meeting the Demand for Data Professionals

Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Who Is Teaching Data: Meeting the Demand for Data Professionals

Article excerpt

Introduction

We live in an era of big data. Big data is a catchphrase used to characterize massive and complex data sets largely generated from recent and unprecedented advancements in information technology and approach. The ever-increasing growth of such data sets has impacted every aspect of modern society, including industry, government agencies, health care, academic institutions, and research in almost every discipline. It has also prompted us to direct our attention to the question: How to harness the power of big data?

With the emergence of this phenomenon, there is a constant call for the ability to work with data. There is a need to discover, structure, manipulate, analyze, visualize, manage, and preserve data in order to harness its power for the greater good. Although the need for big data skills has grown exponentially, one key challenge is the limited availability of skilled workers. Gartner, a research consultancy firm providing information technology-related insight, projected a significant shortfall in the big data job market: "By 2015, 4.4 million IT jobs globally will be created to support big data with 1.9 million of those jobs in the United States. . . . However, while the jobs will be created, there is no assurance that there will be employees to fill those positions" (Pettey, 2012). The discussion regarding the increase in, and diversity of, big data management and analysis job opportunities is not limited to the United States. According to research conducted by e-skills UK, predictions for the United Kingdom point to a 160% increase in labor market demand for big data skills between 2013 and 2020. However, the research also indicates that there is already a shortage of analytical and managerial skills necessary to make the most of big data, with 77% of big data roles being already considered "hard to fill" (McNulty, 2014). In the library and information science profession, this prediction has become a reality. It has been suggested that "data is an area that has a need for a larger workforce equipped with the specialized skills to manage data and support data analytics activities" (Allard, 2015).

It has become evident that librarians and information professionals must take a leading role in working with big data. Gordon-Murnane (2012) asserted that this is because LIS professionals already have the skills, knowledge, and services to help their communities capitalize on all that big data has to offer. A number of reports produced by professional associations, including the Association of College & Research Libraries Research Planning and Review Committee (2014) and Australian Library and Information Association (2014), anticipate that those working in libraries and information centers will find new roles in big data. In these jobs they will be helping collate, process, and make useful the enormous volume of data that is being generated in all areas of life.

In adopting these roles the LIS profession is being challenged to develop a new professional strand of practice to respond to the growing data needs of their communities. Although there is value in the skills librarians already possess and transfer, there is a need for a new set of skills for the next level of engagement and support for data management and exploitation. The current job market shows that there is a requirement to build capacity and capability for data expertise (Hedstrom, Larsen, & Palmer, 2014). In fact, considerable discussion has been devoted to the question of how libraries and LIS schools can retool to better reflect the requirements and challenges of today's data explosion (e.g., Blake, Stanton, Larson, & Lyon, 2012; Dumbuill, Liddy, Stanton, Mueller, & Farnham, 2013; Lyon, 2012; Lyon & Brenner, 2015). Most discussion has focused on specific fields, such as data management, curation, and preservation, but little has been revealed about the wide range of data management areas that are developing. …

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