more likely to approach information technology departments for such help. It is
in our institutions’ best interest for librarians to demonstrate in compelling ways
the strengths and capabilities libraries can bring to bear on these problems,
based on libraries’ long and successful record of providing efficient, long-term,
and convenient access to the world’s information. To demonstrate that libraries
can provide the right data curation solutions for both research institutions and
individual researchers, libraries will need to attack the problem from both ends.
First, libraries will need to build data curation systems in collaboration with
other university partners; and second, libraries will need to create credible and
valuable data services using the combined efforts of subject liaisons, other
library staff, and drawing upon applications built on the infrastructure.
At MIT, the Libraries are tackling the data curation challenge in both of these
ways. To tackle the infrastructure challenge, the Libraries’ Technology Research
and Development Group is offering the DSpace platform, developed in
partnership with Hewlett Packard, as a key resource in an NSF DataNet grant
proposal developed in partnership with MIT faculty and the MIT Information
Services and Technology organization. Concurrently, starting at the end of 2005,
a group of science and engineering liaison librarians, calling themselves the Data
Initiatives Group (DIG), formed a study group to learn collaboratively about the
needs of researchers and the current state-of-the-art in providing services to
manage research data, and to identify the skills required to actively respond to
their faculty’s data curation needs.
While the idea of librarians supporting the curation of engineering and
science research data is relatively new, there is a long tradition of subject liaisons
offering a variety of services for social science and GIS data. This tradition offers
a good starting model for envisioning how libraries might provide other types of
research data curation. At many institutions, social science data services were
once provided by faculty, not librarians. Over time, libraries have taken on the
responsibility of providing these services to their campuses. Social Science data
services librarians play a valued and recognized role, selecting and curating data
sets and connecting new researchers to data deposited by others. At MIT, the
libraries’ social science data curation role has evolved to encompass loading
both purchased and locally produced data sets into repositories. Despite the
long tradition of social science data services, however, finding faculty who wish
to deposit their own data sets into repositories remains one of the most
challenging aspects of social science data librarianship.
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The Last Mile: Liaison Roles in Curating Science and Engineering Research Data
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AUGUST 2009 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A BIMONTHLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
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