Manufacturing Serendipity


Published on

How a group of upstarts "manufactured serendipity" to create a data-management consulting service at a research university.

Published in: Education, Technology
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Manufacturing Serendipity

  1. 1. ipi t y Manufacturing r en d Se Research Data Services at UW-Madison Dorothea Salo Coalition for Networked Information Spring Meeting 2011Hello. My name is Dorothea Salo, and Iʼm the Research Services Librarian at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. (CLICK) Iʼm here to tell you the story of howwe built the data-planning consulting service that weʼre calling Research Data Services. The process honestly amounts to what Iʼm going to call “manufacturingserendipity.”
  2. 2. Rich Choice ( / Erich Ferdinand / CC BY 2.0Unlike Scott, Ill be talking more about the making of sausage than the sausage itself. Thatʼs deliberate, partly because we donʼt have anything like Purdueʼsinfrastructure or plans to show off, and partly because my sense is that a lot of libraries are a lot closer to where WE are than to where Purdue is. Iʼm hoping thatour story will be helpful to those of you whose organizations are on similar paths.
  3. 3. Untitled ( / Ryan Dickey / CC BY 2.0When the NSF Data Management Plan requirement came down, Research Data Services looked like X-marks-the-spot -- the more so because a lot of high-levelcampus administrators and major campus players in the research-computing space hadnʼt even heard of us prior to that. This led to a few amusing comedies oferrors, which isnʼt all that surprising coming from a gigantic decentralized research university, but the point remains: we were ready, and our readiness surprised alot of people.Was it really just serendipity? Did we just happen to be in the right place at the right time? Either way, what does it mean for you? Thatʼs for you to decide, but Iʼlltry to pull out some morals-of-the-story at the end.
  4. 4. 2007 Scholarly Assets Management Initial Exploratory GroupWhen I started my new institutional-repository-manager job in the UW-Madison Libraries in two-thousand-seven, the very first committee I was put onto wassomething called the Scholarly Asset Management Initial Exploratory Group. SAMIEG was sponsored, funded, and mostly crewed by our central IT unit, theDivision of Information Technology,
  5. 5. Focus Group Discussion ( / whyohgee singapore 201 / CC BY 2.0and it took the form of a number of focus groups with faculty, where we asked them about their data needs.
  6. 6. As is the way of such groups, the results were written up into a report
  7. 7. Big yawn ( / yaaaay / CC BY 2.0which as best I can tell nobody much at our institution actually read
  8. 8. Lion (!afamily/903508826/) / Bu!a / CC BY 2.0though I know people OUTSIDE our institution sat up and took notice, because Iʼve seen it cited a fair few places. I hope it was helpful! But so much for thatreport.
  9. 9. 2008Now, it feels both amazing and a little strange to be speaking alongside Scott, because the next thing that happened to us in this space was the CIC “Librariansand E-Science” conference in two-thousand-eight, which was held at Purdue and which Scott organized and spoke at. The libraries sent half a dozen people tothis, IT people and librarians, myself included, and it was a real turning point for us; several of us came back thinking “yes, the writing is on the wall; this is going tobe A Thing and we will have to do something about it.”
  10. 10. Workers in warehouse, 1915 ( / Seattle Municipal Archives / CC BY 2.0Notably -- and hereʼs where we differ strongly from what Purdue has done -- the people who came back thinking this were rank-and-file employees and linemanagers. Not campus IT administrators, not library administrators, not campus administrators, just ordinary working schmos like me. There was NO WAY wewere going to reorganize the whole library org chart the way Purdue did to create a separate arm and a separate dean for research services! Not gonna happen!And there are a lot of research and research-computing stakeholders on our campus, so there was NO WAY that everybody was just going to fall in line behindthe library. So if anything WAS going to happen
  11. 11. Bottoms Up! - Duck; San Anton Gardens, Malta ( / John Haslam / CC BY 2.0it would have to happen from the bottom up. And in at least two different campus organizational silos: the library, and campus IT. Kind of a tall order.
  12. 12. 2007 –200 8student teacher ( / Rex Pe / CC BY 2.0But while all this was happening, so was another thing: namely, I was starting to teach technology in libraries for the School of Library and Information Studies atUW-Madison. And because I didnʼt embarrass myself in the classroom, SLIS and I started talking about the possibility of perhaps teaching other courses as well.And you can guess where this is going, so Iʼll just spill it: this spring Iʼm teaching a data-curation course online thatʼs heavy on the service learning. Iʼve got thesyllabus with me and am happy to share it afterwards. The key point for our purposes is that this course has a strong service-learning component, so itʼs becomea way to sneakily help people on campus manage their data without having to worry so much about approval from the Powers That Be. Serendipity-manufacturingin action!
  13. 13. on of 2009S Scholarly Assets Management Initial Exploratory GroupSo, in two-thousand-nine, some of the same people who had been on SAMIEG started what I mischievously call (CLICK) Son of SAMIEG
  14. 14. 2009 Research Data Management Study Groupbut which was properly called the Research Data Management Study Group. Instead of focus groups, this was a set of more in-depth interviews with faculty.
