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A New ‘Research Data Mechanics’ and its Implications for Research Information Citizenship

10th August 2016
 | Simon Porter

As someone who has worked in research administration for over a decade, I have spent a lot of time thinking about how research metadata data is generated, how it joins together, and how it can be recombined to create new opportunities for researchers and institutions (and now publishers).

For me, research metadata forms the information network that connects researchers, research institutions, funders, publishers, and research service providers together. How well information flows across this community has direct implications on how well research activity can be supported, and fundamentally how efficiently we can move research forward.

In the latest Digital Science White Paper, I highlight six recent advances in research infrastructure and seek to recast how we think about metadata – not as a series of static records, but as objects that move between systems and organizations.

By understanding the mechanics of how this occurs, we come closer to understanding our roles in the system, not just as consumers of information, but as research information citizens with responsibilities to the information with which we interact.

I feel it is time to conceive of a new Research Data Mechanics that brings to the fore the ways in which information travels through systems and, in the process, to create a template for a more efficient research cycle.

The paper illustrates the ideas of Research Data Mechanics by examining six recent advances in research infrastructure:

  1. The increasing availability of publication information to research institutions.
  2. The transformative effect of ORCID.
  3. The disentanglement of system silos from research workflows.
  4. The connection of collaborative environments into the research ecosystem.
  5. The expanding network of research particles to cover research grants.
  6. The rise of organizational context: an increasing shift from internal to externally linked identifiers.

Daniel Hook, Managing Director said:

“Research information management is a field that’s developing quickly, and with so many initiatives and standards emerging it is especially important to step back and and consider the fundamentals. We believe that this paper heralds the coming of age of research information. Simon uses his extensive practical experience to set out a clear and accessible vision of how to think about information flow and how to use that understanding to benefit researchers and institutions alike. This paper establishes Digital Science’s philosophy for how data should flow in the research environment.”

What next – some questions for the community

One of the key ideas to come out the paper is the idea of research information citizenship.

  • When data communication is placed on equal footing to data consumption, how does this change our practices?
  • What are our responsibilities to the stewardship of research metadata as it moves across our systems?
  • Do research institutions have a responsibility to openly communicating how research grants have been subcontracted?
  • How can we better manage our administrative processes so that the information we manage is also the information we publish?
  • Is it acceptable anymore for any process that requests a researcher’s publications, not to begin with a request for an ORCID?

What do you think? Let’s have the conversation using #researchdatamechanics