‘Love Data Week’ is in Full Swing. Here’s How to Participate

Love Data Week? A whole week of loving data? Data about love? Is love-data a new research area? My curiosity was piqued as I looked on Twitter at a call for Love Data Week 2023 Planning Committee members. As someone who works on an international microdata project with the mission of promoting the importance and availability of data to researchers and policymakers, I volunteered. And over the past several months, I have been amazed and inspired at the history, community, and impact of this annual celebration. 

Love Data Week (LDW) is an annual international celebration dedicated to raising awareness about data literacy, and to building a community interested in learning about—and resolving—issues related to data. The week hits on a wide range of topics including research data management, data sharing, preservation, reuse, dissemination, and library-based research services. Participating institutions and individual attendees connect via social media and at locally hosted celebrations both in person and online. Participation can be as simple as following the engagement on Twitter and Instagram (#LoveData23 and @LoveDataWeek), or more involved such as planning local activities. 

Topics are reflective of contemporary data interests and issues—data privacy, data ethics, data visualization, data management, qualitative coding, mapping and GIS data, accessing unique data collections, data in the context of climate change, romantic relationships, race, and human disasters. The calendar of events for 2023’s LDW, which runs from Feb. 13 to Feb 17, is available online—and most are held virtually and are open to anyone. 

Assorted posters touting Love Data Week 2023, provided by universities and libraries that are hosting and participating in the events.
Assorted posters touting Love Data Week 2023, provided by universities and libraries that are hosting and participating in the events.

LDW began at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) in 2016 as a Valentine’s Day (week) initiative coordinated by Heather Coates, a data management librarian at the school. The week was an opportunity to promote organizers’ own data services, data collections, and library resources. Originally branded as ‘Love Your Data Week’, the official name was changed in 2018 to Love Data Week, and has grown dramatically, both nationally and internationally. 

Participation has surged from 30 institutions in 2016 to over 200 internationally. And the interest has expanded over that time, too, from academic libraries and research centers in the United States to a broader group that now includes data centers, researchers, policy makers, archives, and more! (For a peek at the event’s humble roots, you can dig around the week’s archived web pages.)

In late 2020, the original organizers of LDW initiated discussions to relocate and centralize the week’s coordination and planning activities. As a result of these discussions, the University of Michigan’s Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) volunteered to host going forward. Due to the global pandemic, LDW participation in 2021 decreased slightly as local events shifted from in-person to online. At the same time, however, LDW’s outreach expanded with the help of ICPSR, the celebration’s new home. Online exposure and awareness of LDW increased, and that year’s virtual events reached wider audiences. 

Today, LDW is an event for everyone regardless of expertise or experience in data-focused work, and allows for the open interpretation of “what is data?” It remains at its core a celebration of data that leverages social media for fostering a global community and inspiring participating institutions to host activities for building local community. The Planning Committee, primarily made up of data-focused and resource librarians, has become more diversified and now includes outreach specialists, graphic designers, archivists, learning specialists, and IT experts. 

Annual themes for the event have included Data Quality (2017), Data Stories (2018), Data in Everyday Life (2019), Data: Delivering a Better Future (2021), and Data is for Everyone (2022). The theme for this year’s celebration is Data: Agent of Change. It was inspired by a 2021 content analysis of LDW events, in which the authors noted: 

Topics in the current cultural zeitgeist featured strongly, with events containing elements of data ethics or social justice, or COVID-19, or (in some cases) both. While a cynic could suggest a desire to leverage these topics for user engagement, or simple virtue signaling, one could conversely argue an awareness among data librarians of the need for change, and a willingness to undertake some part of this work. The use of data as an agent of change, though, is one bearing discussion—perhaps as a topic for next year’s Love Data Week. 

The “love” for data is reflected in the more than 100 upcoming synchronous and asynchronous, in-person and online workshops, panels, interactive games, panels, and lectures taking place around the world in recognition of LDW. I have shared my excitement for this year’s events with my colleagues and we are looking forward to becoming part of the community via the events and active social media interactions. There are ways to participate at any level of involvement. On behalf of this year’s Planning Committee, I invite you to discover all that is Love Data Week! 

Welcome to the community! 

Editor’s Note: Patricia Condon at the University of New Hampshire contributed to this article.

Jane Lee
IPUMS at the University of Minnesota