Research data services in US higher education: a web-based inventory

Data management Research institutes Research methodology Higher education United States of America

As data-driven research methods proliferate and become more sophisticated across disciplines, supporting researchers who work with data is increasingly a top priority for academic institutions. However, research data services—support offerings which enable and improve data research—are currently provided in an ad hoc manner by a variety of campus units, including libraries, academic departments and institutes, labs, and IT or research computing units. And the provision of research data services varies significantly from campus to campus.

For data-driven research to thrive, stakeholders—including academic libraries, IT departments, research offices, university administrators, and academic department leadership—must have a comprehensive understanding of the current landscape of research data services. Although there is an extensive literature documenting support for research data management, sharing, and other services by academic libraries, there has been much less systematic study of the research data services provided by academic institutions holistically. There is an urgent need for a complete picture of the provision of research data services in US higher education.

This report presents the results of an inventory of research data services offered by US colleges and universities using a systematic web searching process. The results represent a holistic, quantitative picture of services that support data-driven research across organisational units and institutional types.

In addition to sharing these findings, the authors have also provided extensive methodological documentation in hopes of inspiring and enabling future research. Until now, there has been no effective methodology for capturing quantitative data about the provision and organisation of research data services across diverse institutional structures. Although there are limitations to this type of web-based inventory, the advantages over other research methods, such as surveys, are significant for measuring what research data services are offered and where.

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