Building Research Data Infrastructure in Libraries: The Impact of Culture and Values

Date & Time
9:30 am - 11 am

Research Data Management Week 2024 (8–15 Mar 2024) 

Seminar: Building Research Data Infrastructure in Libraries: The Impact of Culture and Values

Date: 14 Mar 2024 (Thu)

Time: 9:30 am–11:00 am

Venue: Online

Speaker: Prof. Peter Darch, Associate Professor, School of Information Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Registration: Registration has been closed



University libraries are increasingly collaborating with disciplinary data producers to facilitate long-term digital curation of research data sets, a process crucial for guiding future development of library services and managing data set producer expectations. This study investigates the decision-making processes and contextual factors influencing research data management (RDM) practices in two university libraries partnered with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) collaboration to curate significant astronomy data sets. Through interviews (n = 43) and ethnographic observation, we analyze the divergent approaches taken by the libraries, which resulted in different possibilities for data reuse. One library assigned activities to a specialized digital curation unit, while the other distributed activities across existing units, with neither approach proving to be a definitive solution. The outcomes of these decisions were largely satisfactory for library staff but elicited mixed opinions from SDSS leaders. We identify three factors contributing to these differences: strategic motivations for the Data Transfer Process, misperceptions about libraries among SDSS leaders, and organizational mismatches. These factors led to divergent perspectives on provenance, the nature of datasets, adaptability of systems and services, and perceptions of obstacles. Effective communication between SDSS collaboration members and library staff proved essential in resolving these differences and maximizing the potential for data reuse, even when outcomes did not align with initial producer expectations. This study highlights the complexities of RDM decision-making in academic libraries and underscores the importance of communication and understanding in collaborative data curation efforts.


Biography of Speaker:

Peter Darch is an associate professor in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Prior to joining the iSchool at Illinois, Darch worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the UCLA Department of Information Studies and Center for Knowledge Infrastructures, studying the building, running, and effects of information infrastructures that support scientific collaboration.

His dissertation for the doctorate in computer science from the University of Oxford addressed how scientists and software engineers in online citizen science projects manage members of the public to process and generate large datasets.

He is particularly interested in the changes in the organization, conduct, and ethics of scientific research that result from the interaction of technologies for processing scientific data with broader social factors. To study these changes, he conducts longitudinal ethnographic studies of large, multidisciplinary scientific projects to examine relationships between contexts in which these collaborations are embedded, information infrastructures, and scientists’ day-to-day data practices.

His work has been published across a range of venues, including the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, International Journal on Digital Libraries and Philosophical Transactions A of the Royal Society.

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