  15. 15. As is the way of such groups, the results were written up into a report
  16. 16. Big yawn ( / yaaaay / CC BY 2.0which as best I can tell nobody at our institution read
  17. 17. Lion (!afamily/903508826/) / Bu!a / CC BY 2.0though I know people OUTSIDE our institution sat up and took notice, because this too has been cited a time or two.
  18. 18. I dont even know ( / Jaysin / CC BY 2.0Seeming kinda pointless? Well, maybe. But in a crowded environment where everybody has too much to do, this is sometimes the only way that the rank-and-filecan light a fire: by writing reports that nobody reads so that they serve as administrative cover when real opportunities come along.
  19. 19. Diek Scram ( / Joel Dinda / CC BY 2.0Because a thing that happens in large organizations when something difficult and messy and kinda futuristic comes up that nobody wants to deal with, is they tellyou, “SCRAM! Go away and do some market research or user research or needs assessment or something and write us a report.” Which, look, WE ALL KNOWnobodyʼs gonna read that report, much less act on it; itʼs pure organizational theatre. But in our case, weʼd done all the report-writing already, so nobody couldreasonably tell us to go do it again. So writing the reports nobody read freed us up to make something happen when opportunity arose.
  20. 20. 2009And arise it did. In late two-thousand-nine, the new campus CIO started a campuswide IT strategic planning process. And it was designed to be very bottom-up; alot of big open meetings were held where people could say what they thought was important for campus to do. And this is where we, this little group of rank-and-file librarians and IT pros who thought research data management was important, really went to town on manufacturing some serendipity. We went to thosemeetings, we said our piece, we pointed to the reports from SAMIEG and Son of SAMIEG as evidence that this was important...
  21. 21. The RSS Bus! ( / evan p. cordes / CC BY 2.0... and what do you know, we got ourselves a strategic-planning charter!
  22. 22. Airplane Cockpit ( / Andrew Hitchcock / CC BY 2.0 2010So in twenty-ten our charter group did some pilot projects, which given that research data management is a whole-lifecycle thing, thereʼs not much you can reallyhave to show in less than a year, but we did our best.
  23. 23. And we started putting together a website, and a business plan, and all that other good stuff.
  24. 24. 40+296 Hello? ( / bark / CC BY 2.0But from where I was sitting, the interesting thing to watch was the behavior of the charter sponsors, who were administrators from all over campus. Who justdidnʼt really quite get what we were doing, or what problem we were trying to address, or why it was important to address it... but to their credit, they werenʼt quiteready to stop us doing it. And part of this is that the research-data lifecycle and why itʼs going to have to change and how huge an impact that will have on theresearch enterprise and how much and what KIND of help researchers will need to do this right, all this is REALLY HARD TO EXPLAIN to people, but if you wantto blame us for not explaining it well, Iʼm completely willing to agree with you.
  25. 25. Shhh!... ( / Robert D. Brooks / CC BY 2.0They did shush us a bit, though. Well, kind of a lot, really. They didnʼt want us making waves. Donʼt go talk to the research-computing people; theyʼre really busy.Donʼt go talk to deans; youʼre just a pilot project. Stuff like that. So they were nervous about us. Thatʼs what happens when these processes are bottom-up insteadof top-down. The top worries, doesnt want to commit itself -- and doesnt want YOU to turn into anything they might be forced to commit to.
  26. 26. Mantegna, “Trionfo della virtù” Work found at File:Mantegna,_trionfo_della_virt%C3%B9,_dettaglio_02.jpg / CC BY-SAAnd so when the NSF lowered the boom and we leapt on the opportunity with a website and a consulting service, it really did feel to a lot of campus that wesprang out of nowhere, like Minerva from the head of Jove!
  27. 27. ipi t y Manufacturing r en d SeWhen it was really the result of four long years of patient, opportunistic serendipity-manufacturing that we hadnʼt been ALLOWED to tell anyone about.
  28. 28. noStorage ( / Jamie / CC BY 2.0 hereWhat is it that Research Data Services does? you may well be asking. Well, notably, we donʼt do storage or archival. We donʼt TOUCH storage, except to suggestexisting storage services to people and provide requirements for future storage services. We are PURELY an information, consultation, and training service. Wedo handouts like the one youʼve got in your hands. We do a lot of outreach and education. We donʼt do storage.
  29. 29. Precious pigskin ( Je! Meade / CC BY 2.0Frankly, storage is a political football on our campus -- if weʼd seriously tried to pick that football up and run with it, weʼd have been tackled and stomped into theground.
  30. 30. I Stand Alone ( / Sudhamshu Hebbar / CC BY 2.0Weʼve survived so far despite coming out of left field because as best anybody can tell, weʼre not encroaching on turf anybody really wants, and weʼre willing towork with any or all campus entities in the storage space.
  31. 31. Babies ( / Werwin15 / CC BY 2.0And where are we now, after all of that? Well, honestly, Research Data Services is a nest of baby birds. Weʼre still officially just a pilot project, we have noadministrative home, the campus-IT half of the sketch is only funded through the end of the fiscal year, the CIO who started the strategic-planning process that ledto our creation has LEFT... so weʼre hungry and we could die of neglect pretty easily. Or some big campus power or initiative could grab us out of the nest, rip usinto bloody bits, and eat us. So weʼre trying to learn to fly. What else can we do?Sorry, you were expecting howling triumphalism? Nah, not from me you wonʼt get that. I donʼt know how this is going to turn out. “Badly” is a distinct possibility.
