Library Collaboration in RDM

This OCLC Research project aims to help academic libraries make intentional, strategic choices about collaboratively sourcing RDM capacities.

Sourcing research data management (RDM) capacities through multi-institutional collaborative arrangements involves assessing benefits and costs. Academic libraries need to be able to make informed choices about when to source RDM capacities through collective effort, and when to choose an alternative sourcing arrangement. Library Collaboration in RDM, an OCLC Research project, aims to help academic libraries make intentional, strategic choices about collaboration in RDM.

As Lorcan Dempsey recently observed, “it is not simply more collaboration that is needed – it is a strategic view of collaboration. . . . There should be active, informed decision-making about what needs to be done locally and what would benefit from stronger coordination or consolidation within collaborative organizations.”

This is the starting point for the Library Collaboration in RDM research project. We examine what “active, informed decision-making” means in the context of choosing collaboratively sourced RDM capacities. Questions addressed include: What circumstances suggest that working collectively with other institutions might be a better choice than other sourcing options for acquiring capacities within the RDM service space? How can libraries overcome barriers to collective action and improve existing collaborative arrangements?

Our project draws insight from academic literatures such as economics, political science, and organizational theory to address these questions. We then use these insights as an analytical frame for a set of case studies of real-world decision-making and practice regarding RDM collaboration across institutions. We also will develop general recommendations for academic libraries to consider as they evaluate the collaboration option.

The RDM Service Space

Learn more about RDM Service Categories

While this project focuses on multi-institutional collaboration in RDM, we believe that the findings will provide insight for other areas where academic libraries might choose to work collectively.

The Library Collaboration in RDM project benefits from the support of an expert advisory committee:

  • Donna Bourne-Tyson, Dean of Libraries, Dalhousie University
  • David Groenewegen, Director, Research, Monash University Library
  • David Minor, Program Director for Research Data Curation, University of California San Diego Library
  • Judy Ruttenberg, Senior Director of Scholarship and Policy, Association of Research Libraries
  • Michael Witt, Interim Associate Dean for Research, Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies
  • Maurice York, Director of Library Initiatives, Big Ten Academic Alliance

Libraries have a rich history of working together to meet mutual needs. Current advances in digital and network technologies have amplified the benefits and lowered the costs of cross-institutional collaboration, making it an inviting choice for academic libraries seeking to acquire new services, expertise, and infrastructure—especially in the face of economic pressures and uncertainties introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic. As interest in library collaboration grows, it becomes more important for academic libraries to be purposeful and strategic in their use of this sourcing option.

Background Materials

Lorcan Dempsey’s series of blog posts on library consortia:

The powers of library consortia 1: How consortia scale capacity, learning, innovation and influence
The powers of library consortia 2: Soft power and purposeful mobilization: scaling learning and innovation
The powers of library consortia 3: Scaling influence and capacity
The powers of library consortia 4: Scoping, sourcing and scaling

What Collaboration Means to Me

In this short piece Dempsey argues that library collaboration is very important, so important that it needs to be a more deliberate strategic focus for libraries and the organizations that support them. This is especially so in a network environment, where scale is important in creating efficiencies and impact. Despite this importance, effective collaboration is hard and current arrangements are suboptimal. Various reasons why this is so are discussed, and some suggestions for how matters might be improved are offered. Available at Collaborative Librarianship"What Collaboration Means to Me: Library collaboration is hard; effective collaboration is harder,

The Realities of Research Data Management
The Realitites of RDM cover

The Realities of Research Data Management is a four-part series that explores how research universities are addressing the challenge of managing research data throughout the research lifecycle. In this series, we examine the context, influences, and choices higher education institutions face in building or acquiring RDM capacity—in other words, the infrastructure, services, and other resources needed to support emerging data management practices.

Team Members

Brian Lavoie, Senior Research Scientist
Chris Cyr, Associate Research Scientist

More OCLC Research on RDM

Research data management (RDM) is assuming an increasingly prominent place in scholarly communication, funder requirements, codes of academic practice, university research strategy, and even national policy. OCLC Research has followed these developments and responded with a program of work examining researchers' needs and the role of university libraries in supporting researchers and assisting universities in meeting emerging compliance requirements.
Explore OCLC Research and RDM >>