This guest post is written by Rebecca Morgan, Clinical Librarian & Assistant Professor at the University of Louisville
Last year, I completed the NNLM’s inaugural RDM 101: Biomedical and Health Research Data Management (RDM) Training for Librarians course, conducted by the National Training Office (NTO). As a member of the RDM 101 cohort, I was given the opportunity in early 2019 to apply for a professional development award for RDM, also provided by the NTO. This award connected recipients to a data mentor who could provide personalized, hands on guidance on initiating or expanding data services. The provided funds would support travel to and from the mentor and/or mentee’s respective institutions.
This type of formal mentorship was exactly what my institution needed. The University of Louisville, currently has no data services program or the resources available to hire a data librarian or transition an existing staff member into a more data-centric role. Although we’ve discussed our desire to provide some degree of RDM services for some time, our lack of institutional expertise has stymied us. Having an experienced mentor to guide us might be just what we needed to get off the ground.
I am happy to say I was selected as an award recipient and that Amy Koshoffer, Assistant Director of Research and Data Services at University of Cincinnati (UC), agreed to serve as my mentor. I had met Amy during RDM 101, so I knew she was not only very knowledgeable, but also fully dedicated to helping others become more skilled and successful in providing data-related services.
On March 4th, 2019, the University of Louisville welcomed Amy to our campus to present on initiating and sustaining research data management services in academic libraries. In addition to our own faculty and staff, several colleagues from regional institutions such as the University of Kentucky, Norton Healthcare, and Sullivan University also attended.
Amy’s visit was comprised of two presentations. The first was an overview of how UC started their data services program and what services they are currently offering today. She was very candid about discussing what worked, what didn’t, and what lessons were learned along the way. This presentation not only showed attendees where and how RDM services could start, but also gave us a taste of what we could eventually build to in the future. The second presentation was a demonstration of the kind of workshop Amy and her team might provide to researchers interested in learning more about how to manage their data. This practical demonstration helped attendees conceptualize the kind of programs we might be able to someday develop at our own institutions.
The discussions after each presentation were especially valuable in helping clear up some common misconceptions about what it means to provide RDM services. Many attendees assumed that you had to manage your own data repository or be an expert in R, Python, or REDCAP to provide adequate RDM support. Amy assured attendees that building data services can be a slow and steady process that should be scaled to whatever each institution can manage or maintain.
The benefit gained from Amy’s visit was immediately apparent. Within a couple weeks of her visit, UofL established a task force to write a strategic plan for providing data services at our own institution. We are also in contact with some of our counterparts at the University of Kentucky to explore ways to work cross-intuitionally to build up a community of practice in our state. Without the knowledge and direction gained by Amy’s visit, I doubt we would have advanced in these areas as quickly as we have. Having access to someone with expertise in this field who can provide practical answers and guidance was exactly what we needed to get the ball rolling.
As part of this award, I was also able to visit Amy at the University of Cincinnati for their fourth annual Data Day. Fellow RDM 101 alum Elena Azadbahkt, who was also being mentored by Amy, also attended. To learn more about our experiences at Data Day and about our experiences at the UC, please read Elena’s wonderful report here: https://news.nnlm.gov/psr-latitudes/report-on-the-4th-annual-data-day-at-the-university-of-cincinnati/