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Judy Ruttenberg
Guide for Research Libraries: The NSF Data Sharing Policy

A New Leadership Role for Libraries

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Academic libraries are well poised to help researchers meet the new NSF requirement, which also presents an array of promising opportunities for leadership in this realm:

  • Liaison librarians are familiar with the research data needs of their faculty. Many subject specialists in biology, engineering, geosciences, the social and behavioral sciences, economics, and other areas covered by programs and directorates in the NSF already work closely with faculty and know the challenges of managing and sharing research data.

  • This bodes well for innovative publishing models. The requirement is in step with scholarly communications practices and initiatives, such as Open Access publishing and the Panton Principles (Open Data), as advocated by many research libraries.

  • Libraries are increasingly providing data consultation services. A growing number of libraries are developing dedicated services to research data curation, in which data management is a key goal, such as Cornell University’s Research Data Management Service Group; Georgia Tech’s Data Curation Services; University of Oregon’s Science Data Services; and Purdue University’s Distributed Data Curation Center.

  • This is next-generation librarianship. The curation of research data is an activity that has gained traction in the wake of library and information science programs offering concentrations in data curation and institutes in digital curation, promising a cohort of librarians qualified to meet the challenges of managing data.

  • Collaboration is reinforced as a significant way of building capacity. Data management planning demands cross-departmental, even cross-campus, communication and collaboration, and for many research libraries such inreach/outreach efforts are well established. For others, the change in the NSF policy opens up new opportunities for collaboration and thus new ways of modeling that process.

  • This is a paradigm shift for libraries and librarians on many levels. The NSF requirement points up new opportunities for libraries, such as the impetus for creating services relevant to the management of research data, and for librarians, such as in the area of collection development (e.g., since data sets will increase in importance, how does this affect collection management and development policies?) and in the acquiring of new skill sets.

  • We have existing models of data management to learn from. Data repositories, such as the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), which for years have been in the business of managing data, are modeling for research libraries how to respond to NSF’s requirement.

  • It’s not about just content anymore. Data management plans resulting from this requirement have great potential to inform how libraries should curate research data in a programmatic, standardized way for continuing access and re-use.

Authors: Patricia Hswe and Ann Holt