Background

Data management and curation are becoming increasingly important aspects of the research process across a wide spectrum of academic disciplines. While most Northwest Five Consortium (NW5C) institutions have been developing support for research data management and curation (RDMC), each institution is at a different point in this process. All NW5C members would benefit from bringing researchers and professional staff together to learn, share, and grow best practices and models for managing and curating data. Additionally, data management skills are valuable for students as they move beyond college to graduate research environments or into data-intensive careers.

There are a number of reasons why RDMC is increasingly important to the academic mission of liberal arts colleges:

  • Requirements from government and private funding sources for data management and data sharing plans (cf. 2013 memo from the Office of Science and Technology Policy).
  • Increasing awareness among scholars of the need to ensure research data is discoverable, understandable, and accessible for both reproducibility and future research projects.
  • Increasing collaboration across institutional boundaries (e.g. the Human Genome Project and other e-Science applications).
  • Increasing desire amongst some researchers to share their research data more widely with other scholars and the public.

For all of these reasons, libraries and information technology (IT) departments at many institutions have developed data services to support researchers. However, while RDMC draws on skills possessed by researchers, librarians, and IT professionals, no one of these groups usually possesses all the skills needed for successful data management and curation. Librarians have experience organizing, cataloging, and making information accessible. They also understand the subtleties of using information ethically and the need to preserve this information for the long term. IT professionals understand the infrastructural and technological requirements needed to make collaboration, access, and preservation possible. Researchers have deep knowledge of their own data, as well as an understanding of the culture and practices in their domains. Working together, these groups can collaborate to build successful services, as well as growing each other’s skill sets.

Workshop Format

The proposed workshops are ane evolution of the NW5C data curation workshop offered in 2015. Instead of a day-and-a-half workshop at one location, in 2016 the workshop will be shortened to one day and offered at multiple locations. It is the hope of the organizers that this will increase participation and allow the facilitators to reach a broader audience. Organizers will recruit faculty (and related student research assistance, IT staff, and librarians) to register for the workshop. The registration process will require the submission of information about team members as well as a research project involving data. The registration process will help to ensure both a variety of perspectives from different disciplines and research groups at different stages of the research process.

The workshop will have a semi-flipped classroom model, and will be facilitated by a group of NW5C librarians who are experienced with data management.

In the weeks before the workshop, the facilitators will work with participants to develop a draft Data Curation Profile (DCP). This pre-workshop activity will help to foster a collaborative relationship between the facilitators and researcher around data, as well as developing a common understanding of the unique attributes and challenges of the researcher’s particular data set.

The workshop itself will use a slightly modified version of the New England Collaborative Data Management Curriculum (NECDMC). The NECDMC model is:

  • Versatile – although developed for science and engineering data, the lesson plans can be easily modified to work with the social sciences and humanities.
  • Tested – it has been piloted in some form at a number of institutions, including Oregon State University, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Simmons College, Tufts University, University of Washington, and Carnegie Mellon.
  • Process-oriented – the curriculum is separated into 7 modules that encourage participants to think of data management and curation as a process that continues throughout the research project lifecycle.
  • Based on active learning principles – rather than just listening to lectures, participants will actively participate in small group discussions, reflective writing exercises, and other activities that will allow them to apply and question what they’ve just learned.

The flexibility of the NECDMC model will allow organizers to arrange the modules to correspond with the sections of the DCPs, which the teams already drafted. Throughout the workshop, teams will be given opportunities to refine their DCPs and other data management documents.

Learning Outcomes

As a result of this workshop, research teams will:

  • Learn to understand data curation and management as a necessary process that is an integral part of the research project lifecycle.
  • Practice a model for librarians and researchers working together on RDMC.
  • Learn to locate and evaluate information on best practices (and requirements) for RDMC in their domains.
  • Appraise their own current RDMC practices.
  • Develop and document their own practices to more efficiently plan for future projects.

The organizers will assess these learning outcomes using a variety of methods:

  • A structured questionnaire both at the end of the workshop, and again approximately 6 months after the workshop so that teams have time to implement changes.
  • The data librarians at each institution will be encouraged to meet with researchers during the following year to discuss RDMC practices and changes.

Long-term Impacts and Outcomes

At the institutional level, the collaborative activities of the workshop will help the librarians, researchers, and IT professionals at each school to recognize and share their particular skill sets in working with research data, increasing collaboration between faculty and support staff, as well as between various support departments. Researchers from different disciplines will also have the opportunity to learn from each other’s specific disciplinary practices with regard to data, increasing the potential for interdisciplinary collaboration and learning.

Overall, the workshop will increase the quality of research across NW5C institutions by training both researchers and staff in data management best practices, as well as creating a data curation network and website for future collaboration and development among data librarians and faculty. It will also enhance and develop learning opportunities for students by demonstrating that RDMC skills can be taught and developed at the undergraduate leve. It will increase the quality of data services programs at NW5C institutions by creating or strengthening relationships between staff and researchers in their home institutions and across the NW5C.