Recently I have been talking a lot about how libraries can offer support to researchers in data management. As part of the Opportunities for Data Exchange project, LIBER carried out a survey of research libraries to measure the perceived demand for such support. A sizable 81% of the respondent libraries reported that data management support was being demanded of them. Sadly, but not surprisingly, the supply of services nowhere near matched demand.
Moreover, many libraries did not have all of the skills in place to provide support and training to researchers to manage their data.
At the LIBER Conference in Tartu, we opened up the dialogue regarding the role of libraries in data exchange even further. At our first ODE workshop in Barcelona in 2011 it would be fair to say that the libraries present were still confused about the roles they should play in data management. A year on, the second ODE workshop made it clear that individual libraries were mobilising to position themselves as a key player within data exchange, whether through the drafting of institutional data sharing policies, administration of repositories for data, or provision of guidance regarding data management. Most of the participants in the workshop were concerned with one issue: identifying and developing the right skills to ensure that their libraries were strongly positioned to seize the opportunity that data exchange presents and to reposition and embed themselves within the research process. Although libraries have existing skills and knowledge that can be adapted to data management, there are gaps in skills that need to be filled. Indeed so topical was the identification of skills, in a later parallel session, Anthony Brewerton outlined some of the concrete skills, as identified by an RLUK study, that librarians need. Knowledge to advise on data management and curation was one such skill identified in the RLUK study and within the ODE workshop it was felt that to develop a thorough knowledge libraries needed to engage with other stakeholders e.g. data centres.
Introducing the Researcher to the Collaborative Data Infrastructure
Fast forward 2 weeks and I found myself presenting to a group of PHD students (or ‘real life researchers!’ as I called them) at the LERU Doctoral Summer School in Barcelona. They were full of questions. Most of the questions started with ‘how do I…’ and related to the very practical steps in making research data available as well as ethical and legal issues. Having the opportunity to advocate data sharing amongst researchers highlighted 2 things for me:
- that libraries do need to take the role of advocating for data sharing upon themselves
- we have to be prepared to follow through with the necessary support and advice.
Introducing the Collaborative Data Infrastructure to the Researcher
Most recently I represented LIBER at a workshop on Authentication, Authorisation and Accounting(AAA) and introducing a pan-European Authentication and Authentication Infrastructure (AAI) for researchers. AAA and federated identity management is an area the libraries have thus far mostly left to the technical experts. An AAI, however, is an essential component of the Collaborative Infrastructure, and key to the success of data exchange. For successful implementation of an AAI it is important to get the user requirements right, to understand what researchers, when sharing research data, need from an AAI. As libraries are looking towards embedding themselves within the research process they are well placed to translate the behaviour of their researchers into requirements for an AAI.
The common thread of all of this activity over the past few weeks is this: libraries have a huge opportunity to act as an intermediary and advocate for data sharing and to contribute to the development of the collaborative data infrastructure. They can advocate for research data sharing amongst their researchers and help them to troubleshoot data management. They can represent researchers in terms of the development of the collaborative data infrastructure to meet their needs. Most of all, by entering in to this dialogue, they can benefit from engagement and collaborating with other stakeholders (such as data centres and technical infrastructure providers, publishers) and grow the knowledge they need to advise on data management and curation.