Most of the research data currently produced by graduate students in the course of conducting the research associated with their thesis or dissertation is lost to the university upon graduation. At best, it is stored on hard drives or servers without metadata or other information to describe what the data consists of, how it is structured, or how one might use it. It is therefore unavailable for validation and reuse by other scientists via the internet. This year, the Center for Digital Scholarship and Services (CDSS) at OSU Libraries interviewed graduate students from a variety of disciplines in order to learn more about their research data, to promote better data management practices among these and future students, and to improve data management workshops that the library offers.
Data management refers to the active management of research data for preservation and access. The Libraries and the Graduate School share a goal to improve data management practices of graduate students and post-docs. Many students already make their data more visible by depositing it alongside their thesis or dissertation; in the ScholarsArchive@OSU open access repository; students are required to deposit a PDF of their thesis or dissertation to the repository. Long term, the Graduate School and Libraries would like to work with graduate students to either deposit their research data alongside the thesis or dissertation in ScholarsArchive@OSU, describe and link to the data from the ScholarsArchive@OSU thesis/dissertation metadata record if the data is available in a disciplinary repository, or provide a description of the data and where it lives.
Among the benefits: students and faculty would have a well-organized set of their data and the ability to access it in the future. In many cases, the data associated with the thesis or dissertation is part of a grant. PIs and Co-PIs may be required to produce or otherwise have access to the data after the student graduates. Student research data that is organized, able to be understood by other scientists, and available with a unique and persistent identifier can be reused and built upon, reducing duplication of effort and enhancing scientific inquiry. Finally, student research data is an output of the teaching, learning and research that is conducted at OSU. The data should be valued as such, retained and made available to other researchers here and around the world.
Data management services at OSU, provided by faculty in the Center for Digital Scholarship and Services (CDSS), include providing assistance with writing NSF, NEH and other data management plans; providing individual consultation about metadata, data organization, preservation and sharing; generating and maintaining digital object identifiers for OSU-affiliated data files as a member of EZID; providing training through workshops; and depositing datasets in the ScholarsArchive@OSU open access repository. For more information: http://cdss.library.oregonstate.edu/data-services.