Library Collaboration in Research Data Management

This project examines the trade-offs and strategic priorities involved in the decision to implement inter-institutional collaborative solutions for research data management (RDM). Collaboration is often seen as an inviting choice for academic libraries seeking to acquire new services, expertise, infrastructure, and other capacities to support evolving roles and shifting priorities. Advances in digital and network technologies have amplified the benefits and lowered the costs of collaborative activity, while economic pressures have called into question the feasibility of duplicating capacity across institutions. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new uncertainties into the mix, and collaboration can help to blunt the impact of risk and economic burdens by spreading them across multiple institutions. As interest grows, it becomes correspondingly more important for academic libraries to be purposeful and strategic in their collaboration choices.     

A case in point is RDM. Securing the long-term persistence of research data, along with enabling its discovery, accessibility, and reuse is now widely acknowledged as responsible scholarly practice. RDM is perhaps the most visible example of academic libraries’ ongoing efforts to adapt their capacities to changing research practices, an evolving scholarly record and growing interest in open science.

The decision to source RDM capacity locally, externally, or collaboratively must be a strategic choice, evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Collaboration is a sourcing option that entails both benefits and costs compared with the alternatives, and the way these costs and benefits balance will be different for every library. 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 observation is the starting point for a new OCLC Research project, in which we will examine what “active, informed decision-making” means in the context of collaboratively sourced RDM capacities. When is collaboration the right choice for RDM, or, to put it another way, what circumstances suggest that collaboration might be a better choice than other sourcing options? RDM is an excellent context for exploring this question, in that it is both an emerging area of strategic interest to academic libraries and one in which the decision to collaborate is highly relevant. Our goal in conducting this project is to help academic libraries make intentional, strategic choices about collaboration in an RDM context.

The project will explore relevant academic literatures such as economics, political science, and organizational theory to see what they have to say about the factors that figure most prominently in the

Team Members

Brian Lavoie, Senior Research Scientist

Chris Cyr, Associate Research Scientist