Virginia Tech and five other members of the Data Curation Network and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) were awarded a National Science Foundation EAGER grant (#2135874) to conduct research, develop models, and collect information related to cost for public access to research data. The group, led by ARL, is composed of data specialists from Virginia Tech, University of Michigan, Duke University, University of Minnesota, Cornell University, and Washington University in St. Louis.

Public access to research data increases transparency of research results, heightens the visibility of institutional scholarship, and can accelerate the pace of discovery through scholarship. However, common questions around public access to research data remain. Where are funded researchers making their data publicly accessible, and what is the quality of the corresponding metadata? How do researchers make the decision on how and why to share data? What is the cost to institutions to implement the federally mandated public access to research data policy?

“National and international discussions are happening surrounding the research data landscape,” said Jonathan Petters, University Libraries’ assistant director of data management and curation services, who is providing input and expertise on behalf of Virginia Tech. “It is important for Virginia Tech to be a part of this discussion and provide input at this high level. 

“The University Libraries has a robust data services program to assist researchers in publicly sharing their data as required by many funding agencies, including through our institutional data repository,” said Petters. “We also know researchers use other data repositories, that may or may not have fees, to share their research data. We want to capture where and how Virginia Tech-generated data is shared so we can analyze the overall cost of public access to research data.”

The group will also specifically focus on developing and analyzing models and collecting costing information for public access to research data within the environmental science, materials science, psychology, biomedical sciences, and physics disciplines.

“We will be interviewing select faculty and involving them in answering our group’s questions about where, how, and why they share their data,” added Petters. “This research will help drive discussions here at Virginia Tech about sharing data and how much it costs. We do share research data through our institutional data repository at no cost to researchers, but there is an expense to maintain the system and staff the services. It also takes researchers’ time and dedication.”

The group hopes this research will provide for better understanding of the challenges to providing public access to research data from the institutional perspective.