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Revisiting Data Literacy in the Big Data Landscape

Corrall, Sheila (2017) Revisiting Data Literacy in the Big Data Landscape. In: LILAC 2017: 13th Librarians' Information Literacy Annual Conference, 10 April 2017 - 12 April 2017, Swansea, UK.

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As Graham Pryor observed in 2012, “Technology has enabled data to become the prevalent material and currency of research”, replacing information and publications as its accepted deliverable, and presenting significant challenges for academic libraries and information literacy practitioners – though many librarians have built on experience with social science and geospatial datasets in responding to research data agenda. But the data deluge extends beyond academic research, with data also hailed as the new currency and form of exchange in the business world; similarly, in healthcare, education, and the public sector, a philosophy of open data to improve transparency is being espoused by governments around the world and international bodies such as OECD. The current trend is Big Data 2.0, which converges e-science with business intelligence, crowdsourcing, data analytics, social media and Web 2.0 technologies to create very large-scale interdisciplinary human-subject research programs, often involving public- and private-sector partnerships operating across multiple jurisdictions and different cultures. These megaprojects bring another level of technical and organizational complexity to data-intensive research, and raise additional policy, legal, and ethical issues that resonate with the professional and personal values of information specialists. Librarians are extending their information literacy instruction into the research data arena, with many case studies published in the past five years, including initiatives targeting researchers as well as students (Carlson & Bracke, 2015; Doucette & Fyfe, 2013; Haendel et al., 2012; Peters & Vaughn, 2013). Some practitioners have developed curricula to prepare graduates for working with data in employment, notably in business and public health (Macy & Coates, 2016). Public libraries are also helping people navigate the opportunities and threats of the new data landscape (Emmelhain, 2015). Scholars have discussed definitions and competencies for data literacy, usually with reference to research data (Koltay, 2015; Schneider, 2013), although Prado and Marzal’s (2013) framework includes public sector data and targets academic, school, and public librarians. Commentators variously see data literacy as complementary to or a component of information literacy, but agree the concepts are closely related; Schield (2004) argues that statistical literacy is an essential dimension of both data literacy and information literacy. Our research has a broad scope to gain more complete understanding of the evolving phenomenon of data literacy and its meaning for librarians. Three questions guided our investigation: • What does it mean to be data literate in a world of massive open online data and continuous participatory research programs? • Where should librarians concentrate their efforts to create real value for the individuals and communities they serve? • How can the profession collaborate to make a difference in our fast-moving data-rich society? We used a collective case-study strategy based on secondary data from other related research and our prior work. Our analysis confirms the need for librarians to: expand information and data literacy programs to cover data in multiple contexts (education, the workplace, and our personal lives); assume a critical role in developing policies and practices supporting data privacy; and work across traditional boundaries to promote ethical use of data in the digital world.


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Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Corrall, Sheilascorrall@pitt.eduSCORRALL
Date: 12 April 2017
Date Type: Publication
Event Title: LILAC 2017: 13th Librarians' Information Literacy Annual Conference
Event Dates: 10 April 2017 - 12 April 2017
Event Type: Conference
Schools and Programs: School of Information Sciences > Library and Information Science
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Big, data, Data, ethics, Data, literacy, Information, professionals, Open, movement, Participatory, research
Official URL:
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2017 20:12
Last Modified: 25 Aug 2017 04:55


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