Open Data Meets Digital Curation: An Investigation of Practices and Needs
In the United States, research funded by the government produces a significant portion of data. US law mandates that these data should be freely available to the public through ‘public access’, which is defined as fully discoverable and usable by the public. The U.S. government executive branch supported the public access requirements by issuing an Executive Directive titled ‘Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research’ that required federal agencies with annual research and development expenditures of more than $100 million to create public access plans by 22 August 2013. The directive applied to 19 federal agencies, some with multiple divisions. Additional direction for this initiative was provided by the Executive Order ‘Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information’ which was accompanied by a memorandum with specific guidelines for information management and instructions to find ways to reduce compliance costs through interagency cooperation.
In late 2013, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) funded the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) to conduct a project to help IMLS and its constituents understand the implications of the US federal public access mandate and how needs and gaps in digital curation can best be addressed. Our project has three research components: (1) a structured content analysis of federal agency plans supporting public access to data and publications, identifying both commonalities and differences among plans; (2) case studies (interviews and analysis of project deliverables) of seven projects previously funded by IMLS to identify lessons about skills, capabilities and institutional arrangements that can facilitate data curation activities; and (3) a gap analysis of continuing education and readiness assessment of the workforce. Research and cultural institutions urgently need to rethink the professional identities of those responsible for collecting, organizing, and preserving data for future use. This paper reports on a project to help inform further investments.
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