Agile Data Curation at a State Geological Survey: A Use Case


The Geological Survey of Alabama (GSA), as with many other state geological surveys, is the de facto repository for a multitude of data products essential for basic scientific research. In fact, the GSA is mandated to explore for, characterize, and report Alabama’s mineral, energy, water, and biological resources in support of economic development, conservation, management, and public policy for the betterment of Alabama’s citizens, communities, and businesses. As part of that mandate, the GSA has increasingly been called upon to make our data more accessible to stakeholders. Even as demand for greater data accessibility grows, budgets for such efforts are often small, meaning that agencies must do more for less. For this reason, the GSA is utilizing the idea of "agile curation" to give new life to dark data.

As agile software development has yielded efficient, effective products, most often at lower cost and in shorter time, the GSA is taking guidance from the agile software development manifesto. By using workflows that maximize clear communication while encouraging simplicity (e.g., maximizing the amount of work not done or that can be automated), the GSA is in the process of reviving decades of dark (dead) data. Regular checks by the data rescuer with the data provider (or their proxy) provides quality control without adding an overt burden on either party. Moving forward, these workflows will also allow for more efficient and effective data management.

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