A team of undergraduate researchers, Tyler Netherly ’20, Madison Trout ’20, and Elizabeth Bell ’20, worked with their research mentor, Dr. Dennis Buckmaster in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, to publish their data “Combined annual crop yields and daily weather data for Midwest counties 1970-2015” in the Purdue University Research Repository (PURR).
Tyler is pursuing majors in mathematics and statistics with a minor in economics. Elizabeth and Madison are both pursuing majors in actuarial science and applied statistics. Their research included using publicly available crop and weather data to find patterns, draw correlations, and make models to predict future yields.
PURR is a data management tool for all Purdue researchers. It is an online, collaborative work space and data-sharing platform to support Purdue researchers and their collaborators. All of the data sets that PURR publishes are freely available to the public. PURR is a great resource for students who need to find data to use in their schoolwork, or for those who want to get a feel for what data look like in their field of study.
Sandi Caldrone, the PURR Data Repository Outreach Specialist, said, “PURR supports the research data lifecycle from start to finish with resources for data management planning, online private file sharing space for active research, and data publication and archiving for completed research.”
Students can use their Purdue credentials to log in and start their own research project, but logging in is not required to view published datasets. Caldrone said, “When you start a project, PURR allocates 100GB of private file storage space that you can use to share files with your collaborators, even if they are not at Purdue.”
When your research is finished, you can choose which files you would like to publish. Researchers can publish their data to accompany a research poster or conference presentation, to fulfill grant requirements, or because they believe in the value of open data. There are many online data repositories, but the benefit with using PURR is that they have professional staff on campus to help you. According to Caldrone, Netherly, Trout, and Bell are the first undergraduate researchers with a publication in PURR.
Netherly enjoys a challenge, especially one that has not been solved before. “Solving problems involves having to truly understand the underlying research and being able to ask intelligent questions that can help point to a solution.” Bell enjoyed how she had freedom with their research to go in any direction they wanted.
When asked what advice they would give to students interested in pursuing undergraduate research, Netherly said, “Do not do it unless you plan on putting in the work. At Purdue, everyone is busy all the time. Being busy is not an excuse when it comes to working on research; it should be a priority right up with your coursework.”
Bell said, “Go for it and email anyone who you would be interested in working with and ensure you communicate well.” Bell encourages those in undergraduate research to use PURR if it is applicable to their project. “Look into what PURR can provide and see if it would be a good resource for your project,” she said. “It is very easy to use, so don’t be afraid to use it.”
This work of Netherly, Bell, and Trout was an extension of the work of the Open Ag Technology and Systems (OATS) Center at Purdue University (https://oatscenter.org). Drs. Buckmaster and James Krogmeier of Electrical and Computer Engineering launched the OATS Center with support from the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research and industry collaborators to bring open source solutions to agriculture with the aim to improve rate of innovation and interoperability in digital agriculture. This published data effort is an example of sharing work so that others can build from that point rather than start “from scratch.”
The Office of Undergraduate Research is available to collaborate with faculty who want to start or enhance undergraduate research opportunities for students and to support students to locate, apply, and succeed at research opportunities. If you are interested in looking for data examples in PURR, sample datasets are available on their website: https://guides.lib.purdue.edu/sampledatasets. You can also contact PURR at email@example.com.