Research Article: A two-tiered curriculum to improve data management practices for researchers

Date Published: May 1, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Kevin B. Read, Catherine Larson, Colleen Gillespie, So Young Oh, Alisa Surkis, O. Roger Anderson.


Better research data management (RDM) provides the means to analyze data in new ways, effectively build on another researcher’s results, and reproduce the results of an experiment. Librarians are recognized by many as a potential resource for assisting researchers in this area, however this potential has not been fully realized in the biomedical research community. While librarians possess the broad skill set needed to support RDM, they often lack specific knowledge and time to develop an appropriate curriculum for their research community. The goal of this project was to develop and pilot educational modules for librarians to learn RDM and a curriculum for them to subsequently use to train their own research communities.

We created online modules for librarians that address RDM best practices, resources and regulations, as well as the culture and practice of biomedical research. Data was collected from librarians through questions embedded in the online modules on their self-reported changes in understanding of and comfort level with RDM using a retrospective pre-post design. We also developed a Teaching Toolkit which consists of slides, a script, and an evaluation form for librarians to use to teach an introductory RDM class to researchers at their own institutions. Researchers’ satisfaction with the class and intent to use the material they had learned was collected. Actual changes in RDM practices by researchers who attended was assessed with a follow-up survey administered seven months after the class.

The online curriculum increased librarians’ self-reported understanding of and comfort level with RDM. The Teaching Toolkit, when employed by librarians to teach researchers in person, resulted in improved RDM practices. This two-tiered curriculum provides concise training and a ready-made curriculum that allows working librarians to quickly gain an understanding of RDM, and translate this knowledge to researchers through training at their own institutions.

Partial Text

Better data management on the part of researchers is recognized as a critical need by researchers, funders, and publishers [1–3]. Good research data management (RDM) practices provide the means to analyze data in new ways, more effectively build on another researcher’s results, reproduce the results of an experiment, and aggregate like datasets for analysis [4–6]. While the benefits of RDM are clear, researchers often overlook the importance of RDM throughout the research process. The reasons for this are well-documented [7–10]: researchers see no benefit to themselves in exercising good RDM practices, they do not believe anyone would want or be able to understand their data, grant and publication pressures leave them no time, and there is no money to support RDM. The goal of this project was to facilitate better RDM on the part of researchers through the development of concise online modules to provide librarians with the knowledge and comfort level to teach RDM, and a ready-made, flexible curriculum for librarians to use for training researchers at their own institutions.

The curricula we developed provided significant innovation over existing data management education modules [20, 21, 36] in several areas. Our online modules were aimed at librarians and focused on biomedical research. These online modules included training on the processes, data, culture, and language of biomedical research to provide critical context that would allow librarians to overcome the barriers between librarians and researchers. The online modules were concise and directly tied to the Teaching Toolkit, a curriculum specifically created for use by the librarians to teach RDM locally, thus addressing the time constraints of working professionals seeking to enter this area.




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