Elizabeth Dobbins explores research transparency and data accessibility at ACEP

Elizabeth Dobbins
Photo by Yuri Bult-Ito/ACEP.
Liz Dobbins, a data analysis lead of ACEP’s Data and Cyberinfrastructure Management team, stands in front of Klara Maisch’s artwork, which, to her, symbolizes her switch from oceanography to energy.

May 17, 2024
By Yuri Bult-Ito

Eilzabeth “Liz” Dobbins joined ACEP a few months ago as one of the three leads of the growing Data and Cyberinfrastructure Management team. Dobbins heads the data analysis group while Will Fisher and John Haverlack head the cyberinfrastructure and information security groups, respectively.

Dobbins’ work focuses on overall data management and best practices regarding data storage and publication. She works with researchers on data management plans for their research proposals to funding agencies and helps them find appropriate repositories for their data when the research is concluded.

In addition, Dobbins works to improve data processing workflows within DCM to facilitate reproducible research — the idea that scientific analyses are published with data and processing code so that others may verify the findings and build upon them. For example, Dobbins and her team are working to formalize the processing of Alaska electricity data to ensure that errors in the team’s data set can be detected and corrected with minimum effort.

Dobbins is also interested in open science — a movement to make scientific research and its outputs more transparent, accessible and collaborative. She made a presentation this year on this topic, “The Case for Open Science in Energy Research.”

“It’s been a complicated life, picking up weird little skills that seem to apply magically to my next job,” Dobbins laughs.

Dobbin’s path is more like a tree in fertile soil growing healthy branches and bearing fruits.

Dobbins brings valuable skills and experience from her broad background to ACEP. She has a B.A. in physics from Eastern Washington University and an M.S. in physical oceanography from the University of Washington.

For most of her nearly 30 years in oceanography, she has performed data collection and processing, including work at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, and UAF’s College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. She has also managed aspects of the Northern Gulf of Alaska Long Term Ecological Research project at UAF as a program facilitator, developed web pages and written scripts that display data on web pages in real time.

In the private sector, she has worked at a digital map start-up in Portland, Oregon, and written Python scripts that harvested and transformed oceanographic data from online sources for the data portal system of Axiom Data Science.

For Dobbins, switching from oceanography to energy has been a big learning process. And as someone who enjoys learning new things, she is glad she joined ACEP and made that shift.

“Liz has extensive oceanographic and environmental data sets background and profound expertise in data cataloging and metadata. I am delighted that she has chosen to join the ACEP team and lead our data program,” said Dayne Broderson, administrator of the Alaska Regional Collaboration for Technology Innovation and Commercialization, or ARCTIC, program at ACEP and who is also on ACEP’s data team.

“Her unique skills and experience will be invaluable to our research programs as we navigate the complex challenges of coordinating with federal, state and local government partners to develop the data products and platforms we need for Alaska's energy data,” he said.

Having lived in Fairbanks for 15 years, Dobbins delights in a small-community life where she can be involved in choirs and non-profit boards.

“You have to make your own fun in Fairbanks,” she said.

She enjoys helping and watching things grow — from seeing how her children’s interests develop as they mature, to gardening and growing food for her family, including raising her family’s own chickens at home.