The proper stewardship of research data has become critically important in our society, both for accountability (e.g., scientific reproducibility) as well as for new research (e.g., through the reuse of data in data science and “big data”). Many research institutions have decided to make strategic investments in research data management in order to provide a competitive advantage and in order to mitigate significant risks. Over the last two to three years, there has been a growing awareness and literature in the national and international communities describing the advantages, needs, and opportunities for research data management services, especially as funding agencies such as NSF, NIH, and others have required that proposals include plans for managing and sharing research data.
Recently, staff in IST/OCIO, Educational Technology, and the Library collaborated on a benchmarking exercise to see how Berkeley compared to a set of peer institutions. In that exercise, we determined that Berkeley was not doing as much as our peers in helping researchers manage their data, with "few services and minimal coordination". Indeed, across campus, researchers tell us that they either are not managing data properly or are developing one-off solutions for their own projects.
What is research data management?
Research data management, or RDM for short, covers a full lifecycle of activities related to research data, from planning through collaboration, sharing, curation, preservation, discovery and reuse as well as consulting, training, and documentation in support of these activities.
This year, Research IT launches a major initiative to help identify needs and potential services for research data management. Our goal is to work with the campus research community and the community of service providers and stakeholders to identify the services that researchers need, the gaps in those services, and the constraints or barriers that make it difficult for researchers to manage their data. This initiative involves close collaboration with the Library and other service providers so that we can coordinate our services and make it easier for researchers to find services that match their needs.
In year one of this initiative, RIT will focus on these activities and goals:
- Building community with researchers, service providers, and other stakeholders
- Identifying services, gaps, constraints and barriers
- Making it easier for researchers to find, procure and use existing services
- Starting work on filling some gaps
- Identifying components for a multi-year program and budget request
Though we believe that some improvements can be made with modest effort, the larger challenges will take time and investment. However, RIT is committed to working with our campus partners to raise awareness, build community, and address the challenges of research data management.