  32. 32. /ponder ( / hobvias sudoneighm / CC BY 2.0So what are the lessons here?
  33. 33. Tunnels of Time ( / fdecomite / CC BY 2.0First, it takes time. Consciously and intentionally managing research data is a HUGE shift in mindset -- for IT, for libraries, for researchers, for grant funders. Now,those of you who waited until now to get going have a huge advantage we didnʼt, namely, the NSF insisting on data-management plans; but even so...
  34. 34. Mantegna, “Trionfo della virtù” Work found at File:Mantegna,_trionfo_della_virt%C3%B9,_dettaglio_02.jpg / CC BY-SA... donʼt expect to gin up a working, successful service that bursts forth like Minerva from the head of Jove in a couple of weeks or months. It just does not happenthat way!
  35. 35. recycle these cups ( Eric / CC BY 2.0Second, use what youʼve got. Recycle existing resources! Such as, may I say, underused institutional-repository managers. And here I want to especially point outhow important liaison librarians are to any effort like this. If you ask researchers, they say that what you need to have to work with their research data isdisciplinary expertise. True or not, thatʼs what they think -- and thereʼs ONLY ONE PLACE on campus with a broad pool of disciplinary experts covering most or allof campus. That place is the library. Take that expertise and use it -- along with the relationships built by the liaisons who have it!
  36. 36. Limitations ( / Kashif Mardani / CC BY 2.0But be aware of your limitations. Iʼve been running institutional repositories my entire career in libraries, and I have to tell you, I cringe a bit when I see librarianstouting IR software platforms as data-curation solutions. Theyʼll work for SOME data in SOME situations, sure.
  37. 37. Catch A Falling Star... ( / Paul Sapiano / CC BY 2.0But if you think you can just repurpose IR software and youʼve solved the research-data management problem, Iʼm sorry, youre headed for trouble. As Iʼve saidand written other places, there are severe mismatches between what IR and digital-library software can DO and what research data actually NEED. Be aware ofthat, and donʼt oversell what you have.
  38. 38. Fast Twitched ( Philo Nordlund / CC BY 2.0Second, you canʼt wait until everybodyʼs ready. Nobodyʼs ready. Nobodyʼs ready because nobody WANTS to be ready. Researchers donʼt WANT to manage theirdata responsibly! If you survey them about their needs, thatʼs mostly what theyʼll tell you! You may not feel ready to help them! Iʼm telling you to help them anyway.You learn by doing, in this space. And you canʼt let the perfect be the enemy of the good. You canʼt fix data management at your institution. You CAN improve it.
  39. 39. Came hame háááá! ( / Guiri R. Reyes / CC BY 2.0So jump off the cliff already, and shove your people off it with you! Prefer ACTION to demanding reports that no oneʼs going to read, and especially prefer action toanalysis paralysis. I honestly donʼt think youʼre going to learn anything from local focus groups or surveys at this point that other people havenʼt already learned;hate to say it, but your institution is NOT a special snowflake. So read some of those studies -- and then ACT. Pilot projects, a data-curation profile program basedon Purdueʼs work, NSF consulting, system building, do something TANGIBLE to address this constellation of problems, something you can assess after a whileand change direction if you need to.But do SOMETHING. Seriously, DO something.
  40. 40. Babies ( / Werwin15 / CC BY 2.0Finally, figure out how to feed your baby birds. Change management, innovation, service development, responding to disruption, whatever you want to call it, frommy worms-eye view Iʼm not sure we always do it well in libraries. There are serious structural barriers in many of our organizations as well as the usual humanchange resistance.Its time for a gut check, librarians. Either you agree with Scott and me that managing and preserving research data is an important research-library role thatslikely to persist for a good long time, well beyond the minor chore of two-page data management plans, or you dont. If you dont, fine, outsource to the data-management templating tool thatʼll be coming out soon. Donʼt get involved otherwise, and tell all your people not to. If you DO agree with us, though, youd betternot be starving your baby birds! They have enough survival battles theyʼre fighting -- donʼt make them fight you too! Yet thats what happens to so many newthings in libraries; they get smothered by bureaucracy or starved by lack of resources, because all the resources get shoveled toward the status quo. Dont evenargue with me about this -- remember, Ive been running institutional repositories!Speaking for myself, I donʼt need gobs of money or a fancy title or to be high up in the hierarchy. For the most part, I just need an administrator to champion whatIʼm doing. Can you do that, for your baby birds, in your library? If you can, please do.
  41. 41. Go! Manufacture your own serendipityAnd with that, I invite you all to go forth! and manufacture your own serendipity.
  42. 42. Thank you! Copyright 20 1by Dorothea Salo 1 This presentation is available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States license. Should you reuse it, please respect the CC licenses on the photographs, where applicable. Thank you!Thank you! And I believe thereʼs time for questions.