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Dean's Update: Organizing for Data Management

April 8, 2016

The first day of spring this year marked the start of a new division in the Libraries: Data and Digital Stewardship. The work of this division will enable faculty, graduate students and others to spend less time managing the output of their research to meet requirements of funders and enhance best practices of modern scholarship.

This new division will focus efforts to ensure that research data and digital resources are preserved, organized, discoverable and accessible.

The growth of data is affecting changes in behaviors throughout research enterprises. Regulatory oversight protect individuals while leveraging the ease to access a great deal of information about them. Research designs, once addressed by an individual or lab working in one location, now are highly integrated explorations with data moving around the globe. Scholarship itself--the process to create and disseminate new knowledge--is happening in shorter timeframes, and in order to stay intellectually competitive, scholars are expected to share their generated data and publications for others to continue new inquiry.

Drexel's approach is a unique contribution to the discussions around managing data that many universities are currently tackling. Some institutions create central data centers and some distribute research data management within disciplines. Some consider data management a part of faculty responsibilities with research staff assisting and libraries offering data support services while elsewhere faculty manage data on their laptops.

The new organizational focus for Drexel's Libraries fits with its matrix management. It will add to the strategic aim to ensure access to authoritative information. It will develop services for campus researchers to become effective producers of data resources; from preparing data management plans required to submit competitive grant proposals to depositing publications in appropriate repositories.

Library experts and researchers will have new venues to partner with, to explore and identify options to curate Drexel research data, and for learning and teaching best practices. Introducing this division further extends the Libraries as a responsive organization to manage the availability and use of formats of information, beyond that of traditional bibliographic artifacts, to source data that have become the modern currency of scholarship.

As an early indication of what is to come, librarians joined a handful of faculty groups this past month as they prepared proposals for a Provost and Office of Research competition for funds to launch interdisciplinary research institutes. It has been exciting to insert the opportunities to increase faculty productivity, enrich venues for scholarly communications, and build the university's data assets by including research data management in the plans for innovative research centers.

To lead this transformation within the Libraries, Deb Morley joined us on March 21, 2016 as the director of data and digital stewardship. She will work within a new grouping of library staff, bringing together the expertise and operations of the Discovery, Metadata, and Archives programs. In addition, she will continue to guide this important new focus within the Libraries' matrix organization, collaboratively with the Libraries' other directors and managers to engage the staff within Services and Quality Improvement, Academic Partnerships and Administrative Services.

With this new managerial arrangement and strategic leadership, the capacity of the Libraries, in collaboration with others on campus, is stronger to build the university's research data management infrastructure. Added to the formal alignment of experts and integrated planning underway, we also have raised our enthusiasm and excitement for Drexel's transformation in becoming a competitive and comprehensive research institution in higher education.

Danuta A. Nitecki, PhD
Dean of Libraries