If You Build It, Will They Fund? Making Research Data Management Sustainable

by Ricky Erway and Amanda Rinehart


Some research libraries have been proactive in taking on the new role of supporting the research data management needs of researchers and the university, whereas others have been assigned this role without having sought it. Either way, additional financial or personnel resources rarely are in place to implement and sustain this activity. This brief document explores the pros and cons of seven possible funding sources. It also describes the current circumstances in seven countries outside the United States.


  • Because some research data is a valuable university asset, institutions should build ongoing funding into their base budgets to provide resources to the units responsible for managing that asset.
  • The seven funding strategies include obtaining institutional budgetary support, adding to grant budgets, charging data depositors, charging data users, establishing an endowment, using existing funding for data repository development and making do with existing budgets.
  • Another option is to outsource to external data repositories, although many make no effort to meet digital preservation standards.

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Data management underpins current and future research, funder mandates, open access initiatives, researcher reputations and institutional rankings. While it is widely recognized that data management support is necessary, recognition that it requires sustainable funding is slower in coming. Even as the community is beginning to understand the costs, it must begin to address how data management might be funded. This brief report provides an overview of seven funding strategies and their standing in the US. Circumstances in seven other countries are described in the appendix.

This work is part of our research collections and support efforts to inform current thinking about research collections and the emerging services that libraries are offering to support contemporary modes of scholarship. We are encouraging the development of new ways for libraries to build and provide these types of collections and deliver distinctive services. For more information about this specific effort, see our role of libraries in data curation project.

Suggested citation:

Ricky Erway and Amanda Rinehart. 2016. If You Build It, Will They Fund? Making Research Data Management Sustainable. Dublin, Ohio: OCLC Research. http://www.oclc.org/content/dam/research/publications/2016/oclcresearch-making-research-data-management-sustainable-2016.pdf.