Conference Highlights: Research Data Access & Preservation Summit 2014

by Fe Sferdean

In March I attended the 2014 Research Data Access and Preservation (RDAP14) Summit in San Diego. The three day Summit, focusing on research data management, access, and preservation, included invited panels and presentations, a poster session, lightning talks, hands-on workshops, resources, and tools developed by and for the community. With about 100 attendees, the Summit brought together research data managers and curators, librarians, researchers, and data scientists from the life sciences, physical sciences, social sciences, and humanities fields.

Focusing More on People, Less on Data

A recurring theme throughout the Summit, highlighted by MacKenzie Smith in her presentation called “Choosing the Right Problem: An Institutional Library Perspective”, emphasized focusing less on data and more on people – especially helping researchers with their career milestones by linking data curation to the processes involved in promotion and tenure. Her presentation considered questions such as: how can we coordinate with the research workflow and where does notification make sense? What ‘data events’ should the researcher notify us about? Focusing less on compliance and more on services supporting researchers was further discussed by the Summit panelists, emphasizing the people-centered approach both within the library and beyond.

A People-Centered Approach for Research Data Management Support

Day One panels including “Building a data management and curation program on a shoestring budget” (with speakers from Tufts, UMass Medical, and Virginia Commonwealth) and “Collaboration and tension between institutions and units providing data management support”, discussed the importance of reaching out and building relationships with stakeholders on campus such as the Office of Research, proposal development office, central IT, data storage services, and big data centers. To help develop services for researchers, the panelists discussed importance of training and supporting librarians for new roles in research data management in addition to their current teaching responsibilities. This seemed to resonate with a few of the attendees who voiced their concerns about suddenly having “data” attached to their current job titles. One panelist raised the question: where do the liaison librarian’s services end and the research data specialist’s services begin? It appears that the research data specialist must primarily take on the people-centered aspect of the data services by serving as a ‘bridge’ between the liaison librarians and the campus stakeholders. For one library service model, data-related consultations with faculty always includes the liaison librarian and the data specialist librarian. Another panelist referred to herself as a ‘data concierge’ as she is not a data expert herself but rather directs researchers to the data experts on campus.

Research data support services discussed by the panelists resembled an “embedded librarianship” approach that included outreach activities (e.g., brown bags, presentations) for faculty and researchers within their departments, and not “immediately putting researchers on tools (e.g., DMPTool)”, which helped knit stronger relationships that resulted in a higher number of consultations. Some panelists provided workshops for faculty and discussed infusing core competencies of research data management earlier in the researcher career by teaching graduate and undergraduate courses for credit.

The people-centered theme continued into the Day Two talks and poster sessions, which focused on the curation of research data. Maryann Martone began the day with a talk about the Neuroscience Information Framework, an inventory of global neuroscience resources that tackles the challenge of having “multiple data types, multiple scales, and multiple databases.” Jared Lyle of ICPSR lead a panel about Learning to Curate, where library data curators from Emory, Duke, and UCLA shared their experiences of applying curation theories to practice through actual data processing using the ICPSR data workflow model. Presentations about the NSF DataNet projects, a panel on federal requirements for public access, and poster sessions with topics ranging from data identifier taxonomy to designing data services ended the day. To finalize the people-centered theme of the Summit,  Lisa Hinchliffe of UIUC hosted a workshop on Day Three called “Learning to Teach, Teach for Learning: Instructional Practices for Data Services”. She delved into proven and efficient strategies into developing and delivering instruction to equip attendees involved with teaching research data management concepts to faculty, researchers, students, and colleagues.

In summary, the Summit provided the opportunity to interact with practitioners and researchers working in research data management, access, and preservation. The main theme focused on a people-centered approach that weaves together the different aspects of research data management from educating librarians to building relationships with campus stakeholders in order to provide the best support for researchers.

Resources about RDAP 2014

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