RDAP Panel script
1. Title: Good morning, I am happy to be here to talk with you about building a
data management and curation program on a shoestring budget. My position
was new to the Libraries, and new to the university for that matter, so I was able
to start with a blank slate 6 ½ months ago. I am really still in the building
2. Frame house: and like any building project, we need to start with a plan and
build a good framework, but we need to be prepared for unexpected events as
well. First some background to my plan.
3. TML photo: VCU is a large urban university with over 30 thousand students on
two campuses. The health sciences campus, serves the professional schools in
allied health, dentistry, medicine, nursing, and pharmacy, as well as faculty,
researchers, post-docs and graduate students. My office is located in the Tompkins-
McCaw Library for the Health Sciences. VCU is a Carnegie classified research
university with very high research activity and over half of the sponsored research
funding is on the medical campus. (over $141 million, with $80 million from NIH
4. Cabell photo: The James Branch Cabell Library on the general academic
campus serves a large undergraduate population, graduate students, faculty and
researchers in sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities, and arts. Despite
all the research at VCU, there were no centralized Research Data Management
services and little help could be found on web sites for campus groups.
5. CCTR: While there was no centralized group dealing with research data
management, the Office of Research administers core facilities throughout the
university and runs the Center for Clinical and Translational Research which is
partially funded by a Clinical & Translational Science Award (the only CTSA award in
Virginia) which provides things like grant writing consultations, clinical research
services, workshops, and biomedical informatics help. The Library was involved in
the community engagement section of the CTSA, which has created a good working
relationship between Office of Research and CCTR staff, and Library staff.
6. REDCap slide: One of the big successes of the CCTR offerings, as far as data
goes, has been the use of REDCap. There are over 3,000 projects on REDCap at
VCU. It is free to use, although students must have a faculty or staff member
sponsor, and it is HIPAA compliant. It is heavily used for surveys and there is some
use as a database, but there are size and file type limitations and not everyone is
aware it is available.
7. Microscopy Images: I knew there were lots of local solutions throughout the
university because I was managing one of them - storage for the images coming out
of the microscopy core. The funding was from the National Institute of Neurological
Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) so it was limited to researchers with NINDS funds or
those in the department that secured the funds. A server and eventually 10 TB of
storage was purchased. It was maintained and backed up by central IT. The
maintenance fees were paid for by the grant.
8. Vole: During job interview process for the position I now hold, I was asked to
give a talk on the subject ‘Creating Research Data Services for the Academy’. I
gave an overview of my experience working with data, starting with my field work
(which I’m only mentioning so I can insert a gratuitous cute animal photo). I talked
about types of research and data services that could be offered. And then I finished
with my PLAN.
9. PLAN – You can see my plan was extensive and if I separated out all the
individual bits in each step it would be an incredibly long list.
Create a web presence with mission, services, and current resources,
such as DMP Tool (need to customize interface for VCU), GIS, current
data sets, e.g. Social Science Electronic Data Library, open data sets, e.g.
HealthData.gov, data repositories outside VCU.
Develop open classes and curriculum-based instruction on DMP Tool for
RDM plans necessary for grants, RDM basics for novice researchers,
finding data from open repositories, maybe even an elective on good
Survey other groups on campus who are interested in or working with
data and data management.
Develop a database of VCU data resources. This can be added to the
VIVO database with eagle-i.
Conduct data interviews with groups and individual researchers. Start
with heavy data users identified in initial survey.
Analyze the collected data and work with stakeholders to develop
policies and services for VCU.
–Is there a need for a data repository at VCU?
–What are the best practices that have been developed at other
Develop programs within VCU and with other institutions to educate
librarians and other staff about data and the research enterprise.
Set up an Assessment Plan for services, resources, and educational
All of these will be done in collaboration with any interested liaisons,
librarians, departments, or other VCU groups.
