On the Horizon: Librarians & Data Management

On the Horizon continues! What else have we brought back from MLA’12? A better understanding of the needs of diverse audiences.

We work with a large variety of researchers between the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, Dentistry, Pharmacy, and Public Health, in addition to the University of Michigan Health System, and every researcher can have a specific need when it comes to data management.

“What “open data” means – and what it doesn’t” © 2010 Libby Levi for opensource.com CC BY-SA 2.0

Susan McGuinness from the University of California, San Diego’s Biomedical Library presented on new roles for librarians in data management in research. Essentially, it boils down to understanding your audience’s needs. Data now is becoming problematic, with challenges including the proliferation of disparate devices, storage locations, and researchers themselves. To this end, Ms. McGuinness recommends adapting the librarian’s bread and butter, the reference interview, into a data interview, not only so that the librarian can understand the unique needs that may crop up later in the course of research, but so that the researchers themselves can begin to think about the structure and storage of their data at an earlier point in the research process. She highlighted a publication from Purdue Libraries on conducting a data interview as an excellent resource for librarians hoping to add this to a suite of services.
With pushes from some of the top funders – NSF and NIH – for data management plans as required grant components, another role for librarians is to help researchers prepare these components. Several schools are collaborating on a fascinating resource (also heralded at the Special Libraries Association 2012 conference): DMPtool lets institutions and researchers create boilerplate templates, which are then customizable for diverse projects. With funders establishing the new norms that not just publications are required to be shared, but the actual primary data as well, there is certainly a burgeoning role for librarians to play in the process, just as there is in the open access publication movement.

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