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Managing data for the 21st century: Stanford Libraries to the rescue



Research data

It’s been the model of scientific research the world over: a researcher collects data, and then reports a summary of the findings in a paper or article, which is then published in a journal or book.

Changes in the electronic age have rippled across a wide range of disciplines. The internet now makes sharing of more complete research data with remote colleagues a practical reality.

In recent years, major funding agencies, such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes for Health, are demanding more than narrative text and a few graphs or tables to describe research results.  They are asking for transparency, preservation, and open access to the mountains of raw data that make up a study.

Stanford Libraries is among the institutions that have collaborated in an open source effort with the California Digital Library, which has developed a new online resource to manage research data, called the Data Management Planning Tool (DMP Tool).   Now anyone with a Stanford login can access a Stanford-specific version of the tool.

Funders are requiring researchers not only to preserve their data, but to explain in the proposal how they’re going to make it accessible.  It’s a whole new component of the proposal process.

“It can be a daunting task to develop an overall plan for data management for a research group, especially groups that generate large volumes or many different types of data,” said Stanford Libraries Science Data Librarian Amy Hodge.

By using the DMP Tool, researchers are better able to develop data management plans that fit their needs and better promote the sharing and reuse of their research data with colleagues at Stanford and beyond – at other institutions, in industry, and in government.

Wider dissemination of research data also prevents the need for researchers to repeat experiments simply because they could not access the data from previous experiments performed by other groups.

“Not everyone has been required to create a plan just yet. But as more and more funding agencies, including those funding projects in the humanities and other areas of study, add data management plan requirements to their proposal submission process, the data management plan will become a commonplace document for research groups all over campus,” according to Hodge.

The DMP Tool gathers together in one place much of the information a researcher needs to create, edit, export, and share a brief data management plan. It includes requirements from the funding agencies, help text with suggestions and guidelines on what to include in each section of the plan, and links to Stanford-specific guidance on topics from how to name files, to dealing with private patient information, to copyrights and licensing.

The DMP Tool provides a framework for creating a data management plan that will help to ensure that the data will be around longer than the scholars who gathered it– and it won’t be vulnerable to tampering, power shortages, electronic storms or a spilled cup of coffee.

Cynthia Haven is associate director of communications for the Stanford University Libraries.

Related information:

California Digital Library

Digital Media Planning Tool


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December 9, 2015

December 9, 2015