What does it mean to Curate Data?

What are data?

Data” refers to any mix of structured information (ie. names, dates, locations, numbers) and file content (images, videos, text files, audio) used to represent people, places things & concepts.  We use these data to communicate and to glean insights about everything from people, cities and historical figures to merchandise, markets and geological formations.

Who are Data Curators?

Data Curators arrange information and publish it. They are the information organizers and data managers spread across every industry, every organization, and every field of research who spend their time and energy figuring out how to keep track of information, document it, make it searchable, and make it available for others to discover, explore and consume.

Some data curators focus their energy on arranging information.  Others are primarily concerned with aggregating and redistributing data.  These combined tasks of Collecting, Arranging and Publishing data are the domain of data curators.  They gather data together, organize, enrich and improve those data so that they can make the data available for others to consume.

What’s involved in Arranging Information?

Data without context are useless and worthless.  In order to glean value from any data, we need to know where the data came from, who created them, who has modified them, and what people/places/things/concepts they pertain to. We also, crucially, need to have a clear expression of which characteristics the data are tracking.

In an art museum, the curator arranges artworks by choosing which works to display, deciding how & where to display them, and by providing context in the form of labels, descriptions, gallery catalogs, audio guides, etc.  Without that context, for example if we encountered the artwork jumbled in a warehouse with no lighting, it would be much harder to recognize the art and understand its value.

Likewise, the value of data is bound to provenance, structure, and context. Because DataBindery was designed with data curators in mind, it allows you to work in an environment where capturing and using these kinds of information is natural, obvious and easy.

What does it mean to Publish Data?

When data move across organizational boundaries, a unique but consistent set of issues arise around data structure, access controls, provenance and terms of use.

Read more about publishing data.