01 April 2014

Research data, libraries and the long haul


Let’s persevere with what we can persevere with,
preferably today rather than tomorrow.
- Vincent Van Gogh
Earlier this year I presented an overview of research data management in Australian libraries to a large group of library practitioners with an interest in research support. I opened my session with the following quote:
The role of information professionals (e.g. librarians, archivists, data managers) is unclear. Some see data curation as an obvious extension of work already happening in institutional repositories, with libraries providing continuity of service, networks of useful relationships, and expertise in managing intellectual property. However, most libraries are not resourced or staffed to cope with the new demands of data archiving functions on top of their current activities.
The paragraph was from a conference report that I had written after the first eResearch Australasia event in Brisbane in mid-2007. Seven years, three jobs and two cities later, it still seems pretty accurate.

Of course, many things have been achieved in this time period by libraries in Australia, which have:
We have a long way to go though. In 2014, we are still talking about research data management as an 'emerging' professional concern rather than as something that urgently needs to be prioritised by institutions and individuals. Promising project work that was funded in many university libraries by external grants from ANDS has not yet been translated into sustainable services and significant measurable change in the way that research data is captured, managed and published (kudos to eResearch@Flinders for inspiration on this front). Uptake of infrastructure could be improved as part of a more comprehensive approach to researcher engagement. There is huge scope to integrate research data skills initiatives with existing information literacy and/or workplace training programs, and to have sessions designed and delivered by library staff with more appropriate expertise in teaching and learning. For many librarians who have not yet been directly involved, the synergies between their current roles and these new undertakings, and the pathways into such work, remain unclear despite increasing pressure to 'upskill' to meet new demands.

I'll be using this blog to describe the work that I do day-to-day in eResearch (also called eScience and cyberinfrastructure in other parts of the world) and research data management. I'll be sharing practical strategies that other information professionals can try in their institutions and hope that these posts might demystify this kind of work for other librarians wanting to move into similar roles. From 1 April 2014, I am moving sideways into a new job at Griffith University with a stronger change management focus so the people side of things will be to the fore. While I'm interested in repositories, metadata and storage solutions, I'll be paying more attention to topics such as communications, skills development, policy, business processes and cultural change.

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