Why Research Data Management Isn’t Easy

by | Nov 21, 2019 | 0 comments

For the last decade academic libraries have talked with each other and with potential partners about their roles in helping to manage research data and their plans to expand or initiate research data services (RDS) as driven by mandates from funders, government agencies, and publishers to make research data accessible. The academic researchers served by libraries often do not know about the management and curation side of research data, including writing data management plans, finding data repositories, or describing data using appropriate metadata standards. These are all services that libraries can or do provide, but the range and maturity of research data services from libraries varies considerably. In the summer of 2019, our team surveyed a sample of academic libraries of all sizes who are members of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) to find out about their current RDS and plans for the future. The current study is a follow-up to surveys of this same group in 2012 and 2015, when we discovered that most offered services were informational similar to traditional library reference services and, while some research libraries are leaders in RDS, many of the non-research libraries that had planned to offer a range of RDS had not yet been able to, often due to lack of resources or shifting priorities. From the 2019 survey we will talk about range of RDS now offered in all sizes of academic libraries, which types of RDS are more popular or practical, and how academic libraries can get started with research data services.

Carol Tenopir

Attitudes toward RDM have changed since the 2012 RDS survey. Carol Tenopir, Chancellor’s Professor at the University of Tennessee, was asked to update her 2012 report and compare where we are today. The survey was closed at 186 responses (6% of recipients) who replied on behalf of the library. Many of the responding institutions are small. Services included helping faculty locate research data and providing technical/hands-on support. There was a mismatch between plans and reality. Why didn’t libraries meet their data services goals?

Jordan Kaufman, Research Associate, University of Tennessee, Center for Information and Communication Studies, noted that the main challenge was staffing, with differences based on the institution. Other barriers included funding, infrastructure/technology, faculty awareness and interest, and institutional support. Over 20 interviews about barriers were conducted. Many librarians are hopeful, have goals, and feel these types of studies are important for the profession. Many libraries do not have an institutional repository, or training in its use; this is an area where the library can make itself valuable again.

Robert Sandusky, Associate University Librarian for Information Technology, University of Illinois at Chicago University Library, asked what skills are needed for libraries to hire or train staff in RDS (who in library has responsibility for RDS?). How has the library developed staff capacity for RDS? Libraries need tools; have they provided opportunities?

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