Introducing Aleks

Meet Aleks, our resident archaeologist who brings a passion for uncovering history to help shape the future of research data stewardship at the University and beyond. Here we learn about Aleks’ journey to, in, and around her new MDAP ‘digs’.

Welcome Aleks! Can you please tell us a bit about your career trajectory so far, and what led you to pursue research data stewardship?

Thanks, Jo! I have ended up in research data stewardship in a roundabout way, which seems usual for this newly emerging academic specialisation.

I completed a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Classics, a Masters degree in Classics, and a Doctoral degree in Archaeology. Since 2008 I have participated in archaeological excavations in Georgia, an incredible and life-changing experience, and one which has allowed me to work side by side with specialists from many fields and on varied data.

I also worked for the Faculty of Arts Research Office, largely on research grants, which has helped me further understand the needs of researchers. I’ve had a longstanding interest in computational approaches within the humanities and social sciences, especially as a means by which to develop new knowledge from existing data.

And I have always loved collaborative research – I was really attracted to the prospect of data-intensive research not only in the humanities, but also in the sciences, technology, engineering, and medical domains.

A dream scene for Aleks in Chobareti, Georgia where she has worked with the Georgian-Australian Investigations in Archaeology (GAIA) international collaboration, together with the Georgian National Museum, and other partners over the years to uncover human history just below the surface. Image: Dr. Aleks Michalewicz

Tell us about an interesting or challenging problem in your time with MDAP.

I started in February, so not that long ago, but a lot has happened since then… Luckily, I was in the office for a month before we started working from home, so I got to meet my excellent colleagues in person.

Working in MDAP requires the agility to be or get across multiple domains and disciplines – simultaneously challenging and rewarding; indeed, to learn new things every day is a great privilege.

Broadly speaking, the highlight has been liaising with University scholars and helping to make a meaningful impact on their research. A specific example has been contributing to the Indigenous Data Network’s work in developing an Indigenous data governance framework, which is essential to safeguarding First Nations data sovereignty.

In the last couple of weeks, the team has commenced working on new collaborations with researchers at the University, so plenty of interesting and challenging projects unfold!

What are some of the solvable, difficult, and wicked problems on your horizon?

Especially in the current climate, scholars are under so much pressure to secure research funding and to produce world-class research outputs and outcomes. One aspect of research data stewardship within data-intensive research is to function as a facilitator. This requires knowledge of University infrastructure and computing capabilities, individual researcher needs, and international, national and in-house data management protocols.

Working with colleagues in MDAP and across the University to help implement best practices in terms of research design, analysis, interpretation and management of data assets, and additionally to contribute to this research, is a great ‘problem’ to have.

Drawing parallels between archaeology and research data stewardship: Aleks says that both require collaboration, persistence, and ‘a long game’ mindset. Pictured: an elite settlement and cemetery site at Armazishevi in Mtskheta, Georgia where Aleks and her collaborators worked on Hellenistic to Late Antique cultural materials that help tell multiple histories of the region. Image: Dr. Aleks Michalewicz

Can you tell us about your latest adventure or next planned one outside of MDAP?

Who knows when we will be able to travel again, but my family lives overseas and I hope to see them sooner rather than later – and of course I am super keen for further archaeological fieldwork seasons! Alongside MDAP, I am working with colleagues on a co-edited volume about Australasian perspectives on digital archaeology.

In the context of a rapidly evolving global environment and UoM’s research strategy, what would you most like to explore, challenge, or innovate in your work in the future?

I’m really excited about a continued and sustained focus on research at the intersection of disciplines and methodologies.

Stewardship is a new area globally — not only within the university sector but also in government and industry.

We (at MDAP) are working to help define the direction of research data stewardship, and the ‘third space’ of data-intensive research, globally.

So, beyond the immediate objective of collaborating with University scholars on their research, MDAP is truly innovative for research development and future directions.