I had the opportunity to attend the Beyond the Numbers conference at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis this week. This biennial event brings together librarians, archivists, and economists from all over the country to talk about the challenges in economic information access and use. Usually they add their presentation materials every year so check back for slides. I’ve never been to the conference but have heard a lot about it from IASSIST members since it started in 2014. I arrived late because of teaching and plane malfunctions, but I was able to attend a few sessions on Thursday.
The first was with Christine Murray from Bates College talking about using R for economics data. She did a great job showing both the basics of using R and then how to do use the pdfetch package to work with time series from economic data vendors like FRED, BLS, and others. I’ve imported data using API but this package makes it much easier to work with these particular vendors. You can also visualize and layer time series within R. She created a great libguide showing how to use R for economics. Definitely going on my data play list for winter break.
The second was Kate McNamara’s Evidence-Based Research with the Census Bureau Data Linkage Infrastructure. Kate talked about the new efforts in the Census Bureau’s Data Linkage Infrastructure program. This is related to the Federal Statistical Data Research Centers (FSRDCs) located around the country (our closest is at Duke) that have administrative data from a wide variety of government agencies that are linked together. Researchers must apply to access the data and it has been a lengthy (and slightly cumbersome process). One of their efforts is to promote evidence building projects that are collaborations between Bureau researchers and academics. The difficulty for academics in the past has been that, while there is a data inventory, the CB hasn’t provided detailed metadata about the available datasets and information on what unique identifiers are available for linking datasets. Without that information it can extremely difficult for researchers to know before they apply if the data will be useful. The CB is preparing though to post that metadata on ICPSR and create a new inventory available to the public. That is REALLY exciting news for data users.
Finally, Kristin Fontichiaro and Wendy Stephens presented on From “Skip the Numbers” to “Great Stuff”: A Data Education Project. These LIS professors created a project geared to high school teachers and media center specialists to help them integrate statistical literacy into their curricula. Their project, Creating Data Literate Students, made the rounds a while back and they have recordings from past virtual conferences if you are interested. For lower level or data adverse students, the principles and teaching suggestions are very helpful. They also have two free books on teaching statistical and data literacy in teaching. I’m xcited to read Lynette Hoelter’s chapter! She does some great work at ICPSR.
So, day 1 is a wrap. Today we learn more about data and I am presenting on the PEGI Project. Exciting stuff and more to come!