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Practice Article

How are we Measuring Up? Evaluating Research Data Services in Academic Libraries


Heather L. Coates ,

Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), US
About Heather
Heather Coates works in the Center for Digital Scholarship at the IUPUI University Library. As the Digital Scholarship and Data Management Librarian, she provides research data services, manages the campus data repository, supports faculty in documenting research impact, and promotes responsible practices throughout the research life cycle. As a subject librarian for public health, she promotes the use of open resources. She is a librarian practitioner-researcher interested in how sociotechnical systems and academic research practices intersect. What that means in practice is that she explores effective research (data management) practices, data sharing, research ethics, and evidence-based library and information practice. She is a pragmatic advocate for open access/data/education resources/research as processes to improve education and research.
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Jake Carlson,

University of Michigan Ann Arbor MI, US
About Jake
Jake Carlson is the Director of Research Data Services at the University of Michigan Library. In this role, he explores the application of the theories, principles, and practices of library science beyond the domain of traditional “library work.” In particular, Carlson seeks to increase the capabilities and opportunities for research libraries to provide services supporting data-related research. Much of his work is done through direct collaborations and partnerships with research faculty. Carlson is a primary architect of the Data Curation Profiles Toolkit ( developed by Purdue and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the PI of the Data Information Literacy project (
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Ryan Clement,

Middlebury College Middlebury VT, US
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Margaret Henderson,

Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond VA, US
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Lisa R Johnston,

University of Minnesota Twin Cities Minneapolis MN, US
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Yasmeen Shorish

James Madison University Harrisonburg VA, US
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INTRODUCTION In the years since the emergence of federal funding agency data management and sharing requirements (, research data services (RDS) have expanded to dozens of academic libraries in the United States. As these services have matured, service providers have begun to assess them. Given a lack of practical guidance in the literature, we seek to begin the discussion with several case studies and an exploration of four approaches suitable to assessing these emerging services. DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM This article examines five case studies that vary by staffing, drivers, and institutional context in order to begin a practice-oriented conversation about how to evaluate and assess research data services in academic libraries. The case studies highlight some commonly discussed challenges, including insufficient training and resources, competing demands for evaluation efforts, and the tension between evidence that can be easily gathered and that which addresses our most important questions. We explore reflective practice, formative evaluation, developmental evaluation, and evidence-based library and information practice for ideas to advance practice. NEXT STEPS Data specialists engaged in providing research data services need strategies and tools with which to make decisions about their services. These range from identifying stakeholder needs to refining existing services to determining when to extend and discontinue declining services. While the landscape of research data services is broad and diverse, there are common needs that we can address as a community. To that end, we have created a community-owned space to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and existing resources.
How to Cite: Coates, H.L., Carlson, J., Clement, R., Henderson, M., Johnston, L.R. and Shorish, Y., 2018. How are we Measuring Up? Evaluating Research Data Services in Academic Libraries. Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication, 6(1), p.eP2226. DOI:
Published on 06 Aug 2018.
Peer Reviewed


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