Data Education: Outreach and Inreach at UM

by Natsuko Nicholls and Katherine Akers

In this blog post, the RDS team provides an update on how the University of Michigan (UM) Library has been developing and providing data education and training workshops for both librarians and researchers.

Data Management Workshop for Faculty

Most recently, a Data Management Plan (DMP) Information Session was held on January 23rd for College of Engineering faculty. Leena Lalwani, Paul Grochowski, and Sara Samuel (Engineering librarians) prepared and gave an hour-long presentation to discuss data management, present local DMP-related research, promote UM Library resources (e.g., LibGuide, RDS website), and receive faculty feedback. With 18 faculty members in attendance, the workshop began with a video featuring poor but still prevailing practices in data management and sharing. During the workshop, faculty asked several important questions, including:

  • What data storage options do we have at UM?
  • Because the cost of saving everything is high, what needs to be saved and for how long?
  • Could we receive more guidance on domain/subject-specific data repositories?.
  • When and why should we choose or avoid proprietary data formats?

Next week, Jake Glenn (Physics and Astronomy librarian) will offer a similar DMP information session for the Astronomy and Physics departments. Also, Engineering librarians are scheduled to offer another workshop for Engineering faculty and graduate students in late February. These are examples of how subject specialists continue to engage with the UM research community by extending their support for research and offering resources and consulting services in data management.

Data Education Workshop for Librarians

Internally, the library’s Data Education Working Group has been working toward providing data management training to librarians so that they will be better prepared to support researchers’ data management needs.

In the first phase of this training, Katherine Akers (e-science librarian and CLIR postdoctoral fellow), Justin Joque (Visualization librarian), Scott Martin (Biology librarian), and Fe Sferdean (CLIR postdoctoral fellow) held a series of workshops over the Fall and early Winter semesters addressing basic issues in research data management. The first workshop covered best practices in data organization and storage, and the second workshop covered emerging trends in data sharing and preservation as well as data management planning. In total, 63 librarians and staff members from across the library system attended one or both workshops. After obtaining feedback, we learned that librarians thought that the workshops were helpful, but most still felt only somewhat prepared to support researchers’ data management needs.

Therefore, the next step is to provide advanced training. Recognizing that the cultures and infrastructures for research data management and dissemination vary widely among disciplines, the plan is to hold workshops in which the research data management landscapes are explored in more depth, using sample subject areas within the STEM fields, social sciences, and arts and humanities. After librarians work together to answer questions (e.g., What are the major journals’ data sharing policies? What disciplinary data repositories exist? What are some specific concerns that researchers might have in regard to data sharing?) through the lens of particular disciplines, librarians will be encouraged to explore their own area(s) of disciplinary expertise and to identify ways in which they can extend their current modes of research support to encompass the management, sharing, and preservation of research data.

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How to Support Faculty Writing Data Management Plans (DMPs)

by Natsuko Nicholls

Engineering Data Support Pilot at UM

As promised in the previous blog post, I’d like to share a narrative about Engineering librarians who have been increasingly engaged in offering data management services and resources for Michigan researchers.

At the University of Michigan, the Library’s Research Division has taken the lead in data service design and development while assessing needs and evaluating ways to organize the service. As part of developing support for research data management, a team of librarians have taken a pilot approach aimed at the College of Engineering (CoE) because of their high use of and creation of data. CoE received over 38million dollars from NSF and their total expenditure research was over 200 million dollars for 2013.

Through this pilot project, the team has had an opportunity to identify areas where the library can play a role in assisting researchers with data management, and has put forth proposals for immediate steps that the library can take in this regard. In particular, they are working to create DMP consultation services for Engineering that include the provision of a web-based NSF DMP guide and resources (e.g. LibGuide), in-person consultations for writing a DMP, faculty & graduate student workshops about data management planning, and overall promotion of new library data services as well as the importance of data management as an integral part of research. The first DMP workshop for Engineering faculty is scheduled on January 23, 2014.

Project Highlights

One of the highlights of this project was to conduct research and utilize research findings in order to accurately gauge researchers’ interest in and solicit evidence-based suggestions for potential data management services that are best suited for Engineering. To this end, the team conducted a faculty survey to assess the potential for research support improvement and reviewed 100+ DMPs written by Engineering faculty whose NSF proposal had been granted. The review of DMP confirmed some of the survey results: Faculty produced acceptable Data Management Plans, but many did not fully satisfy NSF DMP requirements. The team determined that creating a service to evaluate DMPs before they are submitted would be useful.

A key feature of this Engineering pilot project was to ensure that lessons learned from this pilot will provide a foundation for librarians to educate and assist researchers with managing their data throughout the research lifecycle.

The paper that summerizes and discusses findings from a faculty survey and a DMP analysis will be presented at IDCC14 in San Francisco, CA, 24-27 February. A full paper will become available after the conference.

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Key Foci of Library Data Services: ‘Human-driven’ Conversations and Interactions that Librarians Can Offer

by Natsuko Nicholls

Highlight of the DLF Forum 2013

In early November, eight of us from the University of Michigan Library attended the DLF Forum in Austin, TX. It was my first time attending the Forum where over 350 attendees gathered to share research, library practices and experiences, and exchange ideas for new initiatives in the digital library community. The Forum 2013 kicked off with a provocative keynote address by Dr. R. David Lankes who put forward the assertion that it is librarians (not libraries) that are good and necessary things; it is librarians (not libraries) that collect, organize and provide access to information. The focus of his talk was on the fundamental contribution of individuals delivering what they do, i.e., professional services within the library and information business. Service is important and its provider is an essential part of that service. The increasing outcome of service is knowledge creation—more importantly, it’s about human phenomena and process during which librarians facilitate and engage in conversations in order to introduce researchers to new information and different ways of interpreting and organizing it. We were all reminded to keep asking—even within an institutional context, for whom do we collect, organize and provide access to information? Who benefits from it?

<Image of David’s slide>

Why, and how, do we develop research data services?

Librarians have been the custodians and managers of information for centuries. Today, we are evolving and building expertise to continue and enhance this tradition so that we can help researchers preserve research data from the past, of the present and for the future. Now that more funding agencies and publishers are requiring researchers to share their data, many librarians across institutions have taken on a new role of data stewardship. The question is when and how librarians could or should initiate conversations with stakeholders within their own libraries and campus research communities. How can librarians seize the opportunity to further develop their unique connections with researchers by becoming a resource to support them with data management and curation activities? The panel Carpe Data at the DLF Forum 2013 addressed this issue discussing both internal and external outreach strategies and training methods as part of data service development,which nicely synchronized the keynote’s message about engagement and the contributions made by individuals in providing research support and library services. The presenters from the four institutions (Baylor, Purdue, U of Maryland, and U of Michigan) shared their own experiences in their varied contexts while highlighting the common and important message that institutional data management and curation services need not only deal directly with research data, but also to those who produce those data. In my next post, I will share a narrative about ‘human-driven’ conversations and interactions from my own institution where subject librarians are increasingly engaged in offering data management services and resources for Michigan researchers.

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