Supporting research data management needs

Lorcan 3 min read

Several recent reports discuss the evolving environment of institutional research data management with particular reference to library issues. Here is a list, with a quote from each and a comment or two.
Skills, Role & Career Structure of Data Scientists & Curators: Assessment of Current Practice & Future Needs. Alma Swan & Sheridan Brown (Key Perspectives Ltd) [summary page][full report PDF]
In some ways, I found this the most interesting of the crop as it provided some new perspectives for me. The aim was to consider education and career paths for those involved in data curation activities. One of the interesting outputs is a definition of some terms which correspond to different roles.

  • Data Creator Researchers with domain expertise who produce data. These people may have a high level of expertise in handling, manipulating and using data
  • Data Scientist People who work where the research is carried out – or, in the case of data centre personnel, in close collaboration with the creators of the data – and may be involved in creative enquiry and analysis, enabling others to work with digital data, and developments in data base technology
  • Data Manager Computer scientists, information technologists or information scientists and who take responsibility for computing facilities, storage, continuing access and preservation of data
  • Data Librarian People originating from the library community, trained and specialising in the curation, preservation and archiving of data

[Skills, Role & Career Structure of Data Scientists & Curators: Assessment of Current Practice & Future Needs : JISC]

Identifying Factors of Success in CIC Institutional Repository Development – Final Report. Carole Palmer; Lauren C Teffeau; Mark P Newton. [summary page][full report PDF]
Here is how this report is characterised by the authors: “This case study documents the investments and progress being made at three operational IRs at doctoral research institutions to provide a provisional baseline for determining realistic goals and promising approaches for IR development at similar institutions.”
Palmer and her colleagues at the Center for Informatics Research in Science and Scholarship at UIUC have assembled considerable research capacity in this area, and are doing major work to explore the evolving intersections of information management and changing research behaviors.
This is the report of a year long comparative study of institutional repository development at three CIC institutions. Interestingly, in light of the Swan/Brown study, a major part of the analysis is around the various roles that have emerged to support development, management, policy and liaison issues. (Note: see Dorothea Salo’s favorable review of the report.)

Within the cases, there were strong indications that IRs can make important contributions to scholarship, particularly in solving specific information visibility, management, or access problems experienced by faculty. At the same time, some of the assumed benefits of IRs are perceived as redundant by scholars who practice other forms of open access dissemination, or are considered risky by the standards of some disciplinary cultures. In general, the basic aims of universities in investing in IRs—to collect, preserve, and provide access to their research output—seem misleadingly simplistic compared to what IRs are actually attempting to accomplish, and what they will need to do to identify and successfully implement functions that are not redundant or risky and of high value to faculty. While the cases show lower levels of participation by humanities faculty and academic units, the traditional role of the research library as the laboratory for humanities scholarship is recognized, but exploration of the potential for IRs to better support humanities research processes has not yet been prioritized. [Identifying Factors of Success in CIC Institutional Repository Development – Final Report. PDF]

No brief candle: reconceiving research libraries for the 21st Century. CLIR. August 2008. [summary page][full report HTML PDF]
This report comprises papers from a CLIR Symposium held in early 2008. The closer engagement of the library in changing research and learning behaviors was a consistent theme, as was the emergence of a variety of institutional data issues. And this is a central concern of Rick Luce’s contribution: A New Value Equation Challenge: The Emergence of eResearch and Roles for Research Libraries. As might be expected from such an event, the focus is on broad forward-looking service and policy issues.
Ithaka’s 2006 studies of key stakeholders in the digital transformation of higher education. August 18 2008. Ross Housewright and Roger Schonfeld. [summary page][full report PDF]
This white paper reports findings from Ithaka studies of researcher attitudes to information management and sources. There is also some polling of librarian attitudes. The studies were carried out in 2000, 2003 and 2006, so this report charts changes in that time. The focus is on published materials although there is one section on what the report calls ‘digital repositories’.

Still, the vast majority – almost two-thirds – of faculty members are not even sure if their institution has a digital repository and less than a third of those aware of a campus digital repository report having ever contributed content to it. It is clear that these repositories have not become embedded in faculty workflows; in fact, many faculty are not even aware of their existence. Faculty of all different disciplines and across different size institutions were relatively equally unaware if their institution has a repository.Based on these findings, in the absence of mandates or strong campus-wide leadership commitments, we do not foresee institutional repositories yielding a transformative influence on the business side of journal publishing. Other types of digital repositories, especially those for storing images and special collections, are much more likely to continue to grow in importance at all types of institutions. [Ithaka’s 2006 studies of key stakeholders in the digital transformation of higher education. PDF]

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