Data Literacy


Data Literacy in the sciences can be described as the "knowledge and skills involved in collecting, processing, managing, evaluating, and using data for scientific inquiry. Although there are similarities in information literacy and digital literacy, science data literacy specifically focuses less on literature-based attributes and more on functional ability in data collection, processing, management, evaluation, and use. This emphasis on operational skills coincides with the practice-based production, operation, and use of digital datasets during scientific research."[3]

Teaching data literacy in the sciences should have a focus on the following characteristics:

  • Fundamentals of science data and data management,
  • Data management in the context of research output, and
  • Broader issues of science data including tools for management and visualization, as well as quality and publication practices.

Ignazio and Qin state in their seminal article that science data literacy training should be provided at different levels via different venues, and that the training needs to adapt to science disciplinary context, terminology, and workflow. At the undergraduate level, the goal of training for data literacy should be to train the future science workforce with a solid understanding and skill set in data management and use issues [3].

Further Resources

Carlson J, Fosmire M, Miller C, et al. (2011). Determining Data Information Literacy Needs: A Study of Students and Research Faculty(link is external). Muse Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 11(2):629-657.

Carlson J, Johnston L, Westra B, & Nichols M. (2013). Developing an Approach for Data Management Education: A Report from the Data Information Literacy Project(link is external). International Journal of Digital Curation, 8(1), 204–217.

Carlson J, Nelson MS, Johnston LR, & Koshoffer A. (2015). Developing Data Literacy Programs: Working with Faculty, Graduate Students and Undergraduates(link is external). Bulletin of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 41(6), 14–17.

Carlson J, Stowell Bracke M. (2015). Planting the Seeds for Data Literacy: Lessons Learned from a Student-Centered Education Program(link is external). International Journal of Digital Curation, 10(1).

Creamer A, Morales M, Kafel D, Crespo J, Martin E. (2012). An Assessment of Needed Competencies to Promote the Data Curation and Management Librarianship of Health Sciences and Science and Technology Librarians in New England(link is external). Journal of eScience Librarianship, 1(1):18–26.

Eaker C. (2014). Planning Data Management Education Initiatives: Process, Feedback, and Future Directions(link is external). Journal of eScience Librarianship, 3(1). is external)

Federer L. (2012). Data Literacy Instruction: Training the Next Generation of Researchers(link is external). DataPub.

Federer LM, Lu Y-L, & Joubert DJ. (2016). Data literacy training needs of biomedical researchers(link is external). Journal of the Medical Library Association, 104(1), 52–57.

Fong B, Wang M. (2015). Required Data Management Training for Graduate Students in an Earth and Environmental Sciences Department(link is external). Journal of eScience Librarianship, 4(1), Article 3.

Ignazio JD, Qin J. (2010). Lessons learned from a two-year experience in science data literacy education(link is external). International Association of Scientific and Technological University Libraries, 31st Annual Conference.

Johnston L, Jeffryes J. (2014). Steal this idea: A library instructor’s guide to educating students in data management skills(link is external). College & Research Libraries News, 75(8), 2014.

MacMillan D. (2015). Developing Data Literacy Competencies to Enhance Faculty Collaborations(link is external). LIBER Quarterly, 24(3), 140–160.

Qin J, D’Ignazio J. (2010). The Central Role of Metadata in a Science Data Literacy Course(link is external). Journal of Library Metadata, 10(2-3):188–204.

Sapp Nelson M. (2017). A Pilot Competency Matrix for Data Management Skills: A Step toward the Development of Systematic Data Information Literacy Programs(link is external). Journal of eScience Librarianship, 6(1), e1096.

Zilinsky LD, Nelson MS, & Van Epps AS. (2014). Developing Professional Skills in STEM Students: Data Information Literacy(link is external). Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship, 77.

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