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Data literacy in support of Research 2.0

By Tibor Koltay, Szent István University | Sept 24, 2015

Data literacy in support of Research 2.0

By making use of the Internet’s power — which enables new forms of networking, encourages openness and provides the possibility of accessing and manipulating massive amounts of data — Research 2.0 (also called Science 2.0 or eScience) is changing the information behavior of researchers who work in the sciences, social sciences and humanities. It is also influencing the publishing world.

While Research 2.0 may eventually lead to changes in the principles underlying research activities, several factors hinder its wider uptake. Notwithstanding, Research 2.0 is calling for a transformation of the academic library’s role and tasks. These changes should affect services in general, as well as instructional activities and information literacy conceptualizations.1


Data literacy evolves
Information literacy is a fundamental element of research, which is still based on the traditional measures of trust and authority. It is also an important tool for counterbalancing the effects of information overload. 
In providing information literacy education, good use can be made of the Vitae Research Development Framework.2 On one hand, it describes information literacy by focusing on the use of information technology. On the other hand, it emphasizes the need to obtain expert advice from librarians and others. This framework details how data is created, organized, validated, shared, stored and curated, and also explains legal, ethical and security requirements, including those for metadata. 
Sheila Corral is right when she affirms: “Information literacy education has been a key focus of library service development that is now been joined by research data management, as an example of boundary-spanning activity.”3 Research 2.0 is, to a substantial extent, data-intensive activity. Therefore, information literacy should foster these activities, especially in the form of data literacy. Whatever impact Research 2.0 has, academic libraries have to offer both information literacy education and research data services, along with other kinds of assistance.

Data literacy education
Data literacy focuses on both social and technical aspects of data, but encompasses practically all activities related to research data management, including data curation, data citation and fostering of data quality. One example of such a range of activities is under the framework of the Purdue University Research Repository (PURR). PURR encompasses not only a data research repository, but also an associated suite of services including: creating and implementing data management plans; making collaborative project space available online for researchers to share data and code; supporting data publication with metadata, DOIs and usage statistics; and archiving datasets.
Library schools, professional organizations and funding bodies recognize that to prepare librarians for assisting researchers, librarians themselves need to be educated in data literacy. In 2013, the US National Institutes of Health hosted a webinar series focusing on data literacy for librarians. The topics included: Data Services 101, Data Needs Assessment, Data Management Plans (DMPs) and Resources, and Data Curation Basics.
At the University of Pittsburgh iSchool, they have developed an RDM curriculum based on an immersive model where LIS students spend time in the lab to gain a deeper understanding of the data life cycle. And grassroots efforts such as Data Scientist Training for Librarians have sprung out of fertile ground like Harvard University.

As librarians explore services related to Science 2.0, such as alternative metrics for scientific output and scholarly networking sites, data literacy will remain at the forefront. It has become a critical component of supporting researchers in Research 2.0 environments. Libraries must commit to developing and deepening resources, training and expertise in this area. In this way, they can meet related challenges that include complying with existing and emerging research data mandates, staying up to date with new resources such as data journals and platforms, and motivating researchers to engage in best practices around research data.

1. Tibor Koltay, Sonja Špiranec, László Z. Karvalics, “The Shift of Information Literacy Towards Research 2.0,” The Journal of Academic Librarianship, Volume 41, Issue 1, January 2015, Pages 87-93,


3. Sheila Corrall, "Library Service Capital: The Case for Measuring and Managing Intangible Assets," Libraries in the Digital Age (LIDA) Proceedings, Vol. 13 2014.