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Dean's Update: Research Data Management: Summer Stimulations

September 6, 2017

Research Data Management (RDM) has been a topic of growing interest among librarians working to support research at their institutions. Although practical guidance on research data management planning has been available in the UK for over a decade, this area of support has appeared on the horizon of many US academic libraries only since the National Science Foundation’s 2011 requirement of including data management plans in proposal applications. Soon after this mandate was passed, the Drexel Libraries identified the challenges of ensuring proper management of research data output as an institutional asset, subject to records management as opportunities for new emerging roles for librarians.  

As an In Circulation reader, you likely have followed some of our efforts to help strengthen the University’s capacity to organize, describe and deposit research data generated by our faculty in ways to not only meet funders’ requirements but also to help enable others to discover and access Drexel’s research and thereby help shape future scholarship as it will be used by other researchers. This has been a rich area for librarians to apply their expertise in metadata, preservation, discovery, access, guidance and information dissemination to data that simply do not have as long management traditions as publications do. But the transition requires tremendous learning about research and researchers’ behaviors, designing new protocols and systems, as well as uncovering and interpreting regulations and compliance requirements previously off our radar screens.

This summer Drexel Libraries has experienced several rewarding confirmations that we are heading in the right—and perhaps innovative—directions. I am quite proud that the Libraries was accepted as only one of five institutions in the region to participate in an interactive research program through which librarians will learn how to better engage with faculty and assist in their work to plan and implement effective data management practices. Read more about this in this issue of In Circulation. 

I also had the honor of sharing insights gained from the work we have been doing here at Drexel during the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) conference in Poland this August. Co-presenting with Mary Ellen Davis, Executive Director of the Association of College and Research Libraries, we discussed the experiences from our two US administrative perspectives—hers being that of a national professional association and mine from a mid-sized academic library.  We focused on the topic of “expanding librarians’ role in the research life cycle” at a small but highly focused satellite conference in Warsaw, followed by a discussion (which was translated to multiple languages) in Wroclaw to an audience of over 100 people on changing landscapes around the demands on managing research data output and new roles for academic librarians. Colleagues around the world affirmed that our ideas were appreciated as innovative and helpful to seeing future priorities for librarians.  In addition, it was exciting to learn about similar insights. Most striking to me was the acknowledgment that librarians are most often the conveners of the many different experts and perspectives needed to address an institution’s challenges and to develop sound practices and guidance for faculty researchers and administrators.  It was also reassuring that we are not behind in pursuing this new library priority here at Drexel.

The trip also brought insights in other areas, as stepping away from the comforts and routines of home always do. I was not alone among the Libraries staff traveling this summer. You may enjoy our shared reflections of experiences with the Internet and connecting to information in another article in this issue. 

Summer has brought a certain spark of energy to continue our work this fall, and I look forward to sharing more with you throughout the 2017-2018 academic year.

Danuta A. Nitecki, PhD, Dean of Libraries