The Leadership Council for Digital Infrastructure (LCDI) Secretariat was funded by the federal government in November 2016 to: develop position papers on two of the core components of the of the Digital Research Infrastructure (DRI) ecosystem in Canada – data management and advanced research computing; recommend approaches for coordination within Canada’s DRI ecosystem; and to build awareness and community support for DRI.
In January 2017, the LCDI formed a small working group of data management (DM) stakeholders, including representatives from the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL); Consortia Advancing Standards in Research Administration Information (CASRAI-CA); the Portage Network; and Research Data Canada (RDC).
Since January, this working group has met a number of times and made significant progress in developing the content for a position paper on data management. Specifically, the group has developed common definitions; identified researcher needs; and articulated the core data management functions required to address these needs.
Establishing a common terminology
As a starting point, the working group realized that in order to develop a shared understanding of the data management challenges in Canada and to identify potential solutions to them, they needed to ensure that everyone was working from a shared understanding of what is meant by the term “data”. This led to a discussion about the fact that the meaning of “data” can be understood by different users in different ways based on their intent or purpose - “data” being a general term, encompassing many types of facts or observations in many different formats. The group therefore decided that it was important to develop definitions for the three types of data that are specific to the DRI ecosystem: research data, administrative data, and scholarly communications data. Where possible, the group used the CASRAI Glossary as a starting point for developing these definitions.
Mapping researchers’ needs
To articulate the key DM functions required to meet researcher needs, the working group first identified the data-related activities undertaken by researchers as they work through their research process. The eleven data-related activities were identified as:
Plan, create, process, analyze, disseminate, preserve, reuse, store, secure, discover, document and curate
The last four were highlighted as activities taking place at each stage of the research process.
Identifying the core data management functions required to meet researcher needs
After articulating the data-related activities of researchers, the working group began to discuss the core data management functions needed to meet researcher needs. Using the diagram of key researcher data-related activities, the group further identified the core functions needed at each stage of the research process and discovered that they could be themed into five functional categories:
Policies, standards and protocols, expertise and training, tools and platforms, processes and procedures
As part of its next stage of work, the working group has begun to map the key DM functions against existing organizational responses and responsibilities to identify potential gaps and opportunities within the current system.
The DM working group’s discussions have highlighted the complexity of researchers’ data-related needs and the full spectrum of data management activities that must be addressed as we move to better coordinate and strengthen data management in Canada. This is just the beginning of our work together.
The DM working group continues to meet regularly to further develop its findings and to identify future opportunities and challenges for data management in Canada. The Panel for Canada’s Fundamental Science Review recently acknowledged the work of the LCDI in its report, Investing in Canada’s Future, and indicated that it was looking forward to seeing our final results. If you are interested in learning more about the LCDI, please visit our website, and stay tuned for hearing more about the results of our work this summer!