Every moment data is created.
When a member of the Flint Water Study team tests and records results from a drop of water. When a student steps into Goodwin Hall, activating sensors to track usability and traffic patterns.
But data, especially big data that has to be analyzed computationally, sometimes creates as many questions as it answers. Where does it all go? How do we store it? Who pays to store it? What kind of computer do we need to process the data? And how can we make sure that people years from now will still be able to access and reuse it?
University Libraries, in partnership with Virginia Tech researchers working with big data, is exploring these questions and more with the support of a $308,175 National Leadership Grant for Libraries from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
The project team includes: Zhiwu Xie, technology development librarian in the University Libraries; Tyler Walters, dean and professor, University Libraries; Edward Fox, professor of computer science in the College of Engineering; and Pablo Tarazaga, assistant professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering. Jiangping Chen, associate professor in the Department of Library and Information Sciences at the University of North Texas, will also help evaluate and review the project.
Libraries have recently supported research and data by hosting data sets, providing repositories for research, helping researchers manage their data, and even building custom infrastructures for storing and reusing big data.
“But libraries are starting to go beyond their capacity,” Xie said. “The big data projects we’re seeing at Virginia Tech and other institutions can hardly be handled using local infrastructures.”
Researchers need libraries to support data projects that require considerable processing power and quicker transfer rates when moving data from storage to processors.
“Much of the research landscape today is computational, and this is an awesome challenge for universities, government agencies, and other types of research institutes,” said Walters. “Researchers need partners like libraries to co-create new strategies and cyberinfrastructures, to advance their research, and sustain its products and findings.”