Good Systems Humanist-in-the-Loop: Responsible Data Operations and Workforce Development in Libraries, Archives, and Museums




Clement, Tanya E.
Gustavson, Andi
Guzman, Allyssa
Moore, Nathan Alexander
Walker, Lauren

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Cultural heritage institutions are increasingly interested in data practices, machine learning (ML), and artificial intelligence (AI) but are far from being able to use these practices ethically, efficiently, and cost-effectively. Without informational professionals trained in ethical data work, libraries and archives run the risk of replicating bias with new data-oriented practices. While graduate students in schools of information and library science are trained in the importance of digital cultural heritage and critical data studies and graduate students in the humanities are trained in the ethics of archival research, neither groups are given first-hand experience providing access to collections and engaging directly with data projects. It is imperative that we train a workforce of information professionals who will, in their future careers, be prepared to make ethical decisions about the data practices that shape our world.

The “Humanist-in-the-Loop” project, funded by the Good Systems grand challenge at UT Austin is a first-step attempt to create a workforce development program called “Ethical Data in Practice” for future library and archives professionals that teaches them to engage in the work of “responsible data operations” (Thomas. 2019). A program of this type is an attempt to immerse Masters of Science in Information Science (MSIS) students in cultural heritage work—training them to teach with cultural heritage collections, communicate to non-specialist audiences about collections as data, and to work on data-oriented projects. This white paper details the work the Humanist-in-the-Loop team engaged to prepare this proposed curriculum as well as the pitfalls we encountered in its pursuit.



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