March 09, 2011

RIN NESTA report on Open Science – research data storing and sharing

Writing about web page

This report has a very useful executive summary, highlighting the benefits identified by researchers, of openness about their research and the barriers and constraints to such openness.

These perspectives are useful when considering whether a library could or should help researchers to make their work available more openly. Librarians instinctively want to help researchers to find the work of others that they can build upon, so we would naturally support openness wherever we can but we do need to be aware of researchers' reservations and where the benefits actually lie. The report recommends that research funders and institutions support research communities in six particular areas and it seems to me that where the library can play a significant role is in the following selection of recommendations:

"1) Data management and sharing": providing guidance and policies should be at an institutional level but the Librarian can help to find good existing examples of guidance and be part of a team considering such policy.

"2) Research infrastructure: supporting tools and standards". Library staff can inform themselves of tools and standards and remain up to date in this area, in order to be able to advise the research community. (Training is a separate recommendation and perhaps we could contribute there too.) 

"6) examples of good practice: gathering, assembling and disseminating good practice in open science and ways in which these practices have benefitted both research projects and researchers themselves."

I would actually want to start with the sixth recommendation as I believe that the best ways for an institution to follow the other recommendations could be identified through such a process.

The report itself has case studies of the researchers they approached, which give examples of disciplinary differences and examples of ways in which one discipline's expertise in handling data might be translatable to other disciplines. For example, the astronomers' data might not have so many commercial applications as other disciplines might encounter, which enables openness in their field. Meanwhile, astronomers' skills in image analysis might be applicable in other disciplines. The case study also mentions the vast quantities of data available in the field of astronomy and efforts to catalogue it and make it usable which would probably be relevant experience to those in other disciplines as well.

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