Background

From R1 universities to liberal arts colleges, data management and curation are becoming increasingly important aspects of the research process across a wide spectrum of academic disciplines. While most Northwest Five Consortium (NW5C) institutions have been developing support for research data management and curation (RDMC), each institution is at a different point in this process. All NW5C members would benefit from bringing researchers and professional staff together to learn, share, and grow best practices and models for managing and curating data. Additionally, data management skills are valuable for students as they move beyond college to graduate research environments or into data-intensive careers.

There are a number of reasons why RDMC is increasingly important to the academic mission of liberal arts colleges:

  • Requirements from government and private funding sources for data management and data sharing plans (cf. 2013 memo from the Office of Science and Technology Policy)
  • Increasing awareness among scholars of the need to ensure research data is usable (e.g. easily found, understandable, in an accessible format) both for the researcher and for any collaborators
  • Increasing collaboration across institutional boundaries (e.g. the Human Genome Project and other e-Science applications)
  • Increasing desire amongst some researchers to share their research data more widely with other scholars and the public (e.g. the Open Data movement)

For all of these reasons, libraries and information technology (IT) departments at many institutions have developed data services to support researchers. However, while RDMC draws on skills possessed by researchers, librarians, and IT professionals, no one of these groups usually possesses all the skills needed for successful data management and curation. Librarians have experience organizing, cataloging, and making information accessible. They also understand the subtleties of using information ethically and the need to preserve this information for the long term. IT professionals understand the infrastructural and technological requirements needed to make collaboration, access, and preservation possible. Researchers have deep knowledge of their own data, as well as an understanding of the culture and practices in their domains. Working together, these groups can collaborate to build successful services, as well as growing each other’s skill sets.

Workshop Format

The proposed workshop on RDMC will take place over a day and half during Summer 2015. Teams from each institution will apply in February 2015. Teams will consist of a faculty researcher, one or two student research assistants, a librarian, and, optionally, an IT professional from each institution. The application process will require the submission of information about team members as well as a current research project involving data. The application process will help to ensure both a variety of perspectives from different disciplines as well as an opportunity to bring together NW5C researchers working on similar projects.

The workshop will have a semi-flipped classroom model, and will be facilitated by Amanda Whitmire, Assistant Professor & Data Management Specialist at Oregon State University Libraries. Bringing in an outside facilitator will allow the NW5C librarians to learn and develop their own RDMC skills in collaboration with faculty and students.

In the months before the workshop, the librarians on each team will be able to participate in online training to familiarize themselves with the use of the Data Curation Profile Toolkit from Purdue University Libraries. Librarians and researchers will then work together to develop a draft Data Curation Profile (DCP), which will be submitted prior to the start of the workshop. This pre-workshop activity will help to foster a collaborative relationship between the librarian and researcher around data, as well as developing a common understanding of the unique attributes and challenges of the researcher’s particular data set.

The workshop itself will use a slightly modified version of the New England Collaborative Data Management Curriculum (NECDMC). The NECDMC model is:

  • Versatile — although developed for science and engineering data, the lesson plans can be easily modified to work with the social sciences and humanities.
  • Tested — it has been piloted in some form at a number of institutions, including Oregon State University, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Simmons College, Tufts University, University of Washington, and Carnegie Mellon.
  • Process-oriented — the curriculum is separated into 7 modules that encourage participants to think of data management and curation as a process that continues throughout the research project lifecycle.
  • Based on active learning principles — rather than just listening to lectures, participants will actively participate in small group discussions, reflective writing exercises, and other activities that will allow them to apply and question what they’ve just learned.

The flexibility of the NECDMC model will allow organizers to arrange the modules to correspond with the sections of the DCPs which the teams already drafted. Throughout the workshop, teams will be given opportunities to refine their DCPs. This will not only give participants a concrete product they can take back to their campuses, but will also allow the facilitator to give real-time feedback on the specific practices and challenges of each team. Teams will be encouraged to submit their completed profiles to the Data Curation Profiles Directory if they wish to share them with other researchers.

Learning Outcomes

As a result of this workshop, research teams will:

  • Learn to understand data curation and management as a process that is part of, and alongside, the research project lifecycle
  • Practice a model for librarians and researchers working together on RDMC
  • Learn to locate and evaluate information on best practices (and requirements) for RDMC in their domains
  • Appraise their own current RDMC practices
  • Develop and document their own practices to more efficiently plan for future projects

These learning outcomes will be assessed by the organizers using a variety of methods:

  • A structured questionnaire both at the end of the workshop, and again approximately 6 months after the workshop so that teams have time to implement changes
  • The librarians on each team will be encouraged to meet with researchers at 3-month intervals for the year following the workshop to discuss RDMC practices and changes
  • The organizers and facilitator will read and discuss each team’s final DCP

Long-term Impacts and Outcomes

At the institutional level, the collaborative activities of the workshop will help the librarians, researchers, and IT professionals at each school to recognize and share their particular skill sets in working with research data, increasing collaboration between faculty and support staff, as well as between various support departments. Researchers from different disciplines will also have the opportunity to learn from each other’s specific disciplinary practices with regard to data, increasing the potential for interdisciplinary collaboration and learning.

At the consortial level, faculty from each NW5C school who work on unique and specialized research will have the opportunity to develop and share best practices with faculty from other NW5C schools working on the same problems. The librarians at each NW5C school will also have the opportunity to share their own best practices and expertise, as well as developing scalable practices for small liberal arts institutions.

Overall, the workshop will increase the quality of research across NW5C institutions by training both researchers and staff in data management best practices, as well as creating a data curation network and website for future collaboration and development among data librarians and faculty. It will also enhance and develop learning opportunities for students by demonstrating that RDMC skills can be taught and developed at the undergraduate level, benefitting these students as they move on to the next phase of their career or education. Finally, it will increase the quality of data services programs at NW5C institutions by increasing the skill level of subject specialist librarians as well as creating or strengthening relationships between staff and researchers in their home institutions and across the NW5C.

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