Promoting Data Reuse and Collaboration at an Academic Medical Center

  • Kevin Read
  • Jessica Athens
  • Ian Lamb
  • Joey Nicholson
  • Sushan Chin
  • Junchuan Xu
  • Neil Rambo
  • Alisa Surkis


A need was identified by the Department of Population Health (DPH) for an academic medical center to facilitate research using large, externally funded datasets. Barriers identified included difficulty in accessing and working with the datasets, and a lack of knowledge about institutional licenses. A need to facilitate sharing and reuse of datasets generated by researchers at the institution (internal datasets) was also recognized. The library partnered with a researcher in the DPH to create a catalog of external datasets, which provided detailed metadata and access instructions. The catalog listed researchers at the medical center and the main campus with expertise in using these external datasets in order to facilitate research and cross-campus collaboration. Data description standards were reviewed to create a set of metadata to facilitate access to both externally generated datasets, as well as the internally generated datasets that would constitute the next phase of development of the catalog. Interviews with a range of investigators at the institution identified DPH researchers as most interested in data sharing, therefore targeted outreach to this group was undertaken. Initial outreach resulted in additional external datasets being described, new local experts volunteering, proposals for additional functionality, and interest from researchers in inclusion of their internal datasets in the catalog. Despite limited outreach, the catalog has had ~250 unique page views in the three months since it went live. The establishment of the catalog also led to partnerships with the medical center’s data management core and the main university library. The Data Catalog in its present state serves a direct user need from the Department of Population Health to describe large, externally funded datasets. The library will use this initial strong community of users to expand the catalog and include internally generated research datasets. Future expansion plans will include working with DataCore and the main university library.

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