Discussion: Obstacles faced by researchers who reuse, share and manage data, and strategies for overcoming them

Roundtable discussion for Wednesday, 17 Sept 2014
All too often it's an uphill battle for researchers who want to do the right thing. Photo Credit: Steve Garvie from Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland (Uphill struggle!) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo Credit: Steve Garvie from Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland (Uphill struggle!) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

All too often it’s an uphill battle for researchers who want to do the right thing.




Why is it often harder than it should be to do the right thing when it comes to data management, sharing and reuse? I will introduce seven common sources of conflict that present obstacles to researchers who work with data. These seven sources of conflict were identified through qualitative analysis of transcripts for interviews and focus groups involving more than 35 researchers.


Following a brief introduction of these sources of conflict and resulting obstacles, we will discuss potential strategies for minimizing or overcoming these obstacles. Our conversation will focus around the following guiding questions:
  • For each source of conflict, what should be done to make it easier for researchers to do the right thing?
  • What can research centers like NCEAS do to prepare researchers and/or to improve the status quo?
  • What can I, as an individual researcher, do to avoid and/or prepare for potential obstacles, and to improve the status quo?

You may also be interested in checking out short stories based on some of the interviews: http://notebooks.dataone.org/data-stories/

I look forward to discussing ideas with you on Wednesday!


Using virtual collaboration to replace or supplement carbon-intensive research travel: barriers, best practices, and opportunities for innovation

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Discussion led by Drs. Mary Hunsicker and Stacy Rebich Hespanha

On Friday, February 28 from 12:15 to 1:30, we’ll be extending our earlier discussion of the environmental ethics of research travel to taking a closer look at virtual meetings and collaboration.

In preparation for the meeting, please check out the following (short) readings:

Please also come prepared to discuss your perceptions of the obstacles faced by would-be virtual collaborators and your ideas for how some of these barriers could be overcome. We have alloted time for each person to share his/her idea(s) on innovative ways to overcome barriers (2 minutes per idea). We encourage you to prepare 1 powerpoint for each idea and send them to Mary prior to the Roundtable.

For some virtual meeting-related chuckles, check these out:

Environmental ethics of research travel (discussion)

Image Credit: Ignotus the Mage CC BY-NC-SA via flickr

Image Credit: Ignotus the Mage CC BY-NC-SA via flickr

I’ll be leading a Roundtable discussion on Wednesday 8 January 2014 on the environmental ethics of traveling for environmental research. If you would like to prepare for the discussion by reading, I’ve found a few things that you might be interested in. If you know of any other good readings on the topic, please suggest in the comments section below!

Criticisms of air travel for environmental research

  • An article by Rupert Read on the morality of flying to environmental conferences. If you only have time to read a couple of things before the discussion on Wednesday, this should be one: (find in NCEAS Lounge folder Roundtable/20130108/ as described here.
  • A nice summary by Dominic Roser of some criticisms of air travel to conferences. If you only have time to read a couple of things before the discussion on Wednesday, this should be one: http://greenfutureethics.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/criticizing-conference-flights/
  • A 1974 essay by Daniel Kozlovsky on the paradox of “using the destructive process to destroy the results of the destructive process” that advocates “thinking and living as simply and nondestructively” as possible: (find in NCEAS Lounge folder Roundtable/20130108/ as described here.

Quantifying the environmental impact of air travel

  • ‘Why do we fly? Ecologists’ sins of emission’, which appeared in Frontiers in 2009 and is authored by some of our own. Reports results of survey (n=13) of research ecologists focused on carbon footprints and reasons for travel. Proposes ‘well-justified’ and ‘poorly-justified’ reasons for travel and suggests institutional solutions that could minimize poorly-justified travel: (find in NCEAS Lounge folder Roundtable/20130108/ as described here.
  • Focused on ‘love miles’ rather than ‘research miles’, but the parallels are inescapable. Definitely check out the graphic illustrating the carbon emissions associated with various activities: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2010/04/flying-airplane-carbon-footprint
  • A look at the levels of carbon emissions associated with air travel, and how the US and Europe are making (or resisting) efforts to offset emissions associated with air transport. Another good graphic illustrating how flights relate to other activities in terms of emissions: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/27/sunday-review/the-biggest-carbon-sin-air-travel.html?_r=0

Possible justifications of travel for environmental research

Possible technical or market solutions?

