The fractured lab notebook: undergraduates and ecological data management training in the United States

Authors

  • C. A. Strasser,

    Corresponding author
    1. National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, University of California Santa Barbara, 735 State Street, Santa Barbara California 93101 USA
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    • Present address: California Digital Library, University of California Office of the President, 415 20th Street, Oakland California 94612 USA.

  • S. E. Hampton

    1. National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, University of California Santa Barbara, 735 State Street, Santa Barbara California 93101 USA
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  • Corresponding Editor: C. D'Avanzo.

Abstract

Data management is a timely and increasingly important topic for ecologists. Recent funder mandates requiring data management plans, combined with the data deluge that faces scientists, make education about data management critical for any future ecologist. In this study, we surveyed instructors of general ecology courses at 48 major institutions in the United States. We chose instructors at institutions that are likely to train future ecologists, and therefore, are most likely to influence the trajectory of data management education in this field. The survey queried instructors about institution and course characteristics, the extent to which data-related topics are included in their courses, the barriers to their teaching these topics, and their own personal beliefs and values associated with data management and stewardship. We found that, in general, data management topics are not being covered in undergraduate ecology courses for a wide range of reasons. Most often, instructors cited a lack of time and a lack of resources as barriers to teaching data management. Although data are used for instruction at some point in the majority of the courses surveyed, good data management practices and a thorough understanding of the importance of data stewardship are not being taught. We offer potential explanations for this and suggestions for improvement.

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