Case studies in RDM capacity acquisition: A new project

rdm_imageManaging research data is an important aspect of the scholarly process, and for many academic libraries, it’s what comes immediately to mind in regard to new roles and responsibilities they will potentially assume in fulfilling their traditional mission of collecting and sustaining the scholarly record.

In response to the growing importance of research data management (RDM), OCLC Research is pleased to introduce a new project that will look at the choices research institutions make in building or acquiring RDM capacity. Our new study extends earlier work in which we documented significant trends shaping the scholarly record (summarized by the picture above), and considered the implications of an evolving scholarly record for long-term stewardship and accessibility.

As research data figures more prominently within the scholarly record, we have seen the emergence of a variety of services aimed at supporting scholars’ research data management needs. These services range from educating scholars on the benefits – or in the case of compliance, the necessity – of managing research data, to the provision of repositories where data can be stored, preserved, and accessed. From the academic library’s perspective, RDM services fit into a broader portfolio of researcher-focused services that directly engage the researcher and the research process.

The RDM service space is a dynamic one with lots of solutions emerging, including internal capacity development, cooperative arrangements, subject-specific data repositories, and commercial services. Some of these solutions directly involve the library, and others do not involve it at all; some solutions are deployed to meet institutional needs, while others are directed at the needs of individual researchers. RDM is a complicated landscape that has yet to mature.

As the RDM space continues to develop, useful perspective can be gathered from institutional efforts to address RDM needs in a variety of contexts. Our new project will take an in-depth look at the RDM offerings of four research universities: the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Monash University, the University of Edinburgh, and Wageningen University and Research Centre. The data-gathering process will include a series of interviews with key staff at each institution. The goal is to produce a case study for each institution that details what RDM services are deployed, who is responsible within the institution for the provision of these services, and where the services are sourced. We will pay particular attention to the key decision points underpinning these profiles, in order to understand the thinking that shaped the RDM offering both as it exists today and will evolve in the future. In other words, we will seek to uncover the why behind the what, who, and where.

The results of this study are not intended to offer a comprehensive picture of RDM capacity choices among research institutions, nor to support grand generalizations on optimal RDM strategies. Rather, we aim to provide a detailed look at how four institutions, operating in four different national contexts, are acquiring RDM capacity to meet institutional needs in this area. We are hopeful that readers will see something of their own institutional context in these case studies, and benefit accordingly in thinking about their local RDM offerings. While our perspective in the study will be at the institutional level, we will highlight the role of the academic library in the broader institutional RDM context.

This work will be published as a series of short reports, each dealing with a different aspect of RDM capacity acquisition. The first report (to be released in early 2017) will serve as an introduction to the series, and present a simple framework for understanding the scope and breadth of the RDM service landscape. Subsequent reports will address the nature of the RDM service offerings at each institution (the what); the institutional units responsible for overseeing the provision of these services (the who); and the choices made for sourcing these services internally or externally (the where). In addition to detailing institution-specific choices, we will also highlight points of convergence and divergence among the four institutions in each of these areas.

RDM services are an important, yet still developing area of interest for academic libraries, campus IT units, public and private funders, publishers, and individual scholars. Documenting practical experiences in acquiring RDM capacity supplies helpful “signage and wayfinding” for other institutions as they navigate this space.

Please get in touch with the project team with any questions or comments:

Rebecca Bryant

Brian Lavoie

Constance Malpas