He mentioned some common keywords when people think of libraries: conservation, preservation, permanent, but perhaps seen as intimidating, risk-averse, conservative. What can libraries do in relation to data? He promised us 8 things, but then came up with a 9th:
- Raise awareness of data issues,
- lead policy on data management,
- provide advice to researchers about their data management early in life cycle,
- work with IT colleagues to develop appropriate local data management capacity,
- collectively influence UK policy on research data management,
- teach data literacy to research students,
- develop KB of existing staff,
- work with LIS educators to identify required workforce skills (see Swan report), and
- enrich UG learning experience through access to research data.
(It struck me later, by the way that this presentation was in a way quintessentially British, or at least non-American, in the extent of its attention to these non-research elements; American chief librarian colleagues have seemed to be focused on the research library and less interested in the under-graduate library.)
So bearing the resource problems in mind, Lewis took us through the Library/IT response to the English Funding Council’s Shared Services programme: the UKRDS feasibility study. He noted the scale of the data challenge, still poorly served in policy & infrastructure, the major gaps in current data services provision. University Library and IT Services in several institutions are coming under pressure to provide data-oriented services, mainly just now for storage (necessary but not sufficient for curation). He reminded us that the UK eScience core programme was a world leader; we had many reports to refer to, especially including Liz Lyon’s “Dealing with Data” report, but we are getting to the point where we need services not projects.
The feasibility study surprisingly shows low levels of use of national facilities; most data curation and sharing happens within the institution. The feasibility study identified 3 options:
- do nothing,
- massive central service, or
- coordinated national service.
There was strong evidence base of gaps in data curation service provision in UK. Cost savings were hard to calculate in a new area, but were compared with the potential alternative of ubiquitous provision in universities for their own data. UKRDS would seek to embrace rather than replace existing services, but might provide them with additional opportunities. Next steps were to publish their report, which would recommend (and he hopes extract the funds to enable) a Pathfinder phase (operational, not pilot).
During questions, the inevitable from a representative of a discipline area with already well-established support (and I paraphrase): “how can you do the real business of curation, namely adding value to collected datasets, when you are at best generalists without real contact with the domain scientists necessary for curation?” To which, my response is “the only possible way: in partnership”!