New world asks researchers to rethink data management

There's a shift at hand in the world of scholarly publishing and data management, one that is sure to aid researchers in the dissemination of their work. To take advantage of this new world however, researchers will need to approach their work with an eye to where it will eventually reside. That's where Maxine Tedesco comes in.

A professional librarian in the University Library, Tedesco is in charge of Data & GIS Services, as well as government documents, geography and math & computer science. More than anything though, Tedesco has discovered after a year's study leave, that librarians could play an important role in assisting researchers to establish data management plans as the publishing world continues to shift to the digital stream.

"It's a paradigm shift for everybody," says Tedesco. "There has been this idea that you publish your work and that's the end product, but in the electronic and digital world, even more can be accomplished. We're looking at a new era, an open access kind of world, and right now we're in a transition period, working towards being able to take full advantage of exactly what that world has to offer."

The old school approach to publishing research was a process that saw scholars create a document, publish it and then hand it off to see it archived. The electronic world demands more of researchers but also creates much greater opportunities for researchers to share their knowledge.

"You have to think about where you're going to archive something before you actually decide to put it there," says Tedesco. "This affects the research project from the very beginning in order to ensure that the work is created using the electronic formats, descriptive elements, etc., which will meet the standards of the chosen archive."

The end goal is to create research materials that are active and living long after an article is published.

Funding agencies like the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) have always required researchers to deposit their data somewhere at the end of the approved research project but had never really enforced this practice.

"They are now being much more stringent in following through with this requirement and it's in researchers' best interests," says Tedesco. "When they ask researchers to deposit their data, they want for it to be reutilized. They don't want for the data to end up in a desk drawer somewhere, unavailable and eventually just being discarded."

It's important for scholars to begin thinking about their research projects in a new way so that they have an understanding of what is available to them in terms of data management practices.

"The big thing is to try and think about the end before you start," she says. "There are some choices for depositing data currently, all with their own pros and cons, but it can be quite confusing. There are no definitive answers, but we hope to work with faculty in the future to help identify and outline their most viable options."