Tartan Datascapes is a blog featuring snapshots of the data landscape across the entire Carnegie Mellon University campus, including students, staff, and faculty from the College of Fine Arts to the School of Computer Science. Each installment of Tartan Datascapes features an individual researcher or research team, highlighting how their work contributes to the broader datascapes of CMU, as well as special features on tools and educational opportunities at CMU Libraries to support research data management. Our students, staff, and faculty from across the spectrum of domains are doing amazing work with data at our institution, and Tartan Datascapes is a great place to read about this work!

Featured with each blog are quick tips for managing your data through research data management (RDM) techniques, and information on how the University Libraries can assist you with your myriad data needs through workshops, outreach, and consultations!

For more information about Tartan Datascapes or to request a feature of your research, teaching, or coursework, please contact Dr. Hannah Gunderman, Research Data Management Consultant, at

Exploring Teaching with Data and Big Data Research at CMU

Hey Datascapers! Full disclosure: today’s blog post is going to be short and sweet, as a transformer blew in our neighborhood causing everyone to lose power, so I’m working against the clock (i.e. my computer battery) to make sure readers get their regularly scheduled, high-quality Tartan Datascapes content! It’s going to be a tough job, but it’s worth it for all you awesome readers.

How Jerry Garcia Helped Me Learn Better Data Management: Tips and Tricks for RDM

Image Description: The Grateful Dead at the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco, October 9, 1980 from Chris Stone. Features three men on a stage playing guitars, and two men in the background playing drums. Image licensed for reuse through Wikimedia Commons.

I want to tell the story of my own personal data management disaster. The year is 2013. It’s a Friday night, and I am in the GIS (Geographic Information Science) Lab at the University of Wyoming, where I am working on my Master of Arts in Geography/Environment and Natural Resources. My thesis is due in a week, and I am trying as quickly as I can to make the maps that my advisor has requested to be included in the thesis. I’m tired. I’ve got some tea with me, but the caffeine isn’t helping anymore.

CMU Files Comments on Public Access to Taxpayer-Funded Research

A bright yellow lemon in front of a yellow background.

If I gave you $100 to build a lemonade stand, it is reasonable that I would want to see the finished product to know how the money was spent. Further, if that $100 was given to me by members of our neighborhood, it is also reasonable that they might want to see the finished lemonade stand too! This is the premise of open science (or, more broadly, open research). 

Yes, a Plant Can Totally be a Dataset: Takeaways from the Spring 2020 Course “Discovering the Data Universe”

An aerial, nighttime photograph of the Gulf of Mexico showing electricity usage patterns across the area.

The last time I talked about the “Discovering the Data Universe” course on Tartan Datascapes (check it out here if you missed it!), my colleague Dr. Emma Slayton (Data Curation, Visualization, and GIS Specialist at CMU Libraries) and I were in the final stages of planning the course.

Comic Books as Data: Dr. Felipe Gómez and the Latin American Comics Archive

Think back to the last time you read a comic book. How did you do it? Did you read it straight through from the first page to the last page? Did you first skim through it to get a general idea of the content? The last comic book I read was the manga Paradise Kiss (it’s brilliant, if you haven’t read it!), and I read it in the same way that I read all other comic books: I read the text in the speech bubbles and look at the illustrations in the panels. Most people reading this blog probably read comic books in a similar way!

Researcher Highlight: Slayton and Benner Ethnographically Explore the Role of Libraries in Geography and GIS Education

Image description: several paper maps showing roads, bodies of water, and place names for different geographical areas. Photo credit to Annie Spratt of Unsplash.

At Tartan Datascapes, one of my goals is to expand how we think about data - how they are collected, what they look like, and how we organize them. While I love all types of data, I have a special place in my heart for ethnographic data. Ethnographic data come from ethnographies, a research method which involves collecting data through conversations and observations with other groups.

Fill Out Those Surveys! How Survey Data Informs and Enhances Green Dot Training at CMU

In this week's installment of Tartan Datascapes, I want to talk about survey data. Have you ever received a follow-up survey after you’ve gone to a workshop or an event? Be honest - do you fill it out? If your answer to the second question is no, I’m not here to shame you (promise!), but I am here to show you how those surveys can be very useful data sources for the people who sent them to you!

Doctor Who, Political Facebook Posts, and Coming Clean about my Data Management History

Hi Datascapers - I'll refrain from saying "I hope everyone is doing well!" as I feel it's a bit of cold comfort right now. It's perfectly valid to not be doing well right now, and to be feeling a host of emotions. Did you know that Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPs) at CMU has some special resources for navigating emotions around COVID-19? Click here to learn more about the ways you can find support.

YYYY-MM-DD - My Declaration of Love for ISO 8601

How’s everyone doing? Lately, I’ve been trying out different songs to sing while I wash my hands, and as someone who spent so much time living in lovely East Tennessee (Go Vols!), I’m thrilled that the chorus of “Jolene” by Dolly Parton is exactly 20 seconds. Here’s a Twitter thread with a list of other songs with 20 second choruses: