Tuesday, 17 February 2015

DataQ project is promising

DataQ is an interesting project coming out of the USA. The project is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and run by the University of Colorado Libraries, the Greater Western Library Alliance and the Great Plains Network. Although the project is based in the States, it is international in scope. The outcome of the project is a knowledge-base of research data questions and answers curated for and by the library community. This will be achieved by inviting library staff from any institution around the world to submit questions on research data topics. Answers to the questions will go through the editorial team and will also be crowd-sourced with the results posted to the DataQ website, building up a knowledge base with links to resources, tools, best practices and practical approaches to addressing specific data-related issues. It’s a community driven project that will allow libraries to share knowledge, support staff skills development and better understand researcher needs in the area of RDM.

I think this project has a lot of merit and promise. I will be watching with interest to see how the DataQ service will be used - what kind of questions will be asked, will the responses be able to be generalised, how will it cater for international questions where the response may require a country specific answer e.g. a data licensing question. Will they, for example, tag those questions with a country code to enable searchers of the database/website to pull out their content specific to their region. I hope to see some questions posted - and some answers given - from the Australian library community.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Research Support Community Day - impact stories

Yesterday I attended the Research Support Community Day (#rscday2015) at UNSW in Sydney. This event is organised annually by a small, dedicated group of research support librarians who generously organise the event in their "spare time". This year, my key learnings were:

1. Telling stories is critical. In this day and age, where libraries must justify every dollar spent, librarians need to be able to effectively 'sell' the importance of the library to its institution. Much time is spent gathering statistics and turning them into eye-catching visuals, supplemented by some qualitative data e.g. researcher testimonials. Sue Henczel made the point that 'people forget facts but they never forget a good story'. The ideas presented at the support day were about combining facts and qualitative data into a story that tells in a powerful way the impact the library has had. If the library's value to the institution cannot be clearly evidenced then the very jobs of librarians will be in jeopardy.

2. Some researchers love and use social media while others do not. I listened with interest to researcher and academic, Keith Parry (@sportinaus), as he talked about his day using social media. He talked about the value of tools such as Twitter and YouTube in connecting with his students, promoting his work, and connecting with colleagues. He reflected on the value of publishing in The Conversation over academic journal publishing in terms of audience reach. He also talked about the perils of engaging in social media, such as trolling and distraction. A lot of Keith's time is also spent looking at the statistics provided by social media. ImpactStory is of real value here  (sadly it was not mentioned by Keith it was mentioned by a subsequent speaker). Librarians could learn from looking at this need and the types of statistics provided by social media - can these be used in a library context e.g. added to repository statistics provided to researchers about their publications? It was acknowledged that the library can play a key role in promoting the work of its institutions researchers via social media and Twitter in particular e.g. by tweeting recent publications.

3. Research data is still not seen as a profile boost for researchers. While Keith was the only researcher who spoke at the event, his comments are familiar: 'why would someone want my data? I'm not sure if I can share my data anyway'. Data is of increasing value to publishers, funders, institutions and some researchers but many researchers have yet to come on board the data express. The benefits, the carrots, are still not so clear and juicy-looking. For more reasons not to share data, see the funny yet tragic Open Data Excuse Bingo.

4. Research data services are important to institutions. While researchers may still struggle with concepts of data management and data sharing, institutions are putting in infrastructure and services to help with that because they see value in it. The stand out example from the Research Support Community Day was UNSW's 'ResData' which is an impressive web-based tool built in-house. To use the research data storage at UNSW, you need to complete a data management plan. ResData allows you to do this - and so much more - and ensures that should the funding bodies mandate DMPs, then UNSW will be ready to go. They have also delved into new territory - data support for HDR candidates. Maude Frances, with her brand new 'Dr' title (yes, I'm jealous!), presented on ResData and nailed it when she said that the rollout of a new system is as much about the support model and it is about the system. There is much to learn here.

This was the second Research Support Day that I have attended and I highly recommend it to librarians working in this space.