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Blog

A blog about databases for research

Some posts or series of posts have been worked into bigger pages, which are listed below.

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Sea Turtle Research Databases

An overview of existing sea turtle research databases, which I made as part of my volunteer work for Osa Conservation (Costa Rica). The sea turtle program was wondering if there is a way to harmonize how different volunteers and how different generations of volunteers collect their data. Obviously, I could imaging a database tool for that but perhaps such tools already exist. Indeed they do.

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Table stitching : a solution to a common problem

During my 2020 sabbatical in Costa Rica, the sea turtle researchers at Osa Conservation asked me to solve a problem. Over the past decade, they have created multiple tables with data about sea turtles and their nests. Now, they want to bring them together in one table. However, the files have become differently structured over time. I am sure that many other researchers and organizations recognize this problem. On this page, I describe the problem in detail, and I introduce the database solution that I developed.

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SINNO

Search before adding

After having worked in academic research for 15 years, I started working as a ‘research engineer’ at the department of Economic History at Lund University. About half of my time, I spend developing a relational database that contains data about Swedish innovations. You can find a short overview of the features of this database here, and the project website here.

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Choice of software depends on data structure

Many researchers take the tools of their trade as a natural choice. However, there is nothing natural about even the simplest text editor. It’s also not that long ago that the average historian saw the point of using a computer. One of the arguments that should inform the choice of software comes from the data and the structure of the data that is necessary to answer a research question. On this page, I am presenting some examples and explain what I think should be the choice of software for each of them.

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Your data hub

Graph of a data hub with a relational database at the center

You’re likely to just start making your data with whatever software seems ‘natural’ to you. However, hold on for a moment, and consider the near future of your research project. Your table, notebook, network graph, or what have you, may quickly turn into a data hub. Continue reading here.

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Book review: Michael J. Hernandez ‘Database design for mere mortals’

Many software manuals and help-functions are written in the format ‘If you want to do X, you need to click this button. If you want to do Y, you need to select option this-or-that’. This is why software manuals can be useless to beginners: they don’t explain why you would want to do X or Y. This book tells you all about that. It teaches you how to design a relational database, rather than how some database software package works. Read the review here.

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Book review: Bella Martin and Bruce Hanington, ‘Universal methods of design’

If you are designing software, database systems, websites or other digital stuff, this book deserves your attention. The book describes ‘100 Ways to research complex problems, develop innovative ideas, and design effective solutions.’ as its subtitle claims. Organized alphabetically, each method receives two pages of attention. More tagging and indexing to make the book better accessible would be nice extras, but that does not take away that, as it is, it already is a good read and a treasure trove of design methods. Perhaps not all methods apply to your needs, wishes and circumstances as a designer, but those may change and as long as they don’t, I am sure there will be some interesting methods for you left worth exploring. Read the entire review here.

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