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The role of academic libraries in research data service (RDS) provision: Opportunities and challenges

Holly H. Yu (California State University, Los Angeles, California, USA)

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Article publication date: 7 August 2017




Propelled by fast-evolving computational technology and cloud-based data storage, the increasing ease in research data collection is outstripping the capacity in research data service (RDS) in academic institutions. To illustrate the challenges and opportunities in providing RDS, the author provides a systematic review of the RDS offered in academic institutions and libraries by combining existing literature and survey data collected from the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL). In addition, the RDS websites of 2013 ARL survey-participating institutions are also examined. The aim of the paper is to provide an environmental scan of the current state of RDS provision in academic institutions, to add to the body of knowledge of RDS development, and to inform and enable academic libraries to make strategic RDS plans.


The paper analyzes the strategies used and levels of RDS provided by reviewing recent literature, exploiting existing survey data from ARL and ACRL, and examining RDS websites of the 2013 ARL survey-participating institutions, in areas that reflect the life cycle of RDS provision including research data management planning, metadata consultation and tool provision, data archiving, institutional repository provision and data sharing and access.


The overall offerings of the library-led research data services in ARL research-intensive institutions have shown signs of increasing. Increased engagement and expanded scope and level of services are two noticeable trends in academic library RDS provision. Academic libraries are taking advantage of open access repositories by advising researchers to use the available resources alongside their local repositories for data safe-keeping and sharing. Discussions on RDS policy and infrastructure development are inadequate or largely non-existent.


Through systematically reviewing current literature, drawing on the results of available surveys on RDS offerings by academic libraries conducted between 2009 and 2014 and examining and further reviewing the websites of these 2013 ARL survey-participating institutions, the author presents the current state of academic library activities in RDS provision, and provides a critical evaluation of the scope and level of services currently being offered in academic libraries, and the opportunities in RDS development, to add to the body of knowledge of RDS provision by academic institutions.



Yu, H.H. (2017), "The role of academic libraries in research data service (RDS) provision: Opportunities and challenges", The Electronic Library, Vol. 35 No. 4, pp. 783-797.



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