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A collaborative effort to develop a data management curriculum

NECDMC serves the data management needs of researchers, students and librarians

By Regina Raboin, Tufts University; Andrew Creamer, Brown University; Donna Kafel and Elaine Martin, University of Massachusetts Medical School | Oct 23, 2014

Editor's Note: At the time of publication, Elaine Martin was the Director of Library Services, Lamar Soutter Library, University of Massachusetts Medical School. As of December 2016, Elaine is Director and Chief Administrative Officer of the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, an alliance of the Harvard Medical School and Boston Medical Library.


The New England Collaborative Data Management Curriculum (NECDMC) is an educational program for teaching faculty/researchers, students and librarians best practices in research data management (RDM) for the STEM disciplines. The National Networks of Libraries of Medicine, New England Region (NNLM NER) initially conceived the curriculum as a response to recent United States government mandates regarding data management, data sharing, and open access to data supported by federal funding. The NECDMC teaching materials are openly available on the web for information professionals to take and customize to meet the needs of their researchers, supporting new and rapidly evolving teaching and service roles for librarians — services that align libraries with their institutions’ strategic goals in research and development.
Seven libraries in the New England region initially developed this case-based, modular curriculum. The efforts were funded by the National Library of Medicine and led by:
  • Principal investigator, Elaine Martin, Director of Library Services, Lamar Soutter Library, University of Massachusetts Medical School
  • Project coordinator, Donna Kafel, New England e-Science Coordinator, University of Massachusetts Medical School
  • Project coordinator, Andrew Creamer, Scientific Data Management Specialist, Brown University

Exploring the curriculum
The curriculum addresses universal data management challenges and aligns with the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) data management recommendations. Each of the curriculum’s seven modules includes a lesson plan, teaching slides, and activities that can be used “out of the box” or customized for a particular institution or audience. The curriculum has a CC-BY license, one of the most permissive of the Creative Commons licenses.  
Table 1 — NECDMC Modules and Authors
Modules Author(s)
Module 1: Overview of Research Data Management Regina Raboin, Tufts University

Andrew Creamer and Donna Kafel, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Module 2:  Types, Formats and Stages of Data Jen Ferguson, Northeastern University
Module 3:  Contextual Details Needed to Make Data Meaningful to Others Elizabeth Coburn, John Furfey and Jen Walton, Marine Biologic Laboratory and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Alexander May and Alicia Morris, Tufts University

Module 4:  Data Storage, Backup and Security MJ Canavan, Steve McGinty and Rebecca Reznik-Zellen, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Module 5:  Legal and Ethical Implications of Research Data Donna Kafel and Lisa Palmer, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Lynne Riley, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Module 6:  Data Sharing and Re-use Policies
Matt Sheridan, Laura Quilter and Aaron Rubinstein, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Elizabeth Coburn, John Furfey and Jen Walton, Marine Biologic Laboratory and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Regina Raboin, Tufts University
Module 7:  Repositories, Archiving and Preservation
Introduction: Andrew Creamer, Brown University
David Lowe, University of Connecticut
Darla White and Emily R. Novak Gustainis, Harvard University
The NECDMC website has teaching advice, case studies, data management plan (DMP) examples, information on how participating libraries are using NECDMC, and links to resources used and developed by the partner and pilot libraries.

Piloting the curriculum
The NECDMC team has provided several forms of support for pilot libraries, including a webinar to introduce librarians to RDM and the process of writing DMPs. US and Canadian librarians who attended the webinar could follow up by attending an in-person Train-the-Trainer workshop, which introduced the course materials and provided teaching instruction. The NECDMC training team then identified librarians who were interested in piloting the course at their universities. Afterward, the librarians did two evaluations: a self-evaluation that described their pilot course and their participants, setting and methods, and one that evaluated students’ perceptions of the course’s content and methods, and how it was conducted. The NECDMC researchers analyzed these results and conducted qualitative follow-up interviews with the pilot librarians. 
Of the 18 institutions that have enlisted, nine are currently piloting the curriculum. The institutions have implemented the curriculum in various ways: a semester-long, for-credit course; librarian professional development; workshops for graduate and undergraduate students, professional organizations and conferences; a library school for-credit course; and a series of weekly modules for researchers. Module 1 was recently translated into French and presented at the University of Montreal.
The curriculum has also become a credit-bearing course called “Scientific Research Data Management” at Simmons College School of Library and Information Science, a class for the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Clinical and Translational Science Awards team, and in April 2014, a class for the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM) Mid-Atlantic Region.

Gathering feedback and lessons learned
Some of the early feedback from pilot sites included:
  • Module 1 can be easily adapted for a 90-minute class.
  • Content is more relevant to students when it is customized with local resources.
  • Students prefer having lecture content interspersed with activities.
  • Do not try teaching all seven modules in a one-day workshop!

Broadening the scope beyond STEM
RDM issues are not limited to librarians in the STEM disciplines. Librarians from the social sciences and the arts and humanities have attended E-Science and NECDMC symposia and workshops, and there is interest in developing NECDMC modules for digital humanities’ data management requirements. The NECDMC project team’s goals include expanding the content to encompass broader disciplines and creating self-paced, interactive online modules.