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LUQ LTER Information Management Education Exchange, Communication & Collaboration with Scientists and other Community Members

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Issue: 
Spring 2010

Eda Melendez-Colom (LUQ)

Editor's Note: Some links in this article may not function properly at the time of publication due to site technical difficulties

Reflections on the LTER information managers' roles and responsibilities.

In many occasions, the information manager of a site is the first to be contacted by other communities' members to request information from the site. This way we become the liaison between the rest of the community and the scientists. Our history shows that we have been ambassadors of the LTER program in other countries. Asia, South America, Africa, Indonesia, and Europe all provide very good examples of the kinds of activities many of us have been involved with.

Whoever placed the 'manager' denomination to our LTER professional title surely knew what we do. Information and all its related hardware we have to administer are the principal resources that we organize but are certainly not the only ones. A manager plans, organizes, directs or leads, and supervises. In the LTER community, we also design, develop, and implement databases and systems. We could keep adding to the list of roles of an LTER information manager.

In this article, I am going to concentrate on the 'exchanging education' and 'enhancing communication and collaboration' additions to that list. Educating is definitively not only related to students but to a wider part of the LTER community and beyond. In relation to the communication role, we certainly act as translators between technical people and scientists, like we do with information technologists and ecologists, but we also assume teaching roles when we teach information management concepts and methods to our students and scientists.

These roles do not happen in one direction only, which makes our responsibilities even more complex. In many ways we become students and in many instances researchers. If we do not already have it, we develop a scientific mentality to be able to communicate with our scientific community, scientists and students as well. We need to be ready and open to learn about scientific methods and concepts as we learn algorithms, programs and systems that allow us to do a better and faster job in managing, documenting, analyzing and web-publishing all the information we handle.

Moreover, very often information managers coordinate and organize research activities for students, science teachers and other professionals in the community outside the LTERs.

LUQ LTER IM role in Education.

The LUQ IM staff has been participating regularly in LUQ LTER Schoolyard's activities for more than a decade.

Information Management Workshop in Naranjito (See more photos)

The information manager has visited the participant schools to train students and teachers in the entering and managing of data and offers the IM workshop in every summer internship that have been held almost yearly since 2006 (http://luq.lternet.edu/outreach/schoolyard/Activities/2009Internship/200...).


2009 Schoolyard Summer Internship Web page

These activities always include a talk given by the information manager about the LTER program in general such that the teachers and students learn about LTER methods.

LUQ designed and currently maintains a web site for its Schoolyard program (http://luq.lternet.edu/outreach/schoolyard/index.html) and helps the investigators in charge to fill out our metadata standards forms to document the long-term data generated at the participating schools.

LUQ IM is assisting graduate students assigned to each school in completing metadata and enhancing the already developed data bases in each school with the idea of publishing their data in their web pages and preparing charts of their analyzed data for presentations given by students in local and national symposiums (http://crest-catec.hpcf.upr.edu/news/1er-simposio-luquillo-schoolyard-lt...). Collaborating scientists assist the schools in the analyses and publication of their data (Reference: http://luq.lternet.edu/outreach/schoolyard/Publication1999.html).

LUQ LTER IM Projects with other community's members. LUQ IM has participated in field data gathering, data manipulation, presentations of the LTER Information Management Methods, and professional talks to students of all grade ranges: from elementary (5 and 6 graders), Middle School (7 and 8 graders), High School (Juniors and Seniors), to undergraduate (REU students) to assist Schoolyard's teachers in introducing their students to the scientific research process.

LUQ IM activities with students have not been circumscribed within the LTER Schoolyard community. In several occasions, teachers from the local community, other than the LUQ LTER Schoolyard's, have requested special activities to introduce their students to the real world of research. Also, a presentation on Methods of the LUQ LTER Information Management was given to the staff of the LUQ LTER's institution, the Institute for Tropical Ecosystem Studies of the University of Puerto Rico.

