Jason A. Clark, head of Library Informatics and Computing at Montana State University Library; Faculty for the 2015 DLF E-Research Network
As a first-time participant in the DLF E-Research Network last year, I really enjoyed my experience and wanted to share what I had learned. It was exciting to think about how the next E-Research Network cohort experience can be shaped. This year there are a whole new set of questions to be answered and new infrastructure in place to help the cohort communicate [http://wiki.diglib.org/E-Research_Network]. I’m also really interested in data management and data services because I see these functions becoming new, baseline services for research libraries. Increasingly, the interesting problems and solutions around collecting and preserving data for analysis and reuse will lead to a new kind of literacy, data literacy. And research libraries are poised to build tools and services around this emerging literacy. As I see it, the DLF E-Research Network can be a part of that movement and help us build research libraries that are conversant with how data is created, shared, and shaped into new tools and services. By continuing my involvement with the E-Research Network, I saw an opportunity to train and learn from our current data management practitioners and to shape the direction of data services for research libraries.
For MSU, the benefits of participating in the E-Research Network were threefold. First, we were just establishing our data management program and wanted to work with colleagues asking some of the same questions we were. The E-Research Network gave us a forum to strategize and brainstorm what our service might look like. Second, the assignments and tasks during the 6 months of the Network were centered around processes and procedures that we needed to accomplish – a research data management environmental scan, a data management outreach plan, and a defined publication and data services web presence. Third, the E-Research Network gave us the chance to make connections to colleagues in the field and build a network of peers all keenly interested in solving research data management questions for their universities.
And there were real tangible results from our participation. For example, we knew that we had to make a decision on our data repository software. At the MSU Library, we already had ScholarWorks (our Dspace instance – http://scholarworks.montana.edu/) in place as a publications and scholarship repository. The E-Research Network discussions about these possibilities with our cohort gave us the opportunity to weigh how to make a scholarship repository work as data repository. Here’s just a selection of the requirements we were able to distill from our conversations with the cohort: enhanced metadata around versioning, new types of ancillary links for datasets within the ScholarWorks interface, controlling for acceptable data formats and standardizing best practices for dataset submission. All of these requirements are now implemented and ScholarWorks is working as our data repository. We also had a goal of creating a data census [survey] with two of our partners on campus, the Research Computing Group and the MSU CIO. The DLF E-Research Network helped us shape this idea and the data census went out to all of campus in early February 2015. Finally, Sarah Mannheimer, our MSU Library Data Management Librarian, was interested in building our foundation for data services outreach. She has established a set of data services talking points and regular communications with labs, research institutes, and departments on campus based on discussions and best practices related to outreach that we picked up during our participation in the Network.
If you are deciding whether to participate in the DLF E-Research Network this year, there are a few things worth thinking about. As I mentioned, MSU was in the early stages with our data management program and there was tremendous value in being connected to peer experts who were thinking about similar tasks and routines. The benefits of the Network experience and being able to ask questions with a set of colleagues practicing research data management are invaluable. So, I wouldn’t limit your interest even if you have been working at research data management for a few years. The speakers, topics, and assignments will benefit libraries just getting started and those who have been working at it for some time.
Jason A. Clark is the head of Library Informatics and Computing at Montana State University Library, where he builds library web applications and sets digital content strategies. You can find him online at http://jasonclark.info/ or on Twitter @jaclark.