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Variability in academic research data management practices: Implications for data services development from a faculty survey

Amanda L. Whitmire (Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, USA)
Michael Boock (Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, USA)
Shan C. Sutton (University of Arizona, Tuscon, Arizona, USA)

Program: electronic library and information systems

ISSN: 0033-0337

Article publication date: 1 September 2015




The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how knowledge of local research data management (RDM) practices critically informs the progressive development of research data services (RDS) after basic services have already been established.


An online survey was distributed via e-mail to all university faculty in the fall of 2013, and was left open for just over one month. The authors sent two reminder e-mails before closing the survey. Survey data were downloaded from Qualtrics survey software and analyzed in R.


In this paper, the authors reviewed a subset of survey findings that included data types, volume, and storage locations, RDM roles and responsibilities, and metadata practices. The authors found that Oregon State University (OSU) researchers are generating a wide variety of data types, and that practices vary between colleges. The authors discovered that faculty are not utilizing campus-wide storage infrastructure, and are maintaining their own storage servers in surprising numbers. Faculty-level research assistants perform the majority of data-related tasks at OSU, with the exception of data sharing, which is primarily handled by the professorial ranks. The authors found that many faculty on campus are creating metadata, but that there is a need to provide support in how to discover and create standardized metadata.


This paper presents a novel example of how to efficiently move from establishing basic RDM services to providing more focussed services that meet specific local needs. It provides an approach for others to follow when tackling the difficult question of, “What next?” with regard to providing academic RDS.



The authors thank Lydia Newton and the OSU Survey Research Center for valuable guidance during the development of the survey. The authors appreciate prompt interactions with the OSU Office of Human Resources in providing faculty e-mail addresses, and the IRB’s expedited review process was fantastic. The authors thank Steve Van Tuyl for productive and engaging discussions regarding the survey results. The authors also thank two anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments, which helped to improve the manuscript.


Whitmire, A.L., Boock, M. and Sutton, S.C. (2015), "Variability in academic research data management practices: Implications for data services development from a faculty survey", Program: electronic library and information systems, Vol. 49 No. 4, pp. 382-407.



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