Data Curation

Businesses work with around 120 trillion gigabytes of data to guide their decision-making in 2023, and that figure will likely rise to over 180 trillion by 2025. With so much data to gather, process, and analyze, how do businesses find scalable ways to take advantage of those insights?

And what do they do when most of that information is unstructured, unorganized, and inconsistent with regards to quality? The curation of data is necessary for data scientists and engineers to pull out useful analytics effectively, and it doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming, assuming you have the right tools and policies for the job.

How Does Data Curation Work?

Data curation is an umbrella term for all the procedures and tactics businesses use to clean up their data and make it suitable for research purposes. It essentially makes data accurate, accessible, and useful by managing:

  • Data identification and gathering
  • Data cleansing and organization
  • Metadata management
  • Data security, access management, and legal compliance

The goal of these tasks is to help decision-makers draw insights from the data more quickly.

What Do Data Curators Do in a Company?

A data curator is an invaluable position in any company that relies on data-driven insights. Curators are usually teams of data analysts, engineers, and scientists coming from various domains. Their responsibilities range from:

  • Managing data– Curators decide how a business identifies, stores, and accesses its data.
  • Providing context– Data curation also involves data cleansing and other services to make data easier to use, such as generating metadata to accompany certain sets.
  • Handling technical and administrative tasks– Curators may work with data directly within databases and decide on an organizational level how to process large amounts of data.
  • Bringing specific knowledge to the table– Based on their expertise, they are often subject matter experts for the type of data they manage.

Data curators don’t operate alone. While their job revolves primarily around datasets, a similar but distinct role is the database administrator, who focuses primarily on the more technical side with database management. There’s also the data steward, who handles an organization’s data roadmap and overall strategy.

How Does Data Curation Differ From Data Management?

Data management is another business function that refers to how companies interact with data throughout its lifecycle. Curation contributes to management by making data a more valuable resource for discovery and analysis.

How Curated Data Makes Data Management Easier

Why quality data leads to more efficient decision-making should be obvious, but businesses that practice data curation strategies have specific advantages. Curated data:

  • Helps companies get more value out of their data.
  • Makes an organization compliant with data security practices.
  • Reduces monetary and labor costs associated with storing data in the long term.
  • Enhances productivity by giving decision-makers the information they need more quickly.

When management doesn’t need to waste time preparing and cleaning up data, they can capitalize on its insights more readily.

The Processes Data Curation Entails

What does the to-do list of a data curator look like? Curation covers several aspects of data lifecycle management.

  • Acquisition– Curators are responsible for acquiring data from relevant databases and other sources. The right dataset is suitable for what the company intends to accomplish with it, even if the set is imperfect and requires cleaning first.
  • Cleansing– Curators also modify the dataset to make it more applicable for the business’s use case. Raw data often contains errors, duplicates, and inconsistent formatting (especially if the data comes from multiple sources). Curators must resolve these issues to maximize the productivity of data analysis.
  • Organizing– Even cleaned data is easier to sift through when you organize it first. A curator might choose meaningful categories based on the source or type of the data.
  • Accessibility– Stakeholders across the company can find value in these datasets, so setting up tools and APIs to enable accessibility should be the next priority.
  • Protection– The curation task also includes preserving the data for long-term storage. Archiving data and protecting it with digital security features will ensure the data remains valuable to the business in the future.

How Professional Data Curators Use Tools To Their Advantage

Data curation’s role in maximizing the value businesses get out of their data is so critical that dedicated data curation tools have arisen to assist data management initiatives. These tools aim to:

  • Search for relevant data– Through detailed searches, keyword recognition, and sorting filters, curation tools discover the most relevant data the business needs the most.
  • Improve data quality– Digital tools excel at standardizing and cleaning large pools of data. They also help with tags, descriptions, and other metadata to provide context into each data point.
  • Audit data compliance– Today’s data management procedures are complicated and involve multiple professionals. If errors do come up, curation tools can identify their root causes by setting up a paper trail.