University Libraries in collaboration with libraries at Indiana University and the University of Colorado Boulder have been awarded a 2-year, $378,046 Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant under the National Leadership Grants for Libraries program. Together these university libraries will address the challenge of curating data produced during interdisciplinary and highly collaborative research. 

Leading the project for University Libraries is Co-Investigator Jonathan Petters, data management consultant and curation service coordinator, and Andrea Ogier, assistant dean and director of data services. From Indiana University, the Principle Investigator, Inna Kouper, is an assistant scientist at the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering. 

The project will engage with nine diverse interdisciplinary research groups through assessing their current data practices, producing data analysis and curation workflows, implementing these workflows,  and engaging graduate students and professional experts to collaboratively evaluate the effectiveness of the project in assessing the best way to curate research data in interdisciplinary research projects.

Curating research data for access, preservation, and reuse within one research discipline presents many challenging but known issues. “To our knowledge, however, the challenges within multiple research disciplines that collaborate have not been addressed,” said Petters. “This project seeks to build a foundation for addressing these thorny challenges.”

This important work will generate deep knowledge of data practices in interdisciplinary research, engage the library and archives communities in collaborative development and evaluation, and enhance the long-term sustainability of these complex datasets and their necessary infrastructures for use in future research. 

Andi Ogier and Jonathan Petters.
Andi Ogier and Jonathan Petters

The University Libraries will be working with three interdisciplinary Virginia Tech-based research projects:

The project is in preliminary stages and the next steps are to meet and learn about the processes and challenges of interdisciplinary data curation. “We will do that through what we call a deep dive, a series of semi-structured interviews with team members to learn about their data work,” said Kouper. “Then we will take what we have learned and work on additions and improvements, both manual and automated, aimed at streamlining the researchers’ work with data.” 

The research teams will be trying out what they learned in their daily work and will be documenting what works and what does not. Another important component of this project is collaborative evaluation where the group will engage a broader community of experts in the evaluation of their work and use input to improve their recommendations. “In this we are partnering with several data organizations and faculty from library and information science schools,” explained Kouper. 

University Libraries’ experts in data and curation are ready to help Virginia Tech researchers make their research data accessible. This includes publishing their data in University Libraries’ research data repository, a platform for highlighting, preserving, and providing access to work generated by the Virginia Tech community. 

Making research data widely accessible and reusable to other researchers and the general public will increase the robustness, integrity, and transparency of scholarship. “It can allow for new methods and areas of research to open,” said Petters. “This project is another step in helping the research enterprise to move towards this new world.” 

Written by Elise Monsour Puckett