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Press Release - 20 June 2007

Universities need to do urgent work to cope with digital "deluge", says report

Universities’ methods of storing research data are “fragmented and incomplete” and they need to do “outstanding and urgent” work to cope with a “deluge” in digital information, says a new report.

Dr Liz Lyon, Director of UKOLN, the national centre of expertise in digital information management at the University of Bath, interviewed a range of representatives from UK funding agencies, data centres and universities before writing the report, which was commissioned by JISC, the Joint Information Systems Committee.

In her conclusion Dr Lyon writes: “The findings of the study demonstrate that whilst there is good practice in data curation developing in some domains at both the strategic and operational levels, there is much work still outstanding and urgent.

“There is a real need for tangible leadership and cross-domain strategy co-ordination, ostensibly at the highest levels of research funding organisations, to put in place the infrastructure and services to effectively manage the burgeoning data deluge.

“There is much scope for enhanced planning approaches across the piece, and the development of best practice guidance for the working scientists, to help them fulfil their responsibilities as data creators and authors.”

The report, entitled Dealing with Data, lists 35 recommendations for enhancing the provision of an infrastructure for data curation and preservation, including calling for a common data preservation strategy, and for additional legal advice and training to be provided to researchers.

The report reviews the variety of data, and the varied arrangements for its storage and use across a selected range of domains. The work of funders, national data centres, institutional repositories, learned societies are all documented.

JISC and others such as the UK Digital Curation Centre, are already taking forward work in a number of the areas highlighted, such as analysing the costs and benefits of data preservation, and offering discipline-specific guidance to the sector.

Further work is planned, including the development of a ‘Data Audit Framework’ to enable all universities and colleges to carry out an audit of departmental data collections, awareness, policies and practice for data curation and preservation.

Of the current situation, Dr Lyon said: “We are moving rapidly into an era of data-driven research and scholarship, across the broad range of academic disciplines. If the currency of that work, the data itself, is not to be debased, then it needs to be well managed, so that researchers can use it both now and into the future.”

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