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What research gaps and needs can be filled by libraries? – #LIBER2012 (4)

28 juni 2012 Gepubliceerd door Laat uw gedicht achter

Following on from yesterday’s posts (first, second) from the 2012 LIBER Annual General Conference (“Mobilising the knowledge economy of Europe”), let’s look at the question what needs and gaps there are in science e-infrastructures and what libraries can do about them. – by Inge Angevaare

With three posters, the University of Huddersfield all but monopolized the poster discussions; in the picture Graham Stone (right) talking with Ellen Collins and Deborah Shorley (back) and Antony Brewerton (from yesterday's jam-packed Skills session)

Reseachers can be producers and users of information – although they may be the same people they have different needs in different roles. More about the user in a later post (David Nicholas had lots to say about that!), let’s focus on producers first. Researchers typically have a short-term goal: getting their research done and published as hassle free as possible. Society, however, has a long-term goal, to reap as many benefits of the work done as possible (replicating data, verifying research, reusing data). That is why funders and society want researchers to share everything they have got, and to draft data management plans that will make sure  the data are well curated and preserved. Researchers themselves experience lots of barriers to sharing, as became clear in the PARSE.Insight report (which surveyed data management practices in Europe):

A role for research libraries could be to try and reconcile those different needs. Here is another PARSE.Insight slide which, to my mind, says it all:

Researchers typically keep their information on their own PC! That is bad for society, because such data cannot be shared. But it is also bad for researchers, because data on a PC run many many risks of being lost (just remember the fire at the University of Delft Faculty of Architecture (YouTube images), where many researchers lost years of work). That is an angle for libraries to work with: awareness, advocacy, advising researchers, not only about storage of data, but also about all other sorts of hassles, e.g., international property rights, funders’ requirements, drafting those data management plans for funding proposals.

“You need to be a chameleon”

But will researchers listen to libraries? “Some won’t,” said Jan Feringa of Groningen University Library during the ODE workshop. “There are disciplines that have excellent networks and infrastructures of their own. They do not need us. But we can help other disciplines. As a research library you have to be a chameleon, catering for different needs in different places.”

At right Jan Feringa (Groningen UL) during the ODE Workshop

Feringa’s advice was echoed during an afternoon session which presented the results of the first ever LIBER leadership development programme for senior management staff wishing to improve their leadership skills. One of the “emerging” leaders quoted a “current” leader as saying: “Leaders need to constantly analyze what goes on in the world” – and, I may add, adapt their organizations and services to what they find. The outcome may be very different for each organization – and in all likelihood will change over time. Some will take on digital curation or preservation in full, such as the major US libraries and some UK libraries.

Kurt de Belder (Leiden; middle) with Els van Eijck (Dutch KB) and Bruno Sagna (French National Library)

But other options are viable as well. Kurt de Belder, University Librarian at Leiden, took a view that more (continental) European libraries take. He said: “The amounts of data expected to come out of research in the years to come is absolutely daunting. As an institution, we simply do not have enough resources to preserve all that and make it accessible.”

So Leiden UL decided to partner with two national data archives in the Netherlands, Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS) and the 3TU.DataCentre (technical sciences). The university library acts as the front office for data management services in the active research phase (for those researchers who do not have their own infrastructures), leveraging its close relationships with the faculties. The archives provide knowledge and expertise about what is needed to curate the data long-term, and they take over after the active research phase is over. To me, this truly sounds like a match made in heaven!

The last option for research libraries, staying away from data management altogether, is not really something for this blog …

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