Institutional Readiness for Data Stewardship: Findings and Recommendations from the Research Data Assessment
Parham, Susan Wells
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The potentials and possibilities afforded by managing, preserving, and sharing digital research data have been lauded by funding agencies, universities, and researchers alike. As federal funding agencies require data management plans and data sharing, questions around how to ensure that research data are managed and shared have come to the fore. Academic institutions and libraries are particularly interested in these issues, recognizing the need to support researchers in their work with research data. Accordingly, the Georgia Tech Library began investigating the research data practices and needs at Georgia Tech by conducting a campus-wide research data assessment. The assessment, which included a survey, interviews, analysis of data management plans submitted with NSF grants, and data archiving case studies, revealed a number of noteworthy trends, which are detailed more in the full findings of the report. The major findings of the assessment were: 1. Data management plans are still a frustrating burden for most researchers. 2. Georgia Tech researchers lack the guidelines, resources, standards, and policies to properly care for their research data. 3. A disconnect exists between the expectations of Principal Investigators and Graduate Assistants. 4. Researchers recognize the importance of documentation and metadata, but few capture this information adequately. 5. Sharing data with collaborators outside Georgia Tech is challenging. 6. Researchers are willing to share their data, but the conditions under which they are willing to do so vary widely. 7. Researchers rarely plan for the the final disposition of their research data. 8. Very few researchers deposit data into repositories. Based on these findings, we make the following six recommendations: 1. Enhance institutional ability to support data archiving 2. Establish a campus Research Data Stewardship Group 3. Develop a formal data stewardship marketing plan 4. Create a repository of Georgia Tech data management plans 5. Provide data management training, especially for graduate students 6. Create and update the necessary and appropriate institutional policies The challenges of caring for research data are many and constantly evolving, and Georgia Tech will need to adapt to the needs of their community. These recommendations are but a starting point for developing the institutional capacity to steward research data, but they provide important insight into the framework needed to properly care for institutional digital data.