Counting Research Data Services
How many, and what kinds, of research data services do US higher education institutions offer? Where are these services located within institutional structures? How do different types of colleges and universities differ in research data service provision?
Academic institutions are in a data arms race, vying to produce cutting-edge, data-driven research across a wide range of disciplines. But the provision of research data services— support offerings which enable and improve data research—is scattershot, spread among libraries, academic departments and institutes, core facilities, and IT or research computing units. There is an urgent need for a holistic picture of the current landscape of research data services.
Today, Ithaka S+R is publishing a large-scale, quantitative assessment of the provision of research data services in US higher education. The report describes the patterns and variations in the provision and organization of research data services at 120 colleges and universities, including the central and often complementary roles of the library and IT department, the importance of statistics consulting services, the concentration of research data services within medical schools, and the dearth of services focused on social sciences, business, and the humanities.
In addition to sharing these findings, we have also provided extensive methodological documentation in hopes of inspiring and enabling future research. Until now, there has been no effective methodology for capturing quantitative data about the provision and organization of research data services across diverse institutional structures. Although there are limitations to this type of web-based inventory, the advantages over other research methods, such as surveys, are significant for measuring what research data services are offered and where. We discuss the scope of our study below and provide additional methodological details in the Appendix of this report. Our dataset is also available for download.
The results of this inventory lay a foundation for future study by suggesting needs which may be under-provisioned or inefficiently organized, as well as revealing significant variations in the extent of service provision among different institutions. This inventory also raises important questions about how research data services are best organized, funded, and staffed. And it represents a necessary first step toward evaluating the quality, relevance, capacity, and uptake of current data services – and envisioning future offerings.
This report is part of a broader program of Ithaka S+R’s work on supporting research and teaching with data. In addition to writing on data sharing (here and here) and data librarianship (here and here), we are currently fielding research projects in collaboration with 37 academic libraries focused on supporting big data research and teaching with data in the social sciences. If you’re thinking about data, we’d love to get in touch—please contact Danielle Cooper, Ithaka S+R’s manager of collaborations and research, at Danielle.Cooper@ithaka.org.