The Wibbly Wobbly, Timey Wimey Network of Scholarly Communications and Research Data Management

There’s an iconic scene from the UK science fiction television show Doctor Who in which the Doctor describes the concept of “time” as a “big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff.” (Video below for those who don’t know this scene!)

I like to use this quote when talking about virtually anything relating to data, because working with data within research is rarely a straightforward process. Research can be such a chaotic and beautiful experience, and as data works its way throughout a research project, some truly amazing things can happen. How do we communicate these amazing things to our audience? This is where the field of scholarly communications comes into the picture. From writing up your results to determining the best way to promote your work, scholarly communications ensure that you get maximum exposure and professional development from your work.

In today’s Tartan Datascapes, I’m thrilled to be collaborating with my colleague David Scherer, Scholarly Communications and Research Curation Consultant at CMU Libraries, on a blog post that describes the wibbly wobblyness and timey wimeyness of the worlds of scholarly communications and research data management, two areas which inevitably find themselves intertwined in the research process.

Now, before we start, it’s important to note that Dave and I have a lot of things in common, one of which being that we both really like Letterkenny! Another commonality (that is perhaps more relevant to this post) is that we are both Consultants at CMU Libraries. What does this mean? As faculty librarians who serve as consultants, we often take a highly embedded approach to library services; working directly with researchers on our campus to provide data and research curation and dissemination support. And, as the only two consultants in the Libraries, it means that when one of us is giving a consultation, we often bring the other in for support, given the inherent ties between scholarly communications and research data management. So, what are these connections and ties? Grab some tea, and a snack, and possibly a blanket (if your house is as cold as Dave and Hannah’s are right now) and keep reading!

Historically, a researcher would conduct their research and analysis, and at an appropriate time that they were ready, publish the findings they wished to discuss in an academic publication. The researcher would continue to analyze their data, out of fear of ensuring they extrapolated the fullest level of scrutiny they could produce from their data before any other researcher could use their data and potentially find any results or findings they might have not found. In this scenario, the researcher has practiced a traditional research lifecycle where research is conducted and then discussed in a linear fashion. In this historical publishing model, data sharing (and other practices associated with research data management was less common and therefore not considered to be a standard part of this research lifecycle model. With the development of the open access and open research movements, this traditional progressionary model has slowly merged, to the point that scholarly communication and research data management practices are happening in tandem.

Today, publishers are increasing pressure to ensure that referenced research data is available to the reader. For example, with journals published by the Public Library of Science (PLoS), authors must make their data publicly available before their articles can be accepted for publication by any of their journals! This means that the researcher must be thinking about data sharing, and all the mechanisms that support it, from a very early stage of the research process, often concurrently while thinking through scholarly communications aspects of the research, such as planning/writing the manuscript, choosing a journal venue, etc. It is here where you can see that rather than a linear timeline where the researcher collects their data and analyzes it (the research data management activities), and then publishes the paper (the scholarly communications activity), in our current research landscape these activities happen more in tandem in a, you guessed it, timey wimey ball of research wibbly wobblyness.

As consultants at CMU Libraries, we both know that RDM and SC have always gone hand-in-hand. Just as the answer to the old question, “What came first, the chicken or the egg?”, the answer to what came first, RDM or SC, is ‘Yes.’ Both are as equally important and can be practiced cohesively rather than sequentially.

So how does CMU Libraries support the equal practice of SC and RDM? First, CMU can do so through our comprehensive institutional repository, KiltHub. The KiltHub Repository collects, preserves, and provides stable, long-term global open access to a wide range of research data and scholarly outputs created by faculty, staff, and student members of Carnegie Mellon University in the course of their research and teaching. Researchers can use KiltHub to make both their research datasets and publications open access. KiltHub provides an easy workflow for researchers to reserve the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) that will be used as the citation for their datasets once published. A DOI is a persistent identifier that is used identify a digital object. It’s like a social security number that stays with that digital object. While URLs may change, the DOI for an object always stays the same. This allows the researcher to embed the citation and DOI to their datasets into their publications, allowing the researcher to properly cite their own research with the hyperlinked-DOI to the published dataset. This also ensures that the researcher has made their datasets open access in a way that can increase the impact of their actions which can be tracked through the views, downloads, and citations from KiltHub, as well as the Altmetric data viewed through the Altmetric Explorer.

Second, we offer a host of workshops that describe research data management and scholarly communication practices in sync (sadly, there’s no references to the band NSYNC in these workshops, however) and how to implement them in your research. These workshops include the following titles:

  • Getting Started with the KiltHub Repository
  • Making your Research and Scholarship Open and FAIR: Open Access and Research Data Management Services at CMU

While these workshops have already taken place for the Fall 2020 semester, keep your eyes on the CMU Libraries workshop listings for our Spring 2021 lineup of virtual workshops!

Finally, another way that we can support a healthy network of RDM and SC in your research process is by offering 1:1 or group consultations (over Zoom, in our current environment) to talk through your research goals and ensure that you have a plan for not only managing your data, but also effectively communicating and publishing your research and scholarship in tandem. We’re only an email away and always happy to set up these consultations, so please get in touch with us!

Are you interested to know more about Scholarly Communications? Take a look at Scholarly COmmunication NEws! This monthly newsletter produced by David provides information and updates supporting the creation, dissemination, use, and preservation of the research data, creative works, and other scholarly outputs that weave together the fabric of one’s research and scholarship. Readers can learn more about Scholarly Communication at CMU, in the news, as well as monthly updates on our CMU open access initiatives.

Tags: About Us, Data, Open Access, Open Science, ScholComm @ CMU, Technology, See all tags

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