Research data management at Harvard University: Creation and use of a LibGuide and new outreach efforts

This post is the third in a series on research data management presented by the Records Management Roundtable. 

Posted on behalf of Sarah Demb, Senior Records Manager/Archivist at Harvard University Archives.

Harvard Library (HL) works collaboratively with the Office of the Vice Provost for Research, Harvard University Information Security (HUIT), the Institute for Quantitative Social Science, Faculty of Arts and Sciences Research Administration Services and other offices to provide assistance with data management, curation, sharing and archiving, as well as to support compliance with HU policies for data retention and security. In Spring of 2015, HL collaborated with Purdue University to host a two-day long internal symposium on managing research data across the University. At Harvard, we were interested in whether Purdue’s experiences could be scaled up to a university of our size and administrative complexity. A variety of speakers presented on the challenges and opportunities surrounding the topic. One of the largest discussions was on the most effective ways to communicate data management principles and best practices to stakeholders, including our many research data creators within the campus community.

As a first step, we agreed to customize the California Digital Library’s (CDL) DMPTool (data management plan tool), to which Harvard subscribes, but at that point had only been used in its generic form. Harvard Library is a point of contact for Harvard-affiliated researchers University-wide seeking data management support and services. A Working Group (WG) under HL’s Stewardship Standing Committee was convened in Fall 2015 to roll-out a customized version of DMPTool by early 2016.  It was comprised of members from central administrative and information technology offices, Harvard Library, and Harvard’s data repository, Dataverse, which is hosted by our Institute for Quantitative Social Science.

The WG analyzed the best ways to customize the tool, and due to some of the constraints inherent in the CDL platform, decided the best way of supporting the tool and to better communicate the benefits of research data management was to link the customized tool to a topical LibGuide.  LibGuides are a popular web publishing platform used by many libraries to communicate with users on specific topics. They lend themselves to incorporating embedded links to resources and are good quick references to what might be complex subjects. At Harvard, they are hosted on the Library’s main web portal and are available to the entire community as well as to the public.  The WG designed a LibGuide on data management, which was approved and released in early 2016.

The LibGuide points to a variety of resources and contains the basic principles behind managing research data. Although it is hosted by HL, it describes the entire context in which data management occurs across the University and points to collaborations and contacts in the relevant offices, including:

The LibGuide acts as a central portal to a variety of different resources on research data management. It also:

  • explains the concept and benefits of data management and data management plans
  • contains guidance on how to use DPMTool
  • points to relevant University-wide policy and guidance on research records and data, including our General Records Schedule
  • offers tips on data file naming conventions and formats for long-term preservation; available data repositories and proper data citation.

To ensure that DMP Tool users have sufficient advice on how to use the new customized tool, a team made up from across the campus libraries, Dataverse, and RMS is currently providing support via a dedicated email address, which will be evaluated for effectiveness after operating for a year. We are looking forward to receiving feedback on the LibGuide, the customized tool, and support group from our research data community.

Sarah Demb

Senior Records Manager/Archivist

Harvard University Archives


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