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Data matters: how earth and environmental scientists determine data relevance and reusability

Angela P. Murillo (School of Informatics and Computing, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA)

Collection and Curation

ISSN: 2514-9326

Article publication date: 16 August 2019

Issue publication date: 17 May 2022




The purpose of this study is to examine the information needs of earth and environmental scientists regarding how they determine data reusability and relevance. Additionally, this study provides strategies for the development of data collections and recommendations for data management and curation for information professionals working alongside researchers.


This study uses a multi-phase mixed-method approach. The test environment is the DataONE data repository. Phase 1 includes a qualitative and quantitative content analysis of deposited data. Phase 2 consists of a quasi-experiment think-aloud study. This paper reports mainly on Phase 2.


This study identifies earth and environmental scientists’ information needs to determine data reusability. The findings include a need for information regarding research methods, instruments and data descriptions when determining data reusability, as well as a restructuring of data abstracts. Additional findings include reorganizing of the data record layout and data citation information.

Research limitations/implications

While this study was limited to earth and environmental science data, the findings provide feedback for scientists in other disciplines, as earth and environmental science is a highly interdisciplinary scientific domain that pulls from many disciplines, including biology, ecology and geology, and additionally there has been a significant increase in interdisciplinary research in many scientific fields.

Practical implications

The practical implications include concrete feedback to data librarians, data curators and repository managers, as well as other information professionals as to the information needs of scientists reusing data. The suggestions could be implemented to improve consultative practices when working alongside scientists regarding data deposition and data creation. These suggestions could improve policies for data repositories through direct feedback from scientists. These suggestions could be implemented to improve how data repositories are created and what should be considered mandatory information and secondary information to improve the reusability of data.

Social implications

By examining the information needs of earth and environmental scientists reusing data, this study provides feedback that could change current practices in data deposition, which ultimately could improve the potentiality of data reuse.


While there has been research conducted on data sharing and reuse, this study provides more detailed granularity regarding what information is needed to determine reusability. This study sets itself apart by not focusing on social motivators and demotivators, but by focusing on information provided in a data record.



Murillo, A.P. (2022), "Data matters: how earth and environmental scientists determine data relevance and reusability", Collection and Curation, Vol. 41 No. 3, pp. 77-86.



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