Building a Data Deep State @GVSU - The Role of Liaison Librarians

Here at GVSU we are working towards building a broad and deep awareness on campus about the importance of good research data management. In the next several posts I will briefly unpack the practical efforts the Libraries are taking to building something of a data "deep state"--if you will.

The first effort being a series of ongoing trainings for our liaison librarians to orient them to what data management plans (DMPs) are and how they can begin to work with me to alert faculty sooner to their importance. As data librarians at many academic libraries will attest, there is often a sizeable awareness gap for faculty researchers regarding the requirement from federal agencies to archive and share the products of their funded research.

Certainly in my experience, the vast majority of faculty PIs I consult with do not begin addressing their required two-page DMPs until they are a week or two out from their proposal submission date. At that point they have rarely been able to give much thought to 1) what sort of technical formats their data will inhabit; 2) how they might describe it for a set of future researchers; 3) how they would secure it; and 4) where they might park and disseminate it at project's end. This leaves very little time to address those questions and more crucially it can sometimes leave the PIs with very few easy answers. For example, they may have data of such a size and quantity that our institution cannot reasonably archive or disseminate it? Or perhaps the data is so sensitive that our institution's policies don't cover the protections that are required.

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If we can orient faculty researchers much earlier to DMPs and the concerns they aim to address for sponsored projects we can provide better consultations and solutions at the point of need when it comes to submitting proposals to funders.

Enter the liaison librarians and their unique relationship to faculty in their subject areas.

Our liaison librarians are in the perfect position to make early inquiries into faculty research that may be at the earliest stages of formation and even establish themselves as primary points of first contact for getting a DMP started when the time really comes. Having an informed and extended network of contacts creates the potential for deepening our university's knowledge base over time and improving our Libraries' overall quality of service in this specialized area.

My agenda for these DMP trainings typically runs as follows:

  1. I spend the first 10-minutes giving all of the liaisons a bit of background on how the DMP consultation process has worked here at GVSU thus far, and the nature of some of the awareness gaps.
  2. I then provide a quick demo of the DMPTool and an overview of the elements of a data management plan (DMP). I show the liaisons how they can use the DMPTool to start a DMP and export it for later editing.
  3. Then it is on to exploring in a group setting how liaison librarians' unique communication strategies can be translated into engaging faculty on the specific issues related to their sponsored research.*
  4. I then recap and provide some new resources they can use in their data management interviews with faculty. These are information delivery and information gathering resources that can form the basis for finalizing DMPs specific to a faculty member's project
  5. Finally, we take some time to look at real project proposal abstracts, and using the resources above challenge the liaisons to think critically about what might be missing and still needed to complete a DMP

This all can be covered in a two-hour workshop format, but could also be deepened and extended for a half-day intensive if so desired. I'm also already beginning to prep a follow-on workshop aimed at taking liaison librarians deeper with the DMPTool.

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Again, the goal is to extend our network of awareness raising and get faculty engaged in DMP writing sooner rather than later so that we can provide better consultations and solutions. Our liaison librarians also love the opportunity to add a new dimension of engagement with their faculty and explore the world of data--just as I do.

In my next post I will talk a little bit about the work I do to embed myself with our Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) to ensure that I am in the pipeline early as grant proposals come in the door there, and that I am keeping the OSP staff informed of new developments with our Library data management services. Stay tuned!

* CREDIT: This particular segment of the workshop gets its inspiration and was informed by the "Building your Research Data Management Toolkit: Integrating RDM into Your Liaison Work." I was pleased to be able to serve as an advisory expert from GVSU Libraries to the instructors and curriculum designers of this incredibly successful ACRL roadshow.