Sabbatical insight : more databases

I have learned many things during this sabbatical and the preparations. But one thing that I am learning from this sabbatical as a sabbatical is that I want to make more databases. I have had an itchy feeling about this for a couple of years now. However, because I have been very happy with my job, I never really addressed the itch. Now that I am working on a database for the turtle researchers at Osa Conservation, and enjoying it so much as I do, I know that it is the road to go for me. I could use your help, though.

Life’s twists and turns

Some decades ago, I decided to quit my studies in computer science, even though I was almost halfway through the program. I felt that learning how to make computer systems was not very meaningful to me. I took the decision within half a day after a lunch talk with a dear friend. It seemed more meaningful to study how computers and society were interrelated, and that is what I set out to do. I got distracted from that specific path, and then again, and then again. Life happened basically. However, during those twists and turns I kept making databases, mostly to support my research and at some time also as part of one-man company to support other people’s research. The science career, one of the last turns that I made, did not work out, and by some miracle I was found by the job that I now have as a research engineer. About half of my time, I spend developing a database for data about Swedish innovations, the SWINNO database.

Short reward cycle

One of the most appealing things about developing databases is the short reward cycle in a couple of dimensions.

1.Firstly, I develop a database that people use and most of the time, they are happy with my work. You should ask them, but I dare even say that they are very happy with it.

2. Secondly, developing a database takes time, but each of the bits and pieces do not take very long. In a couple of days or less, I go through a cycle of let’s build this part, it doesn’t work, hunt the bugs, it does work! Amazing! Simply by the thing working, it gives me a reward as soon as I am done programming!

3. Thirdly, developing a database gets me in my flow in an instant. I forget everything around me, time stops, my brain gets wired and buzzing and suddenly it is past six and time to go home. It is truly addictive.

The job has many other good things about it, like nice and engaging colleagues, being able to still participate a little in research projects and developing some new skills.

Aiming for more

What I am realizing is that I have been working on one-one-and-the-same database for over five years and don’t see so many challenges in it anymore. And while it has been extremely rewarding in many respects, I am now looking for more.

Working on the turtle database, I have come to realize that it is not only developing a database that clicks for me. It is also the excitement of designing a new one, thinking of the needs of the researchers and creating things from scratch again. Plus, last but not least, doing it for sustainability research, in this case the monitoring of the sea turtles nesting.

More databases for sustainability research. But what exactly?

So, so far I learned from this sabbatical that I would like to make more databases for sustainability research. It leaves the question, which ones? That part, I don’t know yet. I just started, after all.

Considering that I am now doing volunteer work for sea turtle researchers, a database for them sounds a good place to start and it is what I am doing. However, it is such a generic database that it could deal with any data, be it research data or not. I will explain this in a separate post.

They also asked me to think about a solution for the problem that different researchers and volunteers enter data in different ways. For sure a database can be a solution for that, but don’t they already exist? It turns out – not surprisingly – that they do. That will yet be another post.

Any suggestions?

I am guessing that for many animal studies, well, any flora, fauna and marine life research there are databases around. Finding a niche there might not be easy. But who knows, sustainability is a broad category, and here, so far I have only been writing about the corner of nature conservation . Do you maybe have any suggestions?

7 thoughts on “Sabbatical insight : more databases

  1. Super interesting post, Frank. Loved reading on what you did, do and plan to do and how the sabbatical reflects on this process. And so nice when you find the flow, regardless if it is on your free time or at work 🙂


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