Practicing what we preach: Data sharing & results reporting in library research

Recently I’ve been working on a survey of studies that focus on how libraries are reaching out to their institutions’ faculty and researchers about how they produce, share and store their data. Where I’m currently working we are trying to implement the same time type of research, but wanted to see what other libraries have done before launching into a project. I was even optimistic that some of the research I turned up might even give me the answers to our questions:

What type of data are biomedical researchers creating in a variety of disciplines?

Where do they stand in terms of sharing data?

How are they currently storing their data?

While I was pleased to find a number of articles that were excellent and exactly the type of research I was looking for (see the end of the post), I was ultimately disappointed in the content that I found. Let me explain the good first however, before I start with the bad.

The Good.

The methodology used in many of the articles I found was comprehensive, highly detailed, and provided me with a wealth of information about how I could go about finding out the answers to my data-related amongst my institution’s researchers and facutly. For example, many of the research studies described and provided (in detail) the interview questions that they used (Bardyn et al; Westra); focus group strategies (Adamick et al.; Jones et al.; and bibliographic analyses (Williams et al.; Xia et al.) – this was excellent material for me that I could reuse to structure my own institution’s approach to developing data-related services.

The Bad.

Where everything came apart for me was in several of the authors’  approach to the results section of their research. Very few articles excluding (Lage et al.; Scaramozzino et al.; Walters; Westra; Xia et al.) provided full results from their interviews or focus groups, and quantitative data was scarce. The reason I chose to survey existing research in the first place was to find out answers to my questions, and when I turn to research in my field, I expect to read concrete findings that will inform my own research.

For example, if I am reading  articles that state in the methodology that they surveyed their school of medicine researchers about their data-related habits, I am hoping to find data pertaining to the types and size of data their institution creates. This would be especially helpful if my institution serves similar biomedical disciplines and could ideally supplement a lot of work that would be required by a number of different libraries across the globe. Why wasn’t all of the data included in the article? Is there an underlying understanding that if I actually want to see full results I need to contact the author(s) directly to get it? This has to change.

The lack of results reporting is also a concern of mine because I have no evidence that these studies were actually completed. Sure you can say that the research study interviewed X number of people, and based on their responses you started a data management service. But what does that tell other people in our field about the behaviour, and work practices of researchers and faculty? Why omit the most interesting and useful data from the article?

The Promising.

Fortunately, I was able to find some excellent information from a select number of articles; Walters and Westra both provided articles that gave me a full indication of the types, size and department from which their data came from. Furthermore their description of their interviews were comprehensive, and strong quantitative data about their responses was collected and presented in the paper. This is what I come to expect from strong library-related research. We need to start thinking about presenting our data more clearly, and presenting all of it to our fellow information professionals.

Let it be known that I am not trying to condemn a large portion of library research because it does not provide the comprehensive level of data and results one comes to expect from quality research. Instead, I am hoping to encourage us all (myself included) to be more thorough in our data collection and results reporting, and think about who our research can be useful for. Is the purpose of publishing research just to publish? Or is it to help others advance the profession and implement products and services that have been proven to be effective?  We are a profession that prides itself on our encouragement and passion for information sharing; by following this mantra in our research more effectively I believe we have the capacity to produce outstanding research that will be of direct benefit to librarians in their work, and ultimately to the institutions that we serve. Thanks for reading – I’m happy to discuss this further in the comments if anyone is interested.


Adamick, Jessica, MJ Canavan, Steven McGinty, Rebecca Reznik-Zellen, Maxine Schmidt, and Robert Stevens. 2011. Building as We Climb: The Data Working Group at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. University of Massachusetts and New England Area Librarian e-Science Symposium.

Bardyn, Tania P., Taryn Resnick, and Susan K. Camina. 2012. “Translational Researchers’ Perceptions of Data Management Practices and Data Curation Needs: Findings from a Focus Group in an Academic Health Sciences Library.” Journal of Web Librarianship 6 (4) (October): 274–287.

