New Services in Research Data Management and Planning at NYU Libraries

By Vicky Steeves and Nicholas Wolf
Research data management has received considerable attention in recent years given new guidelines for federal agencies regarding access and sharing of funded data creation. This visibility has been further heightened by ongoing scrutiny of findings from data-­driven research, most notably in the field of psychology, that have suggested a startlingly low rate of results reproducibility. NYU’s Data Services, however, are eager to meet this challenge head­-on by debuting new services in the area of data management and planning at Bobst Library.

These new resources are focused on providing support to researchers, faculty, staff, and students in two key areas: General research data management consulting and writing a data management plan for grant applications. Research data management is the iterative process of standardizing and documenting the way in which data is collected, organized, processed, analyzed, stored, preserved, and shared. Typically, data management planning is done at the beginning of a research endeavor to streamline management throughout the project. Data Services librarians are now available to assist individual researchers, lab groups, and classes in assessing their needs for curated management of research data at each stage of its lifecycle, from data collection through data archiving and sharing.

Moreover, funding agencies are requiring that increasingly detailed data management planning documents be included with grant applications, and they are putting a stronger emphasis on the publishing and sharing of data at the end of the grant term. The National Science Foundation (NSF) was the first agency to mandate these plans, starting in January of 2011. Many federal and private agencies followed suit, an indication of the support that the new policies have been given. Currently, most data management planning requirements for granting agencies emphasize two essential questions: What type of data will be produced during the award period, and how will that data be preserved and reused? The first of these questions must be addressed through detailed descriptions of digital file formats, metadata schema, and documenting practices, while the latter involves key questions about repository selection, open access, and resources for preservation—all complex issues that are nevertheless central to extending the usability of grant­-supported data for the purposes of reproducibility and further scientific inquiry.

The Data Services staff leading this initiative are Nick Wolf, Research Data Management Librarian, and Vicky Steeves, Research Data Management and Reproducibility Librarian. Nick is a historian specializing in demography, historical sociolinguistics, and digital humanities, and previously held an appointment at NYU’s Glucksman Ireland House. Vicky comes to NYU from the American Museum of Natural History, where she completed a National Digital Stewardship Residency surrounding the stewardship of scientific research data. Along with the rest of the Data Services team, they can be found on the fifth floor of the Elmer Holmes Bobst Library.

In addition to direct consultations, Data Services is offering two classes in this field this fall: Introduction to Research Data Management (October 21st) and Data Management Planning (November 17th). These classes can also be adapted and brought into regularly scheduled class periods as guest sessions at the request of faculty.

To keep up with best practices and standards for data management planning (including selecting a repository for long­-term storage, metadata, and file structure), refer to the Data Management Planning LibGuide or follow Data Services on Twitter at @nyudataservices. If you want to schedule a consultation, tutorial, or class visit for help with research data management and writing a data management plan, schedule an appointment or write to victoria.steeves@nyu.edu and nicholas.wolf@nyu.edu.