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02 Oct 2013

Breakout session at the RDA 2nd Plenary meeting: Libraries and Research Data Management

Written by: Maria Christoforaki, Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI), National University of Ireland, Galway

The breakout session “Libraries and Research Data Management ” at the RDA 2nd Plenary meeting focused on documenting the already existing situation and defining the current and future issues regarding Research Data Management (RDM).  As most of the participants were librarians from universities/research centres the main issues highlighted were from their point of view (as opposed to an end user’s / customer’s one).
Almost all the libraries represented at the session offered RDM support, as well as metadata and data standards services. However, it was pointed out that the majority of the users don’t know how to use them, or fail to realise how useful these services are to their own or their colleagues’ research.

Different practice in libraries
In order to support better collaboration between libraries and researchers regarding RDM, libraries devise policies and quite many of them create positions of specialised RDM librarians and experts, so that they can bridge the gap between them and their prospective users.
One issue that was addressed in different ways among the service providers was the cost of RDM services. Some charge fees for data preservation, the height of which varies depending on the volume of data, while others don’t charge anything. In the first case, when fees are charged, they are not prohibitive and usually cover only a part of the actual costs.
In order to promote data citation, most libraries have adopted the use of Persistent Identifiers (PIDs), the usual case being DOIs (Digital Object Identifier), but also quite a lot used ARK (Archival Resource Key) and PURL (Persistent Uniform Resource Locator) identifiers. In any case, their use is very strongly advocated, since it is imperative in order to store, use, cite and manage research data.
Cooperation with researchers and librariesIn most of the cases, libraries create and maintain Data Catalogues, which may be stored in the library, or another repository, but the aforementioned gap of communication between the providers and the users limits their potential usefulness. Most users/researchers don’t know that data can be stored in the library or that there exists a data catalogue which can provide them with access to research data, potentially valuable for their research, or that they can store their own research data in the library and get indexed in the Data Library Catalogue.
Many libraries offer shared repository services to more than one universities/research centres, or more than one libraries use the same repository to store research data, employing the same front office, thus broadening the spectrum of the potential users.
Another issue addressed was the creation of specific subject RDM practice regarding, for example spatial (GIS), astronomy, life science data. Various clusters of researchers produce data through their research activities/projects which should be preserved. A proposed solution is to have mixed teams of domain researchers and librarians to help and guide them on the correct way to store, index and manage the data they create even at the very moment they create it.
Considering the employment of IT services, there are different approaches, some libraries use independent IT services (some employ also cloud services), other support their systems themselves, seeing the preservation of data as a library and not an IT mission.
Researchers unaware of RDM possibilities
One of the main issues that came up repeatedly, as can be seen from the above, is the inability of the users/researchers to take advantage of the RDM  services provided by the libraries. A proposed solution was that the researchers should be trained to work with librarians, as in many cases try to do the same job, i.e. manage their own research data but (as they are not domain experts) in a suboptimal way. This prevents them from obtaining the best value for their efforts while at the same time may prevent other people from using their research data (because they may be insufficiently described, indexed or stored in places not easily accessible).
RDA can play a vital role, since it brings together people from different backgrounds and provides them with a framework to work together. Librarians can meet with the domain experts who create or work on research data and together they can find out ways for exploiting research data more efficiently, as well as a common language for communication.
Also RDM by libraries raises many issues common in other Working Groups/ Interest Groups, as metadata, PID, trusted repositories, etc. Expertise can be transferred from these groups to the librarians while an inverse flow of information can pose new problems and questions to the respective WG/IG. Additionally, the better coordination will help avoid duplication of effort for solving the same problem.
Libraries that have already efficient RDM systems can act as showcases and provide good practice guides for the rest of the community.
RDA can operate as a hub for people and organisations so that they can find useful information and contacts to do their work more efficiently, train people, exchange ideas, pose problems and hopefully help solve them. Additionally, librarians can help raise the visibility of RDA to people and organisations which are not members and broaden its impact as well as attracting new members.

More reports, presentations and videos from the RDA 2nd Plenary are available at:

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