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Meeting the demand for data curation, preservation

By August 30, 2019September 16th, 2023No Comments

By Mark Engebretson

Lisa Johnston

Lisa Johnston, Principal Investigator, Data Curation Network

As funders and publishers increasingly require that researchers preserve and share the underlying data from their sponsored research, the demand for professional data curation at colleges and universities has increased dramatically.

Meeting that demand at the University of Minnesota Libraries and several other university libraries is the Data Curation Network.

Network has curated 45 data sets since January 1

The Data Curation Network is a partnership of nine academic libraries and a non-profit digital repository — led by the University of Minnesota Libraries — to better support researchers openly and ethically share their research data. The collaboration was created through a three-year, $526,438 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Since its January 1 launch, the Data Curation Network has curated 45 research datasets — providing services to over 150 researchers and data creators that improve how their data are shared in ways that make them findable, open, and reusable.

According to the University Libraries’ Lisa Johnston, the Principal Investigator of the Data Curation Network, the current data repository landscape is uneven, which is a problem for academic institutions.

Faculty at universities “get the grant dollars and therefore they have an institutional responsibility for the long-term stewardship, access, and preservation of the valuable digital research data generated,” she says. The Data Curation Network is an example of a collaborative effort to meet and exceed that responsibility.

“Those of us in academic libraries see our role to help support institutional data sharing efforts,” Johnston says. “Our commitment to public access — combined with our long-established expertise in archival best practices and digital curation — make us the best fit to take on the challenge of data stewardship and sharing.”

Making data FAIR

According to Johnston, data curators enrich research data, making the data FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable) by:

  • Finding and adding missing files and documentation
  • Screening for privacy disclosure
  • Detecting and fixing code and other quality assurance issues
  • Transforming file formats for long term access

The Data Curation Network also is engaged in expanding the skills of data curators and sharing best practices through a series of free workshops open to librarians, curators, and archivists. These specialized data curation workshops provide a peer-to-peer learning opportunity for the data community to share and expand their expertise. The next workshop will take place November 5 and 6 at Washington University in St. Louis.

Lastly, the Data Curation Network is also supporting the work of data curators through the development of community resources, including curation checklists, workshop content, and primers. Data curation primers are a concise, actionable resource to assist data curators in adding value to a dataset, meant to jumpstart the curation process.

“In a world of increasingly interdependent scholarship, the DCN represents an outstanding model for knitting together the services of our libraries,” says John Wilkin, Dean of Libraries and University Librarian at the University of Illinois at Urbana­-Champaign. “Efforts like the DCN help increase the sustainability of libraries by amplifying their impact with limited resources.”

Johnston adds that the members of the Data Curation Network are repositories supported by brick and mortar institutions that are “sustainable, trustworthy and long-lasting. We in the Data Curation Network are aiming to leverage this collective expertise and build a stronger data repository ecosystem where our researchers can trust that their data will be around for the future.”

Data Curation Network members

The Data Network Network

Members of the Data Curation Network gathered at the University of Minnesota Libraries for the 2nd Annual All Hands Meeting in July 2019. The group reviewed accomplishments to date and planned for upcoming projects. Members from all 10 partner institutions attended the three-day event.

The Data Curation Network is a partnership that includes the University of Minnesota, Cornell University, Dryad Digital Repository, Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, New York University, Penn State University, the University of Illinois at Urbana­-Champaign, the University of Michigan, and Washington University in St Louis.

For more information

Lisa Johnston
University of Minnesota Libraries
Research Data Management/Curation Lead
Co-Director of the University Digital Conservancy
Principal Investigator, Data Curation Network


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Mark Engebretson

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