One of the great things about the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting is that the organization for geoscience librarians, the Geoscience Information Society (GSIS) meets right along with them as an official part of the conference. This brings librarians and scientists together in a wonderfully engaging setting. Now, I’m betting that most of the geoscientists present don’t realize that there are librarians in their midst, but it’s great start to be in the same building for a little while.
I’ve attended sessions related to data preservation and more traditional library related stuff. Permeating the talks at these sessions is the idea that librarians and the scientists dealing with data and information seem to be at the beginning of discussions about how they should work together. This is encouraging.
The most visible folks on the scientists side are a group of folks from the USGS and state geological surveys. These organizations have federal or state mandates to make their data available, so some scientists at these organizations have been tasked to develop the complex systems needed to share this information (The Geoscience Information Network, for example). While in some cases, the scientists are unfamiliar with the systems and metadata standards developed for libraries that could assist them, others are building on the work of librarians, and others are encountering brand new issues that need new standards and practices.
I like seeing this, and I think we need to see more of it. And for the most part, I think that the librarians have the responsibility of reaching out to the scientists (online, in person, at conferences, etc.) to start discussions about how we can help.
What I’m not entirely clear about, is how I can directly impact these efforts. My tentative thoughts on this include working with faculty at my (small) institution to make their data accessible via appropriate external repositories (but do they want to share?), and working with the Geoscience Information Society to reach out to scientists to continue the conversation. I’m not a cataloger (and I don’t want to be one), but their metadata experience could be highly valuable to scientists trying to manage their large quantities of information, and we need to try to let them know that.