Federal agencies are collecting more data and information than staff can manage. With so much to sift through, it’s sometimes impossible to find the small percentage of data that’s actually useful. A data curation strategy helps agencies focus on collecting and managing only the data that provides value to staff and stakeholders.
The need for data curation is clear when you consider the quantity of data collected and generated by federal agencies. The Department of Commerce collects 20 terabytes of data every day. The National Institutes of Health manages more than 30 petabytes of data—as a refresher, a single petabyte is 1,024 terabytes. It’s enough to make your head spin.
Data curation helps you identify which data is useful today and will be useful in the future. The professionals who help you wrap your head and hands around all this data are data curators. They set up processes to maintain the value and accessibility of data. You could compare their work to museum curators who manage huge collections, not of data, but of art and artifacts.
Museum curators assess, cull, organize, manage, and preserve the art and artifacts in their care. Their efforts allow scholars and the public to access and understand the artifacts in the collection. The curator’s work makes it possible for the museum to fulfill its mission.
Like an art collection, data is a valuable asset as long as it’s accurate and accessible. Data curators ensure only useful data is collected by assessing its value to your agency. They organize, manage, and preserve data so staff can easily find the information they need. Data curation brings a discriminating level of quality control to your agency’s data management practices.
The three essential elements of a data curation strategy
#1: Identify and prioritize relevant data
A data curation strategy begins by answering this question:
What data influences decision-making now and would influence decision-making in the future?
Federal agencies must identify and prioritize only the data needed to make decisions now and in the future. If certain datasets are not going to influence decision-making, ask yourself if you need to continue collecting them.
Data curators decide which data is relevant and worth keeping, and which data to stop collecting and/or purge. Without these data curation efforts, staff spend too much time trying to find useful data amid irrelevant data. Data curation increases the value of your data because it allows data to become more accessible to those who need it.
#2: Find tools to help you automate data curation
Automation tools are indispensable because the average person can no longer handle the amount of information and data that flows through the office. Data curators, like our team at Tesla Government, have experience helping federal agencies find the right automation tools—a knowledge management system, for example—for their mission.
A knowledge management system helps agencies with data curation by helping staff:
- Collect and integrate data from different sources
- Sift through and assess data
- Determine which data is useful
- Share data in manageable chunks
- Categorize and structure the data for distribution
With a data curation strategy and automated tools in place, data becomes manageable and findable. Data visualization tools add further value by making data shareable, understandable, and—the ultimate goal—useful.
#3: Regularly review your data processes
Data curation is not a set-it-and-forget-it practice.
The best data curators regularly review data collection and management practices to make sure processes still make sense. They evaluate the effectiveness of a federal agency’s data processes and ensure only relevant data is collected. They observe staff and other stakeholders to understand how they’re accessing and using data.
- Which data sets are used for decision-making?
- Which data is untouched?
- Are there unmet data needs?
- Is data shared in the optimal formats?
- Are users aware of all available data sets?
Data curation: an essential element of data and knowledge management
A museum without curators would resemble the jumbled mess of a flea market enthusiast’s attic. Spending an afternoon trying to find the valuable antiques amid piles of worthless junk only causes frustration and a loss of time you’ll never get back.
Whether it’s art masterpieces or data sets, curation provides discipline to the collection and management of valuable assets.
Design and Implement a Data Curation Strategy.
Our Tesla Government team can help your agency find the right tools for your mission so you can realize the full potential of the data in your care.