We have documented all these activities on our web site, sometimes creating a sub-web site for a particular activity containing data, metadata, graphs, manuals, and photos. The following is a list of these activities and they are also presented on a LUQ IM web page: (http://luq.lternet.edu/datamng/index.html).

LUQ LTER IM Role in Research.

One of the sectors of the LUQ LTER scientific community that LUQ IM interacts more with is the graduate students'. For years, the LUQ graduate students' representative has been collaborating with the LUQ information manager to maintain the LTER Network Office (LNO)'s personnel database. The selected student updates LUQ LTER graduate students' information in this database and reports these updates to the information manager. In 2009, the graduate students requested a special web site where they can share more specific information, graphs and photos about their research and any other additional information not included in the LNO's personnel database. A static version for this web site was published on the LUQ Web site (http://luq.lternet.edu/people/StudentdPers/index.html ). The idea is to develop a site where each student can update and upload their documents.
Students collaborate with LUQ IM in other ways. Before graduation, they complete the metadata for their theses dissertations which they file along with their data in the LUQ LTER Archives. Their data are published on the LUQ LTER Web site following the LUQ Data Management policy ( http://luq.lternet.edu/datamng/imdocs/dmpolicy.htm ). Some students also collaborate in gathering data for LUQ scientist and are also in charge to document these data following the LUQ LTER Metadata Standards. In addition, several students have collaborated with great photo galleries of the species they study and more. These photos are published in our web site:

Communication with the Scientific Community.

The state of an Information Management System (IMS) in a site is a reflection of the communication status and/or professional relationship between the site's information manager and the site's scientists. A respectful and trustful relationship between the site's information manager and its principal investigator (PI) is essential such that the former is able to make proper decisions to do the job. The best situation is where this kind of relationship also exists with the rest of the site's scientists in addition to an effective communication between these two sectors of the LTER community.

LUQ LTER has experienced a progress in the communication between their scientists and the information manager along the almost 21 years of the information manager in the job. Collaboration in research had its peak when the information manager prepared a document on the relation between air and soil temperature and elevation along an elevation gradient in the Luquillo Experimental Forest (LEF). This paper (http://luq.lternet.edu/data/lterdb90/data/bistempdata/Bis-temp.htm) was a requirement of a graduate course taken by the information manager under the supervision of one of the LUQ scientists.

Real collaboration fostering communication between the two parties started in 2001 when a new web site (http://luq.lternet.edu) was designed to meet the recommendations of the 2000 Proposal reviewers. (An additional benefit of this probation time was that LUQ IM started to collaborate with the LNO staff to develop its IMS. This collaboration has continued until the present).

In 2001, a new Information Management committee (LUQ-IMC) was formed in LUQ including the site's PI, two LUQ LTER scientists and the information manager as chair. It was formed to assist the information manager in making decisions about the web site design and the generation of its content. In 2009 the LUQ GIS scientist was added as a member of this committee.

Since then, collaboration between LUQ scientists and the information manager has evolved to collaborating in a scientific-informatics project regarding the generation of a set of keywords that will help in the new Drupal LUQ IMS and web site (LUQ 'website-IMS'). Again, LUQ is involved in a project where collaboration exist between the LUQ scientists, LUQ information manager and LNO' staff. This time the LUQ IMC and other two members of the scientist community develop taxonomy for all the LUQ data sets online. Indirectly, all the LUQ scientific community participated in this project since the raw set of keywords where assigned by their data sets owners.

Closing reflections on LTER information manager's roles.

Our activities can have an impact in the way different sectors of the community communicate and collaborate with each other. In LUQ, these activities are included in the LUQ IM regular plans and reports as outreach activities. They are a result of continuous communication occurring between LUQ IM and its scientific community. It is the product of an awareness of the importance of IM from key LUQ's scientists that came from NSF directives and from LUQ information manager's long time efforts to educate the LUQ community on the critical and important role of IM in research and education.

In general, it is my opinion that the site information manager's team role and efforts to educate their community plays a crucial role in the importance the site gives to the site's IM.