CLIR/DLF Report Highlights Need for Data Curation Education

Contact: Kathlin Smith
202-939-4754

Washington, DC, August 2, 2012-Data curation is a growing challenge for research and scholarship, but few researchers are prepared to deal with the challenge, according to a new report from the Council on Library and Information Resources and the Digital Library Federation. The report, The Problem of Data, examines data management and curation practices among university researchers and the current state of data curation education.

“The massive scale of data creation and accumulation, together with increasing dependence on data in research and scholarship, are profoundly changing the nature of knowledge, discovery, organization, and reuse,” writes CLIR President Chuck Henry in his introduction. Yet we are responding with considerable difficulty to “what may be the most complex and urgent contemporary challenge for research and scholarship.”

In part one of the report, Lori Jahnke and Andrew Asher examine data curation practices among scholars at five institutions of higher education. Jahnke, anthropology librarian at Emory University and former CLIR postdoctoral fellow, and Asher, digital initiatives coordinator and scholarly communications officer at Bucknell University, conducted ethnographic interviews of graduate students, faculty, and researchers in a range of social science disciplines. Among their key findings:

  • None had received formal training in data management practices, nor did they express satisfaction with their level of expertise
  • Few researchers think about long-term preservation of their data
  • The demands of publication output overwhelm long-term considerations of data curation
  • There is a great need for more effective collaboration tools, as well as online spaces that support the volume of data generated and provide appropriate privacy and access controls
  • Few researchers are aware of the data services that the library might be able to provide.

In part two of the report, Spencer D. C. Keralis, director of the Digital Scholarship Co-Operative at the University of North Texas and former CLIR postdoctoral fellow, provides a snapshot of the current state of data curation education. He finds that while LIS and iSchool programs are making efforts to develop data curation curricula “much work still needs to be done to prepare LIS graduates for roles as data professionals in and out of libraries.” He adds that “the LIS world largely remains a closed circuit, providing concentrations within tracks restricted to LIS enrollees.” Keralis notes that the trend in emerging curriculum development programs is to open up this closed circuit and allow post-baccalaureate students and professionals to take courses in data curation.

The report, available in electronic format only, can be accessed at https://clir.wordpress.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub154.

The report’s release coincides with the conclusion of a two-week immersion seminar for CLIR and CLIR/DLF postdoctoral fellows, the second week of which focuses on data curation.

The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) is an independent, nonprofit organization that forges strategies to enhance research, teaching, and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of higher learning. CLIR’s Digital Library Federation (DLF) program aims to build and support a robust, engaged community whose members share a vested interest in advancing digital libraries. To this end, DLF serves as a resource and catalyst for collaboration among digital library developers, project managers, and all who are invested in digital library issues.