Carlson, Jacob, Michael Fosmire, C.C. Miller, and Megan Sapp Nelson. 2011. “Determining Data Information Literacy Needs: A Study of Students and Research Faculty.” Portal: Libraries and the Academy 11 (2): 629 – 657.

Delserone, Leslie M. 2008. “At the Watershed: Preparing for Research Data Management and Stewardship at the University of Minnesota Libraries.” In Library Trends, 57:202–210. Urbana-Champaign, Illinois: John Hopkins University Press and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science.

Harrison, Andrew, and Sam Searle. 2010. “Not Drowning , Ingesting : Dealing with the Research Data Deluge at an Institutional Level.” In VALA2010 Proceedings.

Hruby, Gregory William, James McKiernan, Suzanne Bakken, and Chunhua Weng. 2013. “A Centralized Research Data Repository Enhances Retrospective Outcomes Research Capacity: a Case Report.” Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association : JAMIA (January 15): 1–5. doi:10.1136/amiajnl-2012-001302.

Johnson, Layne M., John T. Butler, and Lisa R. Johnston. 2012. “Developing E-Science and Research Services and Support at the University of Minnesota Health Sciences Libraries.” Journal of Library Administration 52 (8) (November): 754–769.

Jones, Sarah, Seamus Ross, and Raivo Ruusalepp. 2009. “Data Audit Framework Methodology”. Glasgow.

Lage, Kathryn, Barbara Losoff, and Jack Maness. 2011. “Receptivity to Library Involvement in Scientific Data Curation: A Case Study at the University of Colorado Boulder.” Portal: Libraries and the Academy 11 (4): 915–937.

Newton, Mark P, C C Miller, and Marianne Stowell Bracke. 2011. “Librarian Roles in Institutional Repository Data Set Collecting: Outcomes of a Research Library Task Force.” Collection Management 36 (1): 53–67.

Peters, Christie, and Anita Riley Dryden. 2011. “Assessing the Academic Library’s Role in Campus-Wide Research Data Management: A First Step at the University of Houston.” Science & Technology Libraries 30 (4) (September): 387–403.

Piwowar, Heather a. 2011. “Who Shares? Who Doesn’t? Factors Associated with Openly Archiving Raw Research Data.” PloS One 6 (7) (January): e18657. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018657.

Raboin, Regina, Rebecca C. Reznik-Zellen, and Dorothea Salo. 2012. “Forging New Service Paths: Institutional Approaches to Providing Research Data Management Services.” Journal of eScience Librarianship 1 (3).

Reznik-Zellen, Rebecca, Jessica Adamick, and Stephen McGinty. 2012. “Tiers of Research Data Support Services.” Journal of eScience Librarianship 1 (1): 27–35. doi:10.7191/jeslib.2012.1002.

Scaramozzino, Jeanine Marie, Marisa L. Ramirez, and Karen J. McGaughey. 2012. “A Study of Faculty Data Curation Behaviors and Attitudes at a Teaching-Centered University.” College & Research Libraries 73 (4) (July 1): 349–365.

Soehner, Catherine, Catherine Steeves, and Jennifer Ward. 2010. “E-Science and Data Support Services” (August).

Trinidad, Susan Brown, Stephanie M Fullerton, Julie M Bares, Gail P Jarvik, Eric B Larson, and Wylie Burke. 2010. “Genomic Research and Wide Data Sharing: Views of Prospective Participants.” Genetics in Medicine : Official Journal of the American College of Medical Genetics 12 (8) (August): 486–95. doi:10.1097/GIM.0b013e3181e38f9e.

Walters, Tyler O. 2009. “Data Curation Program Development in U.S. Universities: The Georgia Institute of Technology Example.” International Journal of Digital Curation 4 (3): 83–92.

Westra, Brian. 2010. “Data Services for the Sciences: A Needs Assessment.” Ariadne (64).

Williams, Sarah C. 2013. “Using a Bibliographic Study to Identify Faculty Candidates for Data Services.” Science & Technology Libraries (May 9): 1–8.

Xia, Jingfeng, and Ying Liu. 2013. “Usage Patterns of Open Genomic Data.” College & Research Libraries 74 (2) (March 1): 195–207.