C&RL Journal Article Preprint by OCLC Researchers on RDM Available for Free Download

A preprint of an article examining the factors that influence research data management programs by Ixchel M. Faniel, Research Scientist, and Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Senior Research Scientist and Director of User Research, is now available to download for free from the College & Research Libraries journal.

Evolving to meet new needs within scholarly communities, academic libraries have begun to provide research data management (RDM) programs. In the article, titled "Librarians' perspectives on the factors influencing research data management programs," Faniel and Connaway examine factors that influence librarians' ability to support researchers' needs.

Findings from interviews with 36 library professionals in the US identify five major factors of influence: 1) human resources; 2) communication, coordination and collaboration; 3) technical resources; 4) leadership support; and 5) researchers' perceptions of the library. 

Faniel and Connaway give context to librarians' role in campus RDM and the emerging research around this topic, and then explore in depth the findings that show how different aspects of the above five factors facilitate or constrain RDM activity.

The article expands on the facilitators, which are defined as:

  • Communication, coordination and collaboration within and across institutions
  • Continuing education and on-the-job training
  • Dedicated experts on staff
  • Leadership support for culture change and relationship building
  • Digital repositories

As well as the constraints, which are identified as:

  • Financial and technical challenges of data storage and preservation
  • Too many demands on limited work time
  • Lack of staff with RDM skills and expertise
  • Outdated perceptions of the library among researchers

The following are highlights of Faniel's and Connaway's findings and recommendations for campus libraries and researchers.

Partnerships are needed to support the range of RDM services needed. Although digital repositories were mentioned as facilitating RDM, the challenges related to data storage and preservation were mentioned twice as much. The truth is many librarians do not having the time, money or full range of expertise needed to support researchers' RDM over the lifetime of the data. However, by inventorying expertise and resources against RDM objectives, librarians may be able to more clearly identify and draw upon areas of expertise and capacity on and off campus, including other RDM service providers.

Consider ways to do more with less than optimal staffing levels. Reallocating and reskilling existing staff helped RDM programs, but demands on staff time were a challenge. Pooling expertise with colleagues in the library is a good alternative to having one librarian address RDM from multiple skill areas, some of which may be underdeveloped. Pooling expertise and resources with libraries at other institutions may reduce duplication of effort and demands on time. For instance, coordinating support for researchers' RDM needs via cross-institutional repositories, provides the potential to focus resources, staff expertise and repository attention on a core set of needs within a discipline and across multiple institutions.      

Explore more and different connections with researchers. Less than a quarter of the librarians mentioned meeting and talking with researchers about RDM, even though researchers' outdated perceptions about the library and librarians constrained RDM programs. Traditionally liaison librarians have been integral in reaching out and educating researchers, but they are not the only answer. Consider employing more and different connections between librarians and researchers to not only build awareness of researchers' needs and enhance RDM services, but also to build researchers' awareness of librarians' support and to enhance their perception of librarians' abilities to perform RDM services.

Lead a broad-based outreach and education campaign. Findings indicate partnerships among the library and other service organizations on campus are critical to building effective RDM programs. Since the library is often at the center of RDM efforts and leadership support is critical, library administrators may be in the best position to lead the charge. By building a coalition of administrative stakeholders across the various service organizations on campus, RDM support can employ the full-range of the institution’s abilities and efforts, not only those of the library.

Read the article in full on the CR&L journal website.

For more information:

Patrick A Confer
Web Projects Manager
OCLC Research