Because good research needs good data

IDCC14 Preview: Kevin Ashley

Lorna Brown | 13 February 2014

This time next week we will be getting ready to head out to San Francisco, so here is the last in our series of preview interviews with DCC Director, Kevin Ashley, who tells us what he is looking forward to at IDCC this year.

The theme of this year’s conference is how data-driven developments are changing the world around us. What scientific breakthroughs, technical advances or potential new opportunities excite you the most?

In terms of new opportunities, the most exciting has to be learning more about how we can make data reuse easier, more likely to occur (particularly outside narrow disciplinary boundaries) and more effective. Reuse is the ultimate goal of all digital curation; the training, the tools and the methodologies that are the subject of many of the papers at IDCC are all ultimately about enabling information reuse. We're rapidly learning more about what enables that reuse and how research and society benefits as a result. It excited me when I started work in a medical research centre in 1979 and it the excitement hasn't gone away in the intervening years.

As Director of the DCC, what you would like the delegates to take away from the conference and what outcomes do you hope for? 

I hope all of the delegates get to meet someone new who shares their interests and learn something new about what interests them. I hope those who come here to talk, demonstrate or exhibit find an engaged audience and get asked some questions that make them think. Finally, I really hope that the conference encourages more reuse of the tools, training and processes that we all hear about and that, as a result, people invest time in learning how to adopt someone else's work rather than feeling the need to reinvent it.

What recent developments in the field of Research Data Management do you expect to influence conversations at this year’s IDCC?

The rapid emergence of commercial service providers for some aspects of Research Data Management is extremely interesting and presents a new set of choices for many research organisations. It also makes issues of trust and service levels even more important than they already were. Issues around scale, automation and quality also continue to be important for all types of digital collections, not just research data.

Which papers or aspects of the programme are you particularly looking forward to?

It's not really appropriate for me to choose, given that I'm co-chair of the Programme Committee - it's all good! But personally I particularly enjoy hearing from people that are new to me and perspectives that I've not heard before.

Atul Butte and Paul Lewis on Day 1 are both in that category for me, and although I know both Fran Berman and Jane Hunter, I've not heard them talk on this topic before. After that I'll be seeking out papers in the parallel session from authors or topics that I've not come across previously. I'm also looking forward to being involved with the 4C workshop on the costs of curation; the DCC is a partner in the project and it's an area I've had a great interest in since the 1990s.

And outside of the conference, are there any visitor attractions that you’ll be sure to catch whilst in San Francisco?

It's nearly 30 years since I was last in the Bay Area and I imagine a lot has changed. Back then, I enjoyed exploring the coastline north in Marin County and to the south, a tour of the SLAC and driving along the Skyline Boulevard. I doubt I'll have time for much this time around, but I'll try to fit in a trip to see the view from Coit Tower.

For more ideas on how to spend your free time, check out our guide.