Tackling Threats to Public Data Access with the Endangered Data Week Open Curriculum

by Daina Bouquin | A spotlight on a 2018 Global Sprint project

I interviewed Brandon Locke, Jason Heppler, Rachel Mattson, and Sarah Melton to learn more about the Endangered Data Week Open Curriculum and how you can help at the Mozilla’s Global Sprint 2018.

Endangered Data Week is a program that sheds light on the social, political, and technical threats to access to public data. The team coordinates educational events and workshops to enable citizens to fight for government transparency and accountability. The goal of the Open Curriculum this year is to broaden the project’s reach to include more populations and communities outside of academia.

What is the Endangered Data Week Open Curriculum?

We launched Endangered Data Week in 2017 in the wake of the 2016 US presidential election as librarians, civic hackers, technologists, cultural heritage institutions, journalists, and citizen scientists grew concerned that government data — particular those around climate change, gerrymandering, and other politically charged subjects — might be censored or neglected. We realized a need to advocate for data at all levels of government that are at risk of being lost, repressed, or neglected, buttressing other initiatives like DataRefuge, the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative, and the End of Term Web Archive who worked to collect, secure, and document government data. With the support of the Digital Library Federation, Endangered Data Week builds upon these initiatives to coordinate annual international events and raise awareness about endangered data.

The Endangered Data Week team is working to foster conversations about public data and encourage data consciousness through questions related to the acquisition, manipulation, visualization, use, and the politics of public data. By necessity, many of these conversations are local, and depend on city and state policies, infrastructures, and contexts. We created the Open Curriculum to make it easier for people to host local events, workshops, or conversations about public data. We are encouraging anyone who has led an event to share their materials — workshop instructions, slide decks, software — in the repository. We are also looking for people to share stories about the impact that open data has had on them, their research, or their business, their experiences with data deletion or data loss, and their experiences with Endangered Data Week or similar events.

Why did you start the Endangered Data Week Open Curriculum?

Now in its second year, we’ve realized the need to add more contribution pathways for a variety of users who come at this with various levels of time constraints and technical skill. Our partnership with Mozilla seeks to flesh out these avenues by encouraging collaboration around the creation of new workshops, the sharing of data stories, and other ways that EDW can help coordinate events. While some of our workshops around web scraping, data manipulation, and data visualization use programming languages, we don’t want to give the impression that engaging in this work requires passing the high bar of being able to write code.

But we also wanted to gather additional methods and approaching that people use for working with, acquiring, or advocating for open data beyond our own experiences. Among the Endangered Data Week events we’ve already helped host, there is a deep well of expertise and experience that we wanted to try and capture in a way that would allow others to reuse, remix, and adapt to their own institutions, communities, companies, and locations. So our Open Curriculum welcomes the inclusion of new approaches, techniques, and topics that better address the broad range of endangered data.

What challenges have you faced working on this project?

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for any of our work. Every country, state/province, and city has different policies, laws, and practices regarding open data. Likewise, each of these institutions has a different workflow and infrastructure for the sharing of data. we are trying to be cognizant of this and provide a lot of high-level advice and instruction that can be adaptable. To move beyond that, we’ll need to rely on a large and diverse set of contributors to provide detailed materials for different contexts.

What kind of skills do I need to help you?

We are currently identifying various ways people with any skillset can contribute. Want to share your data stories, and tell us about how you work with public data and what happens when that data disappears? We would love to hear from you! Want to plan a brand new workshop? Let’s work it out during the Global Sprint! Do you have favorite books, articles, and essays about data and endangered data? Contribute to our crowd-sourced bibliography! Want to help us make our website prettier? We’d love your code!

How can others join your project at #mozsprint 2018?

Those interested in contributing should stop first at our EDW Etherpad to see how they can get involved and participate in virtual check-ins during #mozsprint. We’ll also be checking in virtually on Twitter. If people are interested in joining us at a physical site, three of us are hosting this year: at Michigan State University, Boston College, and the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

What meme or gif best represents your project?

from giphy

Join us wherever you are May 10–11 at Mozilla’s Global Sprint to work on many amazing open projects! Join a diverse network of scientists, educators, artists, engineers and others in person and online to hack and build projects for a health Internet. Register today

This post by Daina Bouquin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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