I had the privilege of participating in the Wharton Research Data and Analytics Librarian conference just before the beginning of the fall semester. Hosted by Wharton Research Data Services (WRDS) at the Penn Wharton China Center (PWCC), this conference brought together over forty librarians, business school faculty and vendors from across greater China to share best practices related to digital research resources and data-oriented services and skills. It also provided the opportunity to discuss emerging initiatives in these areas. With help from a team of simultaneous translators, speakers presented in Chinese and English, and presentation materials were available in both languages. Although the conference attendees were from Chinese academic institutions, we also had participation from business and finance librarians in the United States who presented via videoconference.
My introductory keynote set the stage for the presentations that followed by reviewing the challenges and opportunities facing business and finance librarians in an era of data proliferation. These included: researchers’ quest for unique data, defining and measuring usage in a data-focused environment, the impact of publisher/vendor mergers on data availability, data transparency and reproducibility, access and storage and improving data skills. Other presenters examined these topics in greater detail:
- Expanding the role of libraries throughout the research cycle – such as helping users develop software/coding skills for data analysis and visualization (Hilary Craiglow, Vanderbilt University), educating researchers and faculty about data literacy (Yun Dai and Jennifer Stubbs, NYU Shanghai), research data management and data literacy training (Aaron Kennedy, University of Nottingham Ningbo China) and developing discipline-specific data services (Jianfa Zhong, Xiamen University).
- Redefining vendor relationships – from developing new products (Corey Seeman, University of Michigan) to working closely with vendors to build data communities (Henry Huang, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics).
- Data discovery and usage evaluation – developing big data knowledge discovery platforms (Jing Xie, Chinese Academy of Sciences), creating standardized and replicable systems for assessing usage (Dandan Tan, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics) and introducing evidence-based evaluation (Liping Yang, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University).
- Understanding user needs (Michael Yang, Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business) and the differences between needs of expert and beginning users (Dehua Xiong, Peking University), as well as strategies for keeping abreast of new research trends and techniques (Bobray Bordelon, Princeton University). Rui Dai from WRDS discussed the use of machine learning to identify research trends.
The inimitable Foster Zhang from Chinese University of Hong Kong Shenzhen gave the closing keynote, leaving attendees with a lot to consider about developing future data services and architectures: “Data is only limited by imagination. We give it a ‘suggested usage’ within an interface, but this limits us.”
Thank you to all of the contributors and attendees for making this conference a first-rate learning and cultural experience.