Christine Kirkpatrick: Candidacy for CODATA Secretary General

This is the twelfth in the series of short statements from candidates in the coming CODATA Elections at the General Assembly to be held on 15-16 November, 2021.  Christine Kirkpatrick is a candidate for the position of CODATA Secretary General. She was nominated by the USA. 

My experience in research computing has included developing infrastructures including distributed storage at scale, and private and hybrid cloud environments, as well as leading or serving on research teams in the Geosciences, Life Sciences, and Social Sciences domains. I remember the moment that I became a data person: I was working with a group of research staff to test an event detection algorithm against a social media dataset. The results were promising, and we wanted to try it against similar datasets to measure improvement in the accuracy of the algorithm. We requested from a close collaborator the data associated with a recent paper and were told that the data was lost – and worse, the researcher was not that concerned as they had already published the paper. 

In my role as Division Director of Research Data Services for the San Diego Supercomputer Center, I see up close the struggle and promise of our current approaches to mine data out of vast and heterogeneous stores of bits. When I walk the rows of machines in the data center and survey the Petabytes of storage under our care, I wonder how many answers to the challenges we face as a society lay behind the blinking lights. If data was collected, annotated, and stored in a way that was easier to access, how much quicker could scientists contribute to the mysteries of our origins, and toward the harmony, equity, and wellness of all living things and our planet, as well as discoveries about what lies beyond our galaxy? Organizations like CODATA play a key role in the advancement of the mission to mine insights from existing and ever growing data. CODATA represents a multi-national and multi-sector community, providing a forum for global exchange and advancement of data-driven scientific inquiry.  CODATA serves as an important partner in the Data Together initiative co-hosting and co-leading initiatives with the World Data System (WDS), the Research Data Alliance (RDA), and GO FAIR. I will bring to the role of Secretary General a commitment to engage with the community, to seek mutual understanding of membership’s perspectives, and to be accessible to members to help and advocate for their needs.