My goal will be to create a flexible infrastructure that can adapt to
the future needs of the research enterprise at VCU. This is still my
10.Supervisor’s PLAN Of course, my boss had an equally impressive list for the
duties of the position. It was all very ambitious. You will notice that data curation is
not on the plan. At this time, the Library does not plan on setting up an institutional
11.START: When I actually started the job, I sat down with my supervisor, Teresa
Knott (Associate University Librarian and Director, TML) and reviewed all these
ideas, plus some new ones, and came up with something more realistic.
We decided to ditch the faculty survey. There were too many surveys at the
university - IT sent out Educause, the university had a great place survey, and our
University Librarian had already planned on sending out the Ithaca S+R Faculty
survey in early 2014, plus various other faculty and staff surveys.
12.Shoulder of Giant: Instead, we decided to build on the shoulders of giants and
assume that the needs of our researchers would be similar to researchers at other
large, research universities. By reading articles and looking through Purdue Data
Curation Profiles, we could build a picture of what was going on in our institution.
13. Chess Board: This has also been called Second-Mover Advantage. The idea
that we learn from what others have done, the mistakes and the successful ideas,
and start with that information to build our service.
14.Pipeline article: At this point I think I need to interject a note of realism into
this talk. Dorothea Salo, the professor of the online data curation course I took
from the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin at
Madison, wrote an interesting blog post recently - Can we block the pipeline
out? And I feel we must discuss some of the things she touched on when having a
panel on shoestring startup of data services.
Dorothea was concerned about the fates of some of her students hired to set up
data services. The workplace was not supportive of these new librarians trying to set
up new services. So I think we need to consider the institutional climate and the
library environment when we contemplate a list of steps to follow when setting up
data services, so we give the poor person in charge of setting things up a fighting
15. Why the library article: First we need to make sure the various stakeholders
in the institution understand why the Library should be part of data management.
Since the library is where I am located in the university structure, this is what I must
consider, but whatever department you are in, you need to make the case for why
you should provide this new service. This article points out how libraries are good
departments to make changes in universities.
16.Why Librarians: Then, you will probably need to convince some of your
colleagues that your profession should be part of data services. Again, I’m looking
at things from a librarian’s perspective (if you can’t find an article to support your
position, ask a librarian, they know how to search for articles).
17.I am lucky enough to work in a place where the University Librarian wants agile
and flexible staff. I interviewed him for the Duraspace eScience Institute, and when
I asked about the impact of e-research on the library’s mission he said:
I don’t see it impacting our fundamental mission at all. Our job is to advance
discovery and support our faculty and their work, and insure student
success. Our fundamental missions here, I don’t see it changing.
(Our mission doesn’t say to buy books or journals) we do these in service of
other things. It is important to underscore the active role librarians play in
advancing research and enabling success. And if we’re not, our institutions will
not get the best out of their investment with us and there is the possibility that
somebody else will come in and charge them more to do the same thing.
19.Astronauts: Another thing we need to consider is experience. I am obviously
old enough to bring experience to the position, some data experience as well as
library experience, but more importantly, after 7 years working part-time at VCU I
had some institutional intelligence. I knew the structure of the library and the
university. I also have knowledge of the research process, having done some
research and been the library director for a research institution. I have worked on
grants and worked closely with researchers. I have knowledge of how the research
That experience is important to colleagues. Even librarians who are open to new
things are going to have issues with a new person of unknown provenance coming
in and doing new things. Especially if they are afraid for their jobs or feel they don’t
have time to learn something new. This is where relationship building and
emotional intelligence are needed. Respect for what others are doing and have
done in the past is crucial. And supportive administrators are essential.
It is especially important to remember that many more experienced colleagues, like
me, were the ones who introduced the internet and ejournals and online catalogues
into libraries. Even when people recognize that data and other scholarly
communication issues are important, they may be too tired from working with a
shoestring budget to really want to get on board with something new.
So with a supportive environment and some relevant experience, I worked with
Teresa to form a new, more realistic plan.
20.First -1.Create a web presence to provide first contact. I set up LibGuides
and worked with the library PR department to create handouts. The PR department
also promoted my appointment to the position online and in some newsletters.
