OSU Carpentries marks eighth year leading data literacy
Tuesday, August 29, 2023
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OSU Libraries has reached its eighth year as a leader in promoting data literacy through its free Carpentries workshop series. Since 2015, the Library has taught over 400 participants across 113 sessions focused on interdisciplinary, data-related topics such as coding and programming.
OSU Carpentries workshops, which have brought in attendees from 17 institutions, emphasize the value of using open-source tools to interpret and manipulate data in any discipline. This effort is part of the broader organization, The Carpentries, a California-based nonprofit whose global mission is to “teach foundational computational and data science skills to researchers.”
The majority of those involved in OSU Carpentries, including the 35 certified instructors and 80+ helpers involved in OSU’s workshops, work on a volunteer basis and are motivated by the value they see in the program.
OSU Library Research Data Specialist, Dani Kirsch, oversees OSU Carpentries, curating the workshops and leading the volunteer network to offer in-person, remote and hybrid workshops every semester.
“Everyone who volunteers with this group is so fantastic,” Kirsch said. “The Carpentries is exactly what I value. It’s the same sort of grassroots teaching that got me started and has made me as successful as I am with my own work in R.”
Despite the ambitious scope and scale of OSU Carpentries programming, which includes providing simultaneous, hybrid workshops at OSU and partner campuses, Kirsch said running the Carpentries has been a successful venture strengthened by everyone’s willingness to contribute.
Scholarly Services Librarian Clarke Iakovakis, credits OSU’s High Performance Computing Center as a pivotal partner in the success of the technical-end of workshops.
“Before partnering with the HPCC, we’d spend so much time troubleshooting problems and making sure workshop attendees were all looking at the same thing,” Iakovakis said, “Everyone would come in with their own computer, which might be 10 years old with no memory.”
Evan Linde, research cyberinfrastructure analyst at the HPCC, eliminated these issues by facilitating the digital infrastructure for workshops via OSU’s TIGER Research Cloud. This platform allows attendees to bypass the limits of their personal computers by leveraging the HPCC’s faster, more powerful computing resources, which host the open-source software used in workshops.
With support from Dean of Libraries Sheila Johnson, OSU became a Member Organization of The Carpentries in 2017. The credits gained from its paid membership have been used to certify 23 instructors across five OSU colleges and five external universities such as Langston University and the University of Central Oklahoma. Certified instructors are essential to running inclusive, motivating workshops that empower attendees to expand their computational skills.
Kevin Dyke, OSU Libraries maps and spatial data curator, became a certified instructor soon after he joined the Library in 2016. As an instructor who leads workshops across many disciplines, he particularly enjoys working with graduate students and learning about the domain-specific knowledge of their fields.
“It’s always fascinating to hear from a wide variety of students,” Dyke said. “Between the workshops I’ve taught on my own and the Carpentries workshops, we cover every unit across campus. There are participants coming from all over the place.”
Many of the students Dyke teaches attend Carpentries workshops to expand their knowledge outside of major-specific courses, and gain skills necessary for working on thesis projects and academic research. Oftentimes, Dyke said, what begins as attending one workshop grows into attending several sessions or reaching out directly for guidance and collaboration.
Several instructors certified through OSU Library began as workshop attendees themselves, and many, Iakovakis said, have had life-changing experiences as a result.
“I know from experience that we’ve made a big difference for a lot of students,” Iakovakis said. “We’ve had a student who came to a Carpentries session totally new to Python, and that person went on to specialize in it, became a Certified Instructor and now works in Biostatistics. This stuff can really be life changing, and I’ve seen so many people’s passions awaken.”
Data Carpentries workshops are held each fall and spring semester and are hosted both online and in-person. The OSU Carpentries coordinating team is accepting applications to become a certified instructor. Visit the website for more information.