This fall, Ithaka S+R announced a new cohort-based research and consulting project to help universities coordinate research data support services across campus. As data-intensive research methods are used by researchers in a wide and growing number of disciplines, these services have become central to the research enterprise. Universities are making significant investments in developing campus services to provide critical support for big data research, and the need to coordinate services offered by different units is now a strategic priority for research institutions. Demand for the first cohort has been overwhelming, making it clear just how timely and important this topic is to university leaders. For this reason, we are pleased to announce that we are organizing a second cohort so that more universities can participate in this project.

Libraries currently offer more data support services than any other campus unit, but data support services are also offered by IT departments, research computing centers, and other campus entities. On many campuses, the result is a hodge-podge of services that have developed over time with minimal coordination. The decentralized nature of current offerings create economic inefficiencies, duplication of services, and programming gaps, often leaving researchers confused about what data support is available to them. In the wake of recent policy changes that mandate open sharing of data from any federally-funded research, the necessity of providing coherent and comprehensive data support services has become even more urgent.

The second cohort of the project will bring together a select group of librarians and representatives from other campus units to conduct research and develop strategies for coordinating campus data support services. This project will include the collection of landscape and institution-level data about the range of extant service offerings, the needs and experiences of researchers, and guidance through the process of building campus support for university-wide data service initiatives.

How will the project work?

This two-year project will pair mixed-method research, design-informed thinking, and individualized consulting to set the stage for successful implementation of coordinated data support service offerings across campus. In order to maximize the value of the project to participants, we will limit the size of the cohort to no more than 15 institutions. We anticipate that the project will launch in summer 2023.

Drawing on Ithaka S+R’s unique approach to studying the strategic challenges facing academic libraries, the research component of the project will use collaborative research methods to maximize evidence gathering and foster cross-institutional dialogue. Ithaka S+R will conduct a large-scale inventory of data services at research universities and selective liberal arts colleges and assist the cohort in preparing their own comprehensive inventory of service offerings. Each participating institution will also conduct semi-structured interviews with advanced, intermediate, and potential users of those services. Ithaka S+R will use the resulting transcripts to conduct in-depth qualitative research about their experiences and needs and share findings with the cohort.

Findings from these research projects will provide landscape data allowing universities to benchmark their services against peer institutions and the national landscape in order to better understand users’ experiences and support needs. At a design-informed workshop, participants will use these data to develop two core outputs: a user-friendly interface to clearly communicate existing data support services to researchers and a planning document outlining opportunities to coordinate and streamline future service offerings across campus units. During the second year of the project, Ithaka S+R will work with participants to assess and iterate their interface prototype and build support for their planning document with senior administration and other campus stakeholders.

Throughout the project, the cohort will convene at critical junctures, including previews of findings and discussions of strategic implications. At the conclusion of the project, Ithaka S+R will publish the findings.

How can my library get involved?

If your library is interested in participating, we welcome expressions of interest. Please contact Dylan Ruediger ( by Jan 15, 2023.