Virtual Data Center Offers Access to Statistical Research

Virtual Data Center Offers Access to Statistical Research

Boston College's new Virtual Data Center [] aids statistical research across disciplines by consolidating access to data collections and analytical software.

This "virtual collection" of data, software and services is a collaborative venture of the University Libraries and Academic Technology Services that provides in one place information needed for quantitative research and instruction.

For example, a faculty member seeking information on female literacy rates throughout the Third World over the last 10 years would be directed to the appropriate dataset from Quest, and need only point and click to assemble and download the desired information.

Contributing partners include the center's manager, Barbara Mento, Ted Gaiser, director of research and instructional technology services, and Assoc. Prof. Christopher Baum (Economics), moderator of the Faculty Microcomputer Resource Center.

"The provision of these services enhances the quality of both instruction and research at Boston College across a wide variety of academic disciplines," Baum said.

"Traditionally, library professionals have helped their clients find the resources they seek, and technology professionals have helped them with the technical details of working with the data," he said. "Both BC Libraries and ATS staff continue to provide that personal support to members of the academic community. But as students and faculty become more accustomed to being able to locate information via the Web, it is much more effective to augment the personal support available 9-5 Monday through Friday with online resources that are accessible 24-7 to the academic community.

"To that end, we have implemented a catalog of Statistical Data Resources within the familiar Quest framework, and web pages linked to the catalog providing the additional detail that users of statistical data need to access and effectively use these resources. We have also placed many of the most widely used datasets into a relational database system, accessible from a web browser, which permits the user to select and download data in a plain-text format."

Mento added: "We also work with faculty to customize data and deliver it via the web. An online form invites faculty to recommend datasets to be added to the collection. The web site also directs faculty and students to appropriate support services, information on statistical software and contact information to request classroom presentations on data access. In addition to making data accessible from a web browser, we provide links to documentation in electronic format whenever possible."

-Mark Sullivan


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