Texas Tech University

Why Are University Libraries Consulting on Data Management?

By Le Yang and Brian Quinn


When NSF announced in 2011 that they would require data management plans with all grant applications, research universities realized that the environment for grant submissions was changing and they would need to adapt by providing resources and services to support data management among researchers. According to a 2013 study asking researchers in a variety of disciplines if they document or record any metadata about the research data, of the 366 researchers who responded, 59 percent said no and 17 percent did not know about it.

The primary focus in the management of research data, as well as data management plans, include preservation, discovery, access, and security, which form the life cycle of data. The knowledge and skills needed for effective data management have been a part of the library profession or many years. University libraries and librarians, with their expertise and traditions in information organization, documentation, preservation, access, and public services, are some of the most qualified entities for the stewardship of research data management. Librarians are able to make contributions, rooted in their traditions, to provide their knowledge of information standards, organizational skills, file structures, data description, selection and implementation of metadata schemas, controlled vocabularies, raising awareness of copyrights issues, scholarly communication, open access, and licensing.

Selection and implementation of metadata schemas are key components for the life cycle of data management. Funding agencies do not prescribe any particular metadata schemas to the researchers, however, they do expect the researchers to use well-crafted descriptions that would allow for potential users to "make full and accurate use of the data in a subsequent scientific analysis." Librarians are researchers' best collaborators to provide integrated effective metadata services within the research process. Instead of implementing metadata at the end of the research project, librarians can increase the benefits to the researchers by suggesting preservation metadata for long-term curation and security, or descriptive metadata for discovery and access.

Research libraries are also increasingly involving programmers and information professionals in the development of institutional repositories (IRs) which are designed for hosting active data, improving archiving practices, and making data widely accessible to the research communities. A number of research universities and libraries in the United States have established complete systems for data curation and data management services, including PURR of Purdue University, DISCOVER and HPC of Cornell University, RDSA of Rice University, and DSC of University of Oregon.

In addition to the services and expertise offered by the universities' Librarians. Tech Libraries has a subscription to ICPSR, the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research, the largest repository of social sciences data in the world. ICPSR not only provides access to over 500,000 data sets for researchers in the social sciences, education, and health, it also offers TTU faculty a place to store their data free of charge in most cases. ICPSR accepts data from a variety of fields, including the humanities and business, and accepts qualitative and restricted use data, as well as student data. By using ICPSR to store their data, TTU faculty are helping to meet federal funding agency data management requirements, and assuring that their data will be protected, preserved, and available in the future. Faculty interested in learning more about how ICPSR can help them manage their data can contact Brian Quinn, ICPSR Official Representative at Texas Tech, at brian.quinn@ttu.edu.

The Libraries Data Management team has the skills and expertise to help you with you data management needs. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us at libraries.datamanangement@ttu.edu.

Le Yang is an assistant librarian and part of the data management team at the University Library.

Brian Quinn is a librarian and the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research representative at the University Library.