News and Events: Archive:

Just the facts, ma'am:
Libraries now support analysis and storage of research data

For a researcher in academia, data are the bread and butter of their work. Collections of research results, often composed of thousands of small bits of information, serve as the foundation upon which scholars derive valuable new insights and create a case for future research.

Yet in amassing small mountains of research data, university professors face a few critical challenges that directly impact the viability of their work. Some of the leading challenges are how best to analyze the data and gaining access to restricted data sets.

Fortunately Ryan Womack, Data and Economics Librarian and newly appointed Research Data Manager in the Libraries, has stepped up to expertly assist professors and graduate students with both challenges.

Ryan has been leading three-part workshops in R, the well-regarded open-source software for statistical analysis. In the fall 2010 semester he lead three sets of R workshops in Alexander Library, three sets in Hill Center on the Busch campus, and one set in the Rutgers-Newark Business School, which collectively attracted over 100 faculty members and graduate students.

R was initially modeled after S, a powerful statistical language created by Bell Labs in 1976. R was created by statistics professors Ross Ihaka and Robert Gentleman in 1991, reached version 1.0.0 in 2000, and is maintained by a group of developers.

R is favored by many researchers in part because it is free, readily accessible on the Internet, and available for individual as well as group/organizational use. R also allows researchers to create tailored applications, called extensions, which enable the software to address the latest research challenges in specific fields.

Ryan will be leading three sets of the three-part R workshops in late January/early February in Alexander Library. Part I of the workshop provides an introduction to the R software and data manipulation, Part II covers data analysis, and Part III addresses how to present the data in graphs and charts. Each workshop is one and a half hours long and reservations are not required.

For more information on R software, see this 2009 New York Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/07/technology/business-computing/07program.html?_r=2&pagewanted=1

For more information on R at Rutgers, and the Libraries R workshops, please see: http://libguides.rutgers.edu/content.php?pid=115296&sid=1208422

After analysis, many researchers face challenges in obtaining data containing confidential or sensitive information, to answer important research questions. Such data requires careful handling and safeguarding.

For researchers who intend to analyze restricted-use data provided by sources such as the National Center for Education Statistics or other federal sources, providing for a secure computer environment to hold the data is an essential prerequisite to obtaining access to the data. To serve researchers who need such secure computing the Libraries created a Secure Data Facility.

The Secure Data Facility, located in Alexander Library, contains one non-networked computer loaded with statistical software packages such as R, SAS, SPSS, and Stata as well as the Microsoft Office suite. Access to the room is restricted to users who have completed the necessary procedures for obtaining restricted data for their research.

For more information on the Secure Data Facility, please see Ryan's Libguide: http://libguides.rutgers.edu/content.php?pid=115296&sid=1207691





Posted January 13, 2011