supporting a range of disciplines, so that each discipline would not need to
develop its own system. Such an adaptable system would reduce the cost of
both up-front development—which would require less duplication of effort—
and ongoing support—since one support structure could serve many fields.
Furthermore, a standardized, domain-agnostic solution would help to enhance
data interoperability across domains, thus facilitating future collaboration within
and across disciplines.
On a more general level, other speakers—particularly Fran Berman and
Clifford Lynch—emphasized that preservation is not an end in itself, but is rather
a step on the path to future reuse. Reuse of data created by others (or even by
oneself) can accelerate advancement and discovery—purposes that should
resonate with researchers and funders alike. Thus, characterizing data curation in
terms of reuse has two advantages: first, it more accurately reflects the ultimate
goal of such practices, elevating access and retrieval over static storage; and
second, it enhances the appeal of data curation initiatives to those who are asked
to contribute data and/or funding in order for those initiatives to succeed.
The Librarian as Middleware
A third theme—the librarian as middleware—was pervasive at the forum. Rick
Luce introduced the idea (and the phrase) on the first panel, and subsequent
speakers offered a number of variations and elaborations on it as the forum
progressed. For the panelists, librarians became “bridges,” “facilitators,” “trusted
arbiters,” and “relationship builders,” negotiating not just between people and
systems, but also between systems and systems, and between people and people.
Mediating between people and systems is (or should be) a familiar role for
librarians. Whether they are helping an elementary-schooler learn to use a call
number system, or assisting a chemistry professor in navigating Beilstein
CrossFire, librarians serve this “middleware” role every day. One sees a parallel,
if more complex, role for science librarians in supporting e-science. Medha
Devare emphasized the key role that librarians will play in mediating between
e-science systems and their users, helping individuals to effectively utilize the
collaborative data sets, online simulations, virtual environments, and other
technological and/or networked resources that e-science will create. Further, as
noted by Sayeed Choudhury, greater public access will entail a greater need for
the mediation librarians can provide. As more scientific data is made freely
available through research enterprises like the Human Genome Project or the
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Reinventing Science Librarianship: Themes from the ARL-CNI Forum
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FEBRUARY 2009 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A BIMONTHLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
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