Research data and libraries


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Tony Hey is interesting. A distinguished physicist and computer scientist, he is currently on secondment to run a major UK e-science initiative, putting many millions of pounds into grid computing, data management and other large-scale infrastructure for science. In a recent interview he expresses impatience with libraries who, he reckons, should be doing more to support the data needs of research.

Some of that impatience shows itself in frustration with academic librarians who, he thinks, are in danger of missing the boat. They should be preparing for their future role, as curators to universities’ digitised intellectual property. That includes managing databases of research data, he says, even if the individuals who did the research moved on long ago. Why, given the crying need for their data management skills, are librarians not planning for the future and leading initiatives to develop metadata schemas for scientific research data….

That’s why Professor Hey thinks that digital curation and interoperability issues should be so much higher up the agenda, why he despairs of what he sees as the limited vision of the Consortium of University Research Libraries and the Research Support Libraries Group report (it looked primarily at books and printed resources). Jisc, he feels, has got to grips with the issues – but the librarians who understand what is at stake are not the budget holders. There needs to be a huge rethink, and a reallocation of resources….

‘I am not anti-library. I just feel that there are some technological trends that are inevitable. Putting one’s head in the sand is no way to approach them. There needs to be a national debate.’ [Why engage in e-science?]


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