Research Data Management: An Exploration of the Data Librarian Role in New Zealand Research Organisations
Modern research practice has been affected by disruptive developments involving technological advancements, for example e-Research and Open Access. These developments imply changes both in the way research is conducted as well as the way research outcomes are communicated. This has huge benefits as well as challenges. The need for researchers to understand how to undertake high quality research in the digital era and how to manage voluminous research data has become critical. To this end, academic librarians, as longstanding custodians of memory institutions and stakeholders to learning and teaching, may play a role in developing this understanding.
The study was guided by a model developed from Abbott’s (1988) The System of Professions and the literature. Placed within the constructivist worldview the study adopted a case research approach to explore the dimensions of the data librarian role in four universities and five Crown Research Institutes in New Zealand. The interviewees comprised library managers, library and information professionals, repository managers, researchers and an Information and Technology Services manager. Data from the literature and an exploratory study of five e-Research experts in two Australian universities, and the analysed 43 data librarian position information from relevant websites were triangulated to provide a filter to help interpret the interview data.
The Data Librarian Role Blueprint (the Blueprint) emerged from the findings of the study in its three main areas. First, there are factors from national, organisational, research and motivational contexts whose relationships at the level of their components may influence the data librarian role positively or negatively. In terms of performing the role: it was mostly taken to be at the institutional level with subject librarians preferred to be in the role; it has identifiable responsibilities and requirements; and as a specialist individual role, it can exist short-term for purpose of training librarians and in the future when the need or responsibility grows. Finally, training needs for the role were identified in eight areas and the most commonly preferred option to address them was learning on the job through personal and organisational opportunities.
There are benefits from the study. For the library and information professionals and those interested in supporting research data management the Blueprint provides a theoretical understanding of the role. The findings are also beneficial to the library and e-Research communities by contributing to the literature in the area and enabling library schools to modernise their curriculum to ensure that graduates relevant to researchers’ needs are produced.
However, as the study adopted a single case research design, the findings may not be generalised beyond the case institutions in the study. But, they may provide insight into research data management efforts in places where supporting e-Research and research data management is at infancy or does not yet have any national or institutional direction. Furthermore, the Blueprint may find application or prove to be useful in related research areas.