Bridging the Data Talent Gap: Positioning the iSchool as an Agent for Change

  • Liz Lyon
  • Aaron Brenner


This paper examines the role, functions and value of the “iSchool” as an agent of change in the data informatics and data curation arena. A brief background to the iSchool movement is given followed by a brief review of the data decade, which highlights key data trends from the iSchool perspective: open data and open science, big data and disciplinary data diversity. The growing emphasis on the shortage of data talent is noted and a family of data science roles identified. The paper moves on to describe three primary functions of iSchools: education, research intelligence and professional practice, which form the foundations of a new Capability Ramp Model. The model is illustrated by mini-case studies from the School of Information Sciences, University of Pittsburgh: the immersive (laboratory-based) component of two new Research Data Management and Research Data Infrastructures graduate courses, a new practice partnership with the University Library System centred on RDM, and the mapping of disciplinary data practice using the Community Capability Model Profile Tool. The paper closes with a look to the future and, based on the assertion that data is mission-critical for iSchools, some steps are proposed for the next data decade: moving data education programs into the mainstream core curriculum, adopting a translational data science perspective and strengthening engagement with the Research Data Alliance.

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