Data-intensive research methods are used by researchers in a wide and growing number of disciplines and are now central to the research enterprise. As these methods spread, universities are making significant investments in developing campus services to provide critical support for big data research.

Libraries offer more data support services than any other campus unit and are making significant investments in hiring personnel to staff them. However, 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 with minimal coordination. The decentralized nature of current offerings creates economic inefficiencies, duplication of services, and programming gaps, often leaving researchers confused about what offerings are available to them. In the wake of recent policy changes that mandate open sharing of data from all federally-funded research, the necessity of providing coherent and comprehensive data support services has become even more urgent.

To this end, we are excited to announce a new project that will bring together a select cohort of librarians and representatives from other campus units to develop strategies for coordinating campus data support services to better meet researchers’ needs. This project will include the collection of institution-level data about the range of current services, how researchers are accessing them, and where there are gaps. The project will also include guidance on how to build buy-in for greater coordination of data support service initiatives across campus.

How will the project work?

This two-year project will pair action oriented research with 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 15 institutions. We anticipate that the project will launch in early 2023.

This research component of the project will draw on Ithaka S+R’s unique approach to bringing academic libraries together to study important strategic challenges. As part of the project, 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 on their campuses. Each participating institution will also conduct semi-structured interviews with advanced, intermediate, and potential users of those services.

Data and findings from these research projects will allow universities to benchmark their services against peer institutions and the national landscape and better understand users’ experiences and support needs. During a workshop, participants will use these data to design two core outputs: a user-friendly guide that clearly communicates existing data support services to researchers and a planning document outlining opportunities to coordinate and streamline future service offerings across campus units. In the second year of the project, Ithaka S+R will work with participants to assess and revise their user guide and build support for their planning document with senior administration and other campus stakeholders.

Throughout the project, the cohort will convene to preview findings and discuss their strategic implications. At the conclusion of the project, Ithaka S+R will publish a public report.

How can my library get involved?

We are thrilled to announce that the following institutions have confirmed their participation in the project:

Brandeis University
Carnegie Mellon University
Clemson University
Johns Hopkins University
University of Chicago
University of Pittsburgh
University of Virginia
Yale University
Indiana University
San Diego State University

We are able to include five additional institutions in the cohort. If your library is interested in participating, we welcome expressions of interest. Please contact Dylan Ruediger (dylan.ruediger@ithaka.org) by September 30.