21. I included a couple of excellent videos on why data should be managed for the
researchers who might not see the value of data management aside from the grant
requirement. Many of you have probably seen these videos from NYU Health
Science Library by Karen Hanson, Alisa Surkis and Karen Yacobucci and Kevin Read
22.While there were some things available to add to the guides through library
subscriptions like The Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social
Research (ICPSR) that provides a repository and data for re-use.
23.Much of the listings in the guides were outside resources of various sorts.
They are things that anyone can link to.
24.Second – Conduct an environmental scan for data and data management
resources - comb through web site, call people to see what they can help with - this
may be the hardest since some people will think you are trying to take over their
territory. This is an ongoing process and I am often asked what I plan on doing, so I
need to be clear about my role (DMPs and liaison to other services related to data).
25. When I started doing this I realized that much of the information was hard to
get (I had to dig though our TS site to get this) and it wasn’t helpful if the
researcher didn’t know what they needed. When I interviewed the CIO, he was
aware of the problems with the web site he inherited and was willing to collaborate
with the library on a database of research resources. I found out that his team is
working on a storage solution for institutional data but it doesn’t include any
curation of resources and they will depend on researchers to know what regulations
need to be addressed.
26.Third - Pick the low hanging fruit, as I was told by the Clinical Research
Information Officer - go for regulations. Many data services have started by helping
with NSF DMPs, just like many relationships have started with NIH PAP, and more
will start with the OSTP memo. Of note during my conversation with the CRIO was
the fact that the Office of Research isn’t really worried about data in the humanities
and arts areas because there are no regulations at this time. I see this as a good
area for the library to consider helping.
27.I’m looking forward to the new version of DMPTool and I’m collecting all the
information I can to customize it as I do my scan. But even if you can’t get your
IT group to set up access to DMPTool, it can be used by everyone and there are
other templates out there you can get for free.
28.Fourth, Talk to researchers, students, and others involved in data. The
University Librarian agreed to let us participate in the Duraspace eScience
Institute and this gave me a reason, aside from my data management interests, to
talk with researchers. I was able to ask questions about broader subjects, not just
data, so I could really get a sense of research resources at the university. Getting to
know people, who does what, who is interested in data issues, who needs data help,
not just in the library or faculty or students, but in administration as well. The PR
from the library and the referrals from liaison librarians have given me more people
to talk to, individually and in groups. We also wrote and Informationist
Administrative Supplement application and that connection with a group of
researchers has led to referrals to other groups of researchers.
29. Fifth – Educate everyone you can. Colleagues, administration, faculty, staff,
students, everyone. As you talk you will learn about what is needed for each group,
so create a modular slide set so you can pull topics together quickly – you never
know when you will be asked to talk to a group.
30.There has been a lot of interest from our graduate students. I taught about data
ownership in a required ethics class for graduate students and presented at a day of
graduate student workshops, and we have had interest in classes from graduate
students and one of the Graduate School assistant deans. Think how much easier
data management will be in the future if we can get them young.
31.I’ve found materials to help with training from many places and I’ve even
attended a trainer workshop in Worcester, MA to learn about the New England
Collaborative Data Management Curriculum
32. So right now I’ve only built a small place. This doesn’t even begin to take into
account the other things I know that need to be done like reviewing data
repositories to make recommendations, discussions about data citation and
altmetrics, university policy on research data and intellectual property. I am on the
university Data and Information Management Council so I am in a position to deal
with research data at an institutional level (we are dealing with admin and financial
data right now). I’m also on libraries’ Scholarly Communications Task Force. We are
working on copyright issues and setting up an institutional repository. There is talk
that some small amounts of data might be deposited and I’ve already had
discussions with the University Archivist, who works in the Libraries, about how we
might deal with data in the repository.
33.But eventually, with time, it will become a very impressive service. I hope by
creating a good structure and proving the need for research data services, I can
eventually help set up a data repository for everyone at my institution.