Data Management and E-Science/E-Research

Many of you, particularly those in the sciences, know that funding agencies, such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, are requiring “Data Management Plans” as part of grant proposals, while such major journals as Nature, Science, PLoSOne, and American Economic Review, are explicitly requiring sharing of data in article submissions. This movement is an indicator of increasing concern over the long-term preservation and accessibility of the data, so much of it electronic, that underlies today’s research. To learn more about these concerns, see Sustainable Economics for a Digital Planet: Ensuring Long-term Access to Digital Information and, from the National Academies Press, Ensuring the Integrity, Accessibility, and Stewardship of Research Data in the Digital Age. Contained within this preservation agenda is the increasing recognition that these, often large, data sets, which have been publicly funded, can be useful to others, and so should be shared (with careful attention to confidentiality concerns). This concept of “Open Data” is another aspect of “Open Access”.

Science bibliographers and others in the Boston College Libraries, just like those at many other major research libraries, are starting to delve into this new area of activity, building upon the long tradition of libraries engaged in organizing and preserving/archiving information, and helping others access and obtain information, including data. Librarians are also developing partnerships with others across campus, such as Research Services, ITS and the Office for Research Integrity and Compliance, to provide assistance to faculty and graduate students. This new area of endeavor, often called E-Science, or E-Research (to convey a wider disciplinary reach), has been defined by the Association of Research Libraries/Digital Library Federation E-Science Institute (Summer, Fall 2011):

…e-Research here refers to the use of information technology to support existing and new forms of scholarly research in all academic disciplines, including the humanities and social sciences. E-research encompasses computational and e-science, cyberinfrastructure and data curation. E-Research projects often make use of grid computing or other advanced technologies, and are usually data intensive, but the concept also includes research performed digitally at any scale. E-research is useful here as a way to bridge the concept of e-science to other fields such as social science and the humanities. Just as e-science applies large-scale computing to processing vast amounts of scientific research data, e-research could include studies of large linguistic corpuses in the humanities, or integrated social policy analyses in the social sciences.

As noted, sound data management is at the heart of E-Science. Toward that end, Boston College Libraries staff have created a new web-based guide with information on data management. The guide provides useful information to faculty and graduate students interested in adopting “best practices” for managing their data long-term. It also can provide help in writing data management plans, with its coverage of the topics of metadata and general data management plan guidelines with examples for various disciplines, along with data citation standards. The Library will also be offering a series of data management workshops later this fall.

Library staff and others at BC have begun working with faculty on using the Boston College institutional repository, eScholarship@BC, to archive Boston College-generated data sets. The first such set, the Lasting Relationships Research Data Archive, capturing the work of Professor Emeritus Richard A. Mackey, Eileen F. Mackey and Professor Emeritus Bernard A. O’Brien, is now archived within eScholarship@BC. Boston College Librarians are participating in this fall’s Association of Research Libraries (ARL)/Digital Libraries Federation E-Science Institute. Towards developing a plan for effective work in E-Science, Boston College librarians are interviewing key faculty and BC agency partners across campus and will be participating in a capstone event in Dallas, January 2012, which will bring together other ARL teams to share and exchange ideas on effective organizational and institutional planning in this area.

Sally Wyman Collection Development Librarian/Bibliographer for Chemistry, Physics, Environmental Studies and General Science

Sarah Hogan Interim Head, Social Work Library
Women's Studies Librarian


Enid Karr Senior Reference Librarian/Bibliographer for Biology, Geology, and Environmental Studies

Barbara Mento Data/GIS Librarian


Amanda Tarbet Science Librarian Intern

Wanda Anderson Nursing Reference Librarian/Bibliographer


Margaret Cohen Head Librarian Educational Resource Center, Interim Director instructional Services