Thursday, 27 June 2013

How Many Library Staff Does it Take to Change a (Research Data Sharing) Light Bulb?

This bad joke play will resonate with readers who have been involved in the various Australian National Data Service (ANDS) funded projects. These projects were established to raise awareness of data issues (management, secure storage and preservation and sharing options) within the national research sector. Data sharing could reduce duplication of research cost and effort, and enable re-use of data for new purposes. Research Data Australia (RDA) was created in the hope it would become a register of Australian research activity, to facilitate data sharing and enhance national and international collaborative research opportunities.

The University of Western Sydney secured funding for 3 projects which were a collaborative effort between various Library and University units. It was an extremely rewarding experience and further strengthened already strong working relationships between the teams, especially when planning the rollout of business as usual post funding across the University.

Some of the major project achievements for UWS were:
  • Greater awareness and take-up of data management, storage and sharing options among the research community.
  • 100 records to date in Research Data Australia showcasing UWS research and researchers via descriptions of their data.
  • Working committees to address ongoing data issues and ensure business as usual  rollout for the ‘wins’ of the projects.
  • Expanded capacity for data storage (working and archival) and supporting metadata through the Research Data Repository project.
  • Creation of new technology to enable the transfer of data descriptions from some technical instruments into our data description tool for uploading to Research Data Australia.

This all sounds quite dry, but it was actually very exciting (and often frustrating). The first researcher interview and the first UWS collection appearing in RDA were initial highlights, then came the thrill of hitting 100 records. But it was not all smooth sailing. Denison, Kethers and McPhee (2007) report on a study conducted in 2006 about e-research and related issues, specifically discussing implications for libraries. Sadly six years on, the key issues identified as roadblocks to the use of available infrastructure are still the same. Although I’m hopeful the ANDS funding has enabled research institutions to chip away at old beliefs and start researchers on the journey of considering sharing data as a matter of course.

If you would like to learn more about our ANDS funded and related data projects, the UWS eResearch blog may interest you.

So, how many Library staff does it take to change a (research data sharing) light bulb?

A: Many, or just one, but the owner of the research data has to want to change (share). And this remains the greatest obstacle to data sharing for the foreseeable future.

And finally, a quick plug for the Research Librarian’s Google Group. This group discusses research related issues is open to anyone with an interest in that area.

Denison, T., Kethers, S., & McPhee, N. (2007). Managing the soft issues in e-research: a role for libraries? Australian Academic & Research Libraries, 38(1), 1-14

Susan Robbins is the Research Services Coordinator at the University of Western Sydney Library

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