Friday, October 20, 2006

Electronic Data Repositories for Research

Related to e-publishing and e-archiving are repositories for e-research. The idea is that after your read the electronic copy of their paper it would be handy to get your hand on the data they used to produce it. High speed networks are allowing researchers to share large amounts of data on-line, but will the data still be there is a few years time, after the funding for the original research as run out?

Markus Buchhorn and Paul McNamara from The Australian National University have produced a report for the Australian Partnership for Sustainable Repositories about it. Unfortunately, the report is a bit hard to find and read on-line so below is the executive summary. The report also has a very good set of references. I have picked out the best of these and sorted them below, with links.
The Australian e-Research Sustainability Survey (AERES) project was undertaken by the Australian Partnership for Sustainable Repositories (APSR) and the Australian Partnership for Advanced Computing (APAC) to survey the sustainability issues for data-intensive research projects, including the capabilities and demands of research groups and institutions for the storage, access, and long-term management of research data. The immediate and critical issue for the stewardship of research data in Australia is the lack of administrative responsibility for the task.

The current policy framework for research data in Australia is provided by the funding rules of the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), by Records and Archives legislation and by the Joint NHMRC/AVCC Statement and Guidelines on Research Practice1, currently under revision. This framework is currently lacking guidelines for clear administrative responsibility for data stewardship.

The survey found that researchers are both providers and consumers of data and have a broad range of needs for research data and its management. There are strong disincentives for researchers to engage with long-term data management. There is little recognition for good data management. Researchers do not see a national data management system with which they can work.

The current data management infrastructure is in general decentralised and uncoordinated. This data management infrastructure needs to be more closely aligned and coupled with the evolving policy framework for data stewardship. Moreover, this infrastructure would benefit from greater systematic recognition in the policies of institutions, government and funding agencies.

A mature data stewardship system, interlinking policy and infrastructure could address the needs of researchers and improve the quality and efficiency of Australian innovation and research. A successful data stewardship system needs to:
  • identify administrative responsibility;
  • address disincentives for researchers to manage data for the future;
  • strengthen the engagement of researchers, universities and funding agencies; and
  • encourage the development and sharing of skills
The technological challenges of data management are also significant and ongoing. Work funded by initiatives such as Backing Australia’s Ability has begun to address some of these challenges. The potential of these technological solutions can best be realised within an appropriate policy environment.

Government, policy-creators, funding bodies, and research institutions have an opportunity, and perhaps an obligation, to assist in the development of a coherent data stewardship system.

Executive Summary, Sustainability Issues for Australian Research Data - The Report of the Australian e-Research Sustainability Survey Project, Dr. Marcus Buchhorn and Paul McNamara (The Australian National University), Australian Partnership for Sustainable Repositories, October 2006
Some references:

Arts and Humanities Research Council 2006, Research Grants
Australian Partnership for Sustainable Repositories (2005)
Australian Research Council
Department of Education, Science and Training (2005)
Department of Education, Science and Training (2006), Backing Australia’s Ability

Fisheries Research and Development Corporation 2006, Evaluation criteria

Houghton, John and Sheehan, Peter (2006), The economic impact of enhanced access to research findings, CSES Working Paper 23

Medical Research Council 2006
National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (2006)
National Health and Medical Research Council
National Institutes of Health 2003, NIH Data Sharing Policy and Implementation Guidance

National Science Board 2006, NSB-05-40, Long-Lived Digital Data Collections Enabling Research and Education in the 21st Century

National Science Foundation (2006)
Natural Environment Research Council 2006, NERC Data Policy Handbook

OECD 2006, Draft OECD recommendation concerning access to research data from public funding

Research Councils UK 2006
Research Libraries Group (2006)
UCISA (2005), UCISA top concerns 2004/2005

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