Deeper background reading on environmental ethics

Collecting ‘real-life’ success stories and cautionary tales for data management engagement and education

image by pennstatelive CC BY-NC

image by pennstatelive CC BY-NC

We are excited to announce that the Roundtable discussion on Friday, February 15, 2013 at 4:00 p.m. will double as the first focus group for our study titled “Collecting ‘real-life’ success stories and cautionary tales for data management engagement and education.”

The purpose of this study is to collect stories that illustrate concepts and best practices for scientific data management. From these stories, as part of our effort to facilitate dialog about data management and sharing, we will prepare a collection of narratives that can be woven into the data management education and outreach products created by DataONE and published as blog posts on the DataONE Coffee House blog. Here is a link to the topics and questions we would like to discuss during the Roundtable.

Please take some time to look them over and hopefully you all have some stories to share!

We want to emphasize that if you attend the Roundtable, you are not automatically a participant in our study. You should in no way feel obligated to participate as a research subject, and you will have the opportunity to let us know whether or not you wish to be involved in the research by signing or not signing a consent form. (If you decline to sign the consent form, we will not transcribe anything you say during the conversation, and all audio recordings will be permanently deleted once the transcriptions have been made.) That being said, however, we would greatly appreciate your participation and it would be very beneficial for the success of our project. If you decide that you wish to be an official participant and allow us to use your story(ies) for our study, you will be asked to sign a consent form (20130209Consent Form.NCEAS) before the start of the Roundtable.

Thank you and see you on Friday!

Creating a More Inclusive Academic Culture

February 8th’s Roundtable will be an informal discussion on how we can foster greater inclusivity in academia. Stacy and I have compiled a list of possible reading materials below (this is a condensed version of our original list, trust me). Most of them are pretty light, and we don’t expect everyone to read everything; just pick one or two that look interesting. We are particularly interested in talking about solutions to the issues that the materials below raise, so keep that in mind when you’re reading and come ready to discuss! After the Roundtable we’ll continue the conversation over drinks at happy hour (location TBA).

Image by chrisjfry

Image by chrisjfry

On work-life balance and parenting:

 “Perspective: Embrace flexible work arrangements” – This article discusses flexible work arrangements and affordable child care, making the argument that if institutions are more flexible and child care is more affordable fewer women will leave STEM, the investment of public funds into training graduate students will yield higher returns, and productivity will increase overall.

UC family friendly policies – Relevant information for UC employees who are parents.

 On diversity in STEM:

Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students – This study examines gender bias in hiring in academia. When given application materials for a hypothetical lab manager position, faculty members rated male applicants as more competent than female applicants (though the application materials were identical). Male applicants were also offered a higher starting salary and more mentoring than female applicants. Faculty gender did not affect the level of bias against female applicants. There are also a few blog responses to the study: “Study shows gender bias in science is real. Here’s why it matters.” And “Why bias holds women back”

“A field guide to privilege in marine science: some reasons why we lack diversity” – In this recent blog post (which applies to disciplines beyond marine science), the author describes barriers to success in research that some people, particularly those from low socioeconomic backgrounds, face. She points out that research, especially at early stages, often demands a level of financial flexibility that is unreasonable for many, and that by being unable to afford to participate in things like REUs, people who are talented and smart find themselves at a disadvantage. The comments here are worth a read, as is this response: “A Dream Deferred: How access to STEM is denied to many students before they get in the door good”.

“Emails ignored, meetings denied: bias at the search stage limits diversity” – Researchers sent emails to professors at 258 US universities (in 89 disciplines) from fictional prospective students whose names were “randomly varied to indicate whether the sender was a man or a woman, or if he or she was white, black, Hispanic, Indian, or Chinese”. The professors were less likely to respond to email from, or grant meetings to, women and minority applicants.

“Nature’s sexism” – Nature reflects on gender imbalance in its authorship and encourages editors to ask themselves “Who are five women I could ask?” when thinking about whom to commission for articles.

“Gay in the academy” – ln this piece a professor describes his experiences and offers some words of wisdom as a gay man in academia.

Update: “Where are all the disabled scientists?” – People with disabilities are extremely underrepresented in STEM. The author of this piece interviewed various academics and researchers with disabilities to shed light on the challenges they faced.

 And finally:

“The End of Men” – A longread and not specific to academia, this Atlantic piece eventually turned into a book that was published recently. Hanna Rosin writes “Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. Most managers are now women too. And for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same. For years, women’s progress has been cast as a struggle for equality. But what if equality isn’t the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women? A report on the unprecedented role reversal now under way— and its vast cultural consequences”. The recent release of Rosin’s book sparked a response from Stephanie Coontz, followed by a rebuttal from Rosin, and an interview with them both.

