Research Data Management Working Group

Data Curation – an interview with Matthias Töwe by the LIBER Research Data Management Working Group

Posted: 02-06-2023 Topics: Research Data Management Research Data Services

What does a data curator do? What are their daily tasks? What is challenging and rewarding about the job? The LIBER Research Data Management (RDM) Working Group explores these questions and more in their recently published interview with Data Curator, Matthias Töwe. Read on for an overview of the conversation and learn more about the vital role that Data Curators play within libraries.

What is Data Curation?

Data curation is the collecting, classifying and documenting of research material. The purpose of data curation is to improve the quality and usability of research data and to facilitate its sharing and reuse in research.

Curating data has many benefits; the quality of data is improved as inaccuracies and errors can be removed, data becomes more reusable through sorting and documentation, and data is more easily shareable.

Interview with Matthias Töwe – Data Curator at ETH Zurich Library

To explore what it means to be a data curator in practical terms, the LIBER Research Data Management Working Group decided to interview a person whose job includes data curation. Matthias Töwe works at the ETH Zurich Library as a Data Curator. The group interviewed him in the spring of 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis.

The interview covered the basics of Matthia’s role at ETH Zurich Library, how data curation services are structured at his library, the challenges of working with data curation and their role within the wider library organisation. Matthias also gave some concrete tips on how libraries can develop data curation services.

Key Takeaways

Matthias sees data curator services as part of a continuum. In his description, data curation services overlap closely with an organisation’s open access and data management services (such as support on data management planning). When asked about the importance of data curation, Matthias emphasised how challenging it is to produce research data in accordance with FAIR principles. Researchers need a lot of help to meet the requirements.

Mari Elisa Kuusniemi, co-chair of the LIBER RDM Working Group, reflects on how the conversation with Matthias has been implemented at her library:

’Whenever we start developing a new service, it’s great to be able to talk to someone who is already doing the same kind of work we’re just learning. We have now established data curator services at our own university. We have been piloting the service for a couple of years and now we are hiring three new professionals to curate and increase expertise in research data documentation (own expertise and others)’.

Watch the full interview with Matthias below.

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