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Staff Spotlight: Cheryl Thompson

A headshot of Cheryl Thompson.Today, Cheryl Thompson supports the Data Archive team as a Research Data Archivist, but it isn’t her first time working for the Odum Institute. As an undergraduate student, she worked on the Southern Focus Poll as a telephone interviewer, and later joined the Archive staff as a graduate assistant while pursuing her master’s degree.

After growing up in a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Thompson studied Psychology and Sociology at UNC-CH, where she pursued her interest in social psychology and why people do what they do. Following her graduation, she worked on a number of well-funded research projects at UNC as either a Research Assistant, Data Manager or Project Manager, including time spent at the UNC Institute on Aging and the Sheps Center for Health Services Research.

This work often revolved around data quality, data management, and preservation, and led Thompson to her graduate studies in Information Science. She received her master’s from UNC’s School of Information and Library Science and a PhD from the University of Illinois.

In her current role as a Research Data Archivist, she says her role can be broken down by its name:

  • Research: Verification of results service that Odum performs for journals to ensure reproducibility and research integrity
  • Data: Supporting quality data services for social research through data consultations, trainings, and support of data infrastructure development
  • Archivist: Curating datasets to support discovery and future use


She is a qualitative researcher at heart, supporting qualitative data archiving at Odum and serving as the institutional member contact for the Qualitative Data Repository (QDR).

Since returning to Odum, Thompson says she’s learned a lot about research reproducibility, especially the social-technical challenges in computational reproducibility — or using the same data, inputs, and code to obtain research results. She has also become more interested in understanding the costs and benefits of verification audits in the research process.

Looking forward, Thompson is proud of her work with the upcoming Dorothea Dix Hospital History Initiative, a collection of early records of the Dorothea Dix Hospital, the first asylum in North Carolina. It’s a collection of patient records, case reports, admission ledgers, and other documents that should be of interest to several research disciplines.

“Given the topic of early asylum patients, it has presented challenges in thinking through the ethical and legal considerations of how to make these records available – what to put online, what to redact, and balancing protecting patients and utility of these data.”

On a day-to-day basis, Thompson’s schedule includes journal verification work, development of archival collections, and the occasional consultation with a student or researcher on finding, managing, or sharing data.

In her free time, Cheryl loves hiking and spending time outdoors. She spent her honeymoon hiking through Ecuador, and finds peace in nature, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. She’s also taken up gardening and frequent baking with her family since she began to work from home.

Although she misses the daily interactions she had with students and staff stopping by her office, she continues to stay connected with her peers on Slack and in Zoom meetings as she supports the social science research community.


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