Backed by a $526,438 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the U-M Library and seven other academic libraries will launch the Data Curation Network. The network helps institutions better support researchers who are seeking to meet a growing number of mandates to openly and ethically share their research data.
Data curators apply disciplinary knowledge and librarian expertise to ensure that stored datasets are reusable, but no single institution can provide this curatorial expertise in every discipline. The Data Curation Network will seamlessly connect a wide network of expert data curators to supplement local expertise.
The data curation challenge
Federal agencies, publishers, scholarly societies, and the public increasingly expect that data generated by faculty and students at universities will be made openly available, explains Jake Carlson, director of research data services at the U-M Library. But it’s a challenge to make data available in ways that it can be discovered, understood, and used by people other than those who created it.
“Different people will have different expectations, depending upon disciplinary norms, standards, and perspectives,” Carlson said. “Our librarians have deep expertise in the fields that they serve, but they cannot know every norm or anticipate the needs of every field. Indeed, there is no way that any one library would have access to the breadth and depth of expertise needed to conduct deep and thorough curation reviews for all of the data deposited into its repository.”
A new model for interlibrary cooperation
The project, in addition to expanding member libraries’ data curation capacity, might well serve as a model for how libraries can scale and extend their services via cross-institutional networks.
“The Data Curation Network will provide expert services, incentives for collaboration, normalized curation practices, and professional development training for the data curator community,” said Lisa R. Johnston, principal investigator for the Data Curation Network and director of the data repository for the University of Minnesota.
The University of Minnesota Libraries will lead the three-year implementation phase of the project along with the U-M Library, Sheridan Libraries at Johns Hopkins University, Duke University Libraries, University Library at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Cornell University Library, Penn State University Libraries, and the Dryad Digital Repository.