Use OCLC Research to Examine the Realities of Research Data Management at Your Institution

Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with North American members of the OCLC Research Library Partnership in Baltimore, Maryland, and to engage in a day-long discussion about evolving scholarly services and workflows, particularly institutional repositories, research data management, and research information management. The OCLC Research Library Partnership provides a unique transnational collaborative network of peers to address common issues as well as the opportunity to engage directly with OCLC Research.

Much of our group discussion focused on research data management (RDM) services, which is a growing interest for libraries and a focus of inquiry here at OCLC Research. In particular, we engaged partners in conversation about the Realities of Research Data Management, a four-part series that explores how research universities are addressing the challenges of managing research data throughout the research life cycle. In the first report, we introduced a simple framework for describing the three major components of RDM services:

  • Education—educating researchers and other stakeholders on the importance of research data management and encouraging RDM skill-building
  • Expertise—providing decision support and customized solutions for researchers working through specific research data management problems
  • Curation—supplying technical infrastructure and related services that support data management throughout the research cycle

In the second report, we applied this framework to describe the RDM service bundles at four research institutions, such as at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, represented here.

Our exploration of RDM practices focused on four research universities with fairly mature service bundles. Some of our key findings include:

  • Each institution’s service offering is unique and shaped by both local and external conditions
  • It may not be necessary for an institution to implement the full range of possible RDM services
  • The RDM service bundle is NOT just local offering but also includes the external resources (such as external data centers) in use by researchers

The goal of this research is to provide libraries and research institutions with concrete examples of RDM services at four case study institutions with rich offerings to explore. The RDM Service Categories framework is also intended to provide a way for institutions as well as the broader scholarly communications community to discuss RDM offerings. We used this model in our discussion at Baltimore, and I was delighted to find it seemed to work as intended—as a useful framework for discussion, sharing, and scoping. By talking about three broad, discrete categories of services, we were able to share and compare more easily, without having to articulate each specific offering.

I want to invite you to apply this framework to the RDM service bundle at your institution.

Two reports in this series are still forthcoming, with Part Three: Incentives for Building University RDM Services coming in December and a final report on the sourcing and scaling of RDM services to come early in 2018.

Our conversations with Research Library Partners extended beyond RDM and also included sharing about interoperability, identifiers, and collaborations with other campus units. I will be sharing more about these conversations in future blog posts.

Rebecca Bryant is Senior Program Officer at OCLC where she leads research and initiatives related to research information management in research universities.

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