Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Postdoctoral Fellowships in Data Curation for the Sciences and Social Sciences: Early Experiences and Contexts

Since 2012, with the support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) and its Digital Library Federation (DLF) program have worked to bring recent PhDs in the sciences and social sciences into libraries and other research support centers to advance services and practices in data curation through two-year postdoctoral fellowship appointments. The experiences of the earliest fellows, who participated in the program between 2012 and 2016, as well as the broader contexts in which they worked, are documented in these three papers. All of the papers come from former fellows and program staff with direct experience of CLIR’s longstanding fellowship program.

The first, contributed by Alice Bishop and Christa Williford, explains the major motivations for the creation of the data curation fellowships and identifies the range of disciplinary backgrounds represented among the first three cohorts of fellows made possible through Sloan Foundation support. Most notably, the paper describes the career choices these fellows made following their fellowship terms: a significant number of the fellows were hired by host institutions into permanent roles. Others who left for other positions still chose to remain in academic libraries, where they continue to do work related to data curation.

The paper contributed by Lori Jahnke and Andrew Asher summarizes the findings of a two-year study of the experiences and impacts of these early fellowships while pointing to key factors in academic culture that affect researchers’ investments of time and attention in making their data openly available and reusable. While many of the early data curation fellows undertook work to help build a stronger understanding of researchers’ needs within academic libraries, few were assigned to work within teams of researchers actively producing and using data. Entrenched attitudes about the division of roles and priorities between researchers and library staff hindered some fellows’ abilities to bridge this divide, whereas solid planning and resourcing for fellows’ work had significant positive effects on the fellowships’ success and resulted in greater long-term impacts for the host institutions.

The final paper written by Jodi Reeves Eyre is an analysis of 161 job postings in academic libraries between 2013 and 2017, including the period when the first three cohorts of CLIR/DLF Postdoctoral Fellows in Data Curation for the Sciences and Social Sciences entered the job market. The inclusion of “data” in the title of each of the selected postings signaled the importance of data-related skills to the hiring institutions, yet Reeves Eyre found that the majority of positions were conceived as service-oriented, generalist roles rather than as specialist partners for researchers working in particular disciplines or methods. While some of the postings listed a master’s degree in library and information science or information science as a required or desired qualification, more descriptions invited candidates with undefined “equivalent” qualifications to apply, indicating an openness to professionals from diverse backgrounds.

Scientists and Social Scientists Working in Data Curation: The Inaugural CLIR/DLF Cohorts, by Alice Bishop and Christa Williford

Ongoing Challenges for Data Curation Support: A Program Assessment of the Early CLIR/DLF Postdoctoral Fellowships in Data Curation for the Sciences and Social Sciences, 2012-2016, by Lori M. Jahnke and Andrew Asher

Data Jobs: A Place for Science and Social Science PhDs in the Libraries?, by Jodi Reeves Eyre

Download series


Skip to content