If, like us, you can’t get enough of this stuff, there are a few more links below. Feel free to add your own in the comments if there’s a topic you think hasn’t been covered well here. We’re currently lacking materials on disability [Update: see above] and on transgenderism, so those would be particularly welcome.

“Race, ethnicity, and NIH awards” and “Black applicants less likely to win NIH grants”.

“Does gender matter?”

“The self-promotion stakes”

“How stereotypes can drive women to quit science”

“Thin ice: Stereotype threat and black college students”


Nailing Your Elevator Speech with the Message Box

Nancy Baron sent a message in advance of her NCEAS Roundtable presentation next Wednesday (Jan 23). She writes:

Hi Folks,

Next week at the NCEAS Roundtable I am going to teach you how to nail your elevator speech about your research by using a simple but powerful tool called “the message box.” Some of you may know and already use this so this might be a refresher. And for those of you who aren’t familiar with it — it’s incredibly useful.

The message box takes all your complex knowledge and helps distill it into the key messages that journalists, policymakers, and everyone else who are not experts need to understand your work. It is a guide to make sure you stay on topic and make your important points during a conversation or interview. Or it can just help you cut to the quick at a party to explain what you do and why it matters.

So here is a copy of the box and a couple of examples, one by Boris Worm and another by former NCEAS post doc Ellen Damschen. You might want to give this a whirl before Weds because we will be rushed in an hour.  This will help you get a lot more out of our short time. You should have a particular audience in mind — say a journalist as they have to be able to understand what you say well enough to convey it clearly themselves. (See the sheet.) 

Notice that when you start your message box, you will probably write a lot. That’s ok, it’s part of the brainstorming process. Next, work on cutting it down to the most important idea you want to communicate in each section of the box. 

On Weds, I will explain this more fully. Hope to see you then.

all best,
Nancy Baron

See you at the Roundtable!

Sharing Roundtable readings via NCEAS Virtual Lounge

We are now able to use the NCEAS Virtual Lounge to avoid copyright infringement when sharing readings related to Roundtable presentations and discussions.

To share readings:

  1. Navigate to the Roundtable folder within the NCEAS Lounge site.
  2. Use your NCEAS LDAP user/pass to log in.
  3. Create a new folder named with the date of your presentation/discussion (YYYYMMDD).
  4. Place documents you wish to share in your new folder.
  5. Link to the document location from a post on the Roundtable blog.

To access a reading someone has shared:

  1. Click on the link that has been provided via email or Roundtable blog.
  2. Use your NCEAS LDAP user/pass to log in.
  3. Download file.

Should ecologists get involved in advocacy?

Today we will be having a Roundtable to discuss issues involving the role of scientists in advocacy. I typically don’t get any feedback after advertising a Roundtable, but this topic generated a mixture of responses ranging from “that sounds interesting, I will be there” to “this topic has been talked to death and there is no resolution in sight” (I’m paraphrasing here). So, it seems as though people have strong opinions, which should make for an interesting discussion. To access papers relevant to the discussion visit the NCEAS plone site:




Storytelling and communication through environmental media: Blue Horizons films

image credit: Alan Wolf CC-BY-NC-SA

I was pleased to have the opportunity to host Richard Hutton and LeeAnne French, the Executive and Associate Directors of the Carsey-Wolf Center and two of the minds behind the Blue Horizons film program, for a Roundtable last week. It was very fun to be able to show this year’s Blue Horizons films for the NCEAS community, and especially great to join into the conversation that we had with Richard and LeeAnne.

Richard and LeeAnne shared some great advice for those of us interested in communicating the science relevant to environmental issues, several of the things they mentioned really stuck in my mind. We discussed:

  • the importance of knowing your audience and tailoring your message for the particular audience you’re trying to reach
  • the way a nuanced presentation of a variety of cultural, societal, economic, etc. perspectives on an environmental issue can help the audience move beyond their established positions and engage more deeply with inherent complexities and competing points of view
  • the powerful and honest way people can express their thoughts and feelings about an issue when trust between interviewer and interviewee has been established
  • the importance of casting when creating environmental media
  • the value of storytelling as a communication approach

Richard also recommended a book for those interested in learning more about how to improve communication through storytelling: The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall. If any of you are planning to read it (I am) and would like to discuss afterward, please let me know and I’d be happy to join you.

Thank you, Richard and LeeAnne, for taking the time out to talk with us! We appreciate your willingness to share some practical tips we can use as we think about how to improve our communication efforts.