Education for eScience Professionals: Job Analysis, Curriculum Guidance, and Program Considerations

By Stanton, Jeffrey M; Kim, Youngseek et al. | Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

Education for eScience Professionals: Job Analysis, Curriculum Guidance, and Program Considerations


Stanton, Jeffrey M, Kim, Youngseek, Oakleaf, Megan, Lankes, R David, Gandel, Paul, Cogburn, Derrick, Liddy, Elizabeth D, Journal of Education for Library and Information Science


Large, collaboratively managed datasets have become essential to many scientific and engineering endeavors, and their management has increased the need for "eScience Professionals" who extend librarianship into solving large scale information management problems for researchers and engineers. This article focuses on understanding the dimensions of work, worker, and workplace, including the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed for eScience professionals. We used focus groups and interviews to explore the needs of scientific researchers and how these needs may translate into curricular and program development choices. A cohort of five master's students also worked in targeted internship settings and completed internship logs. Results showed that students worked in three major areas: data management, communications between technical and non-technical staff, and science-related functions. We organized this evidence into a job analysis that can be used for curriculum and program development at schools of information and library science. We conclude with suggestions that the emerging eScience profession comprises a promising educational and research focus for information and library science in the coming decade and that science and R&D labs are an underappreciated setting for productive librarianship.

Keywords: LIS education, curriculum, advising, scientific data management, eScience professionals, focus groups, interviews

In the 2003 report entitled "Revolutionizing Science and Engineering through Cyberinfrastructure," members of a blue ribbon National Science Foundation panel wrote, "Absent systematic archiving and curation of intermediate research results (as well as the polished and reduced publications), data gathered at great expense will be lost" (Atkins, et al., 2003, p. 11). This challenge has become reality even more quickly than the panel expected. Researchers in fields ranging from high energy physics (Becla & Lim, 2008), to climate change (Meehl, et al., 2007), to proteomics (Nesvizhskü & Aebersold, 2004) are struggling with the size and complexity of the datasets they and their colleagues generate and analyze.

Yet these large, complex, often collaboratively managed datasets have become absolutely essential to successful discovery. Whether using the term "eScience," which was coined in Britain and is used extensively across the world, or "cyberinfrastructure" - the term preferred in the U.S. - the use of large-scale datasets and the immense information technology infrastructure that supports them has become fully entwined with the contemporary practices of science and engineering. The problems arising from collecting, organizing, indexing, archiving, and sharing large datasets have increased the need for interdisciplinary information professionals who offer a mixture of science or engineering knowledge together with the capabilities taught in a range of educational programs in information and library science. These emerging "eScience professionals" may serve as the vanguard of a new professional area of librarianship that solves large-scale information management problems for researchers and engineers with innovative tools and techniques. Following the eScience definitions of Borgman (2007, p. 20) and Hey and Trefethen (2003), we define an eScience professional as an individual who facilitates access to information infrastructure by scientists and other researchers. In this article, we explore this idea and report on a program of research in which we interviewed researchers and sent a small cadre of information professionals-in-training on guided internships in scientific laboratories. We have analyzed the resulting data to triangulate on the areas of knowledge and skill that eScience professionals must possess, and from these knowledge and skill areas offer suggestions and possibilities for curriculum and program development.

Background

In 2001, John Taylor was the Director General of Research Councils at the Office of Science and Technology in Great Britain. …

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