New campus-wide service will enhance access to research data

Tuesday, May 14, 2019
by Catherine Zandonella, Office of the Dean for Research

With the goal of making the results of research and scholarship more accessible, Princeton will launch a new service to provide infrastructure and training to University researchers on how best to format and curate data in ways that facilitate long-term storage and discovery.  

The Princeton Research Data Service, anticipated to be underway in fall 2019, will offer resources for the management of and access to data that support findings published in peer-reviewed venues. The ability for researchers outside the University to access the data underlying peer-reviewed studies could stimulate additional experiments and scholarly work.

"Providing broader access to research data accelerates scientific progress, advances innovation and has the potential to provide benefit to society," said Dean for Research Pablo Debenedetti, the Class of 1950 Professor in Engineering and Applied Science and professor of chemical and biological engineering. "Our hope is that researchers — whether at Princeton, at institutions worldwide, or in society at large — will eventually be able to obtain research data with which to conduct new analyses."

The service will be available to University researchers across all disciplines, from the humanities and social sciences to science and engineering. The service originated as a collaborative initiative of the Dean for Research, University Librarian, and Vice President for Information Technology, and is supported by the Office of the Provost.

The Princeton University Library will host the service and is assembling a team of research data specialists to advise Princeton scientists and scholars on all aspects of the data lifecycle, from planning and gathering to cataloging and storing data.

“Our goal is to provide consultations and guidance to researchers throughout the research cycle," said Anne Jarvis, the Robert H. Taylor 1930 University Librarian. "We are building a team that will implement initiatives across campus on how to organize, manage, retain, curate and ultimately make accessible research data."

“The service will also aid the Library's mission to train the next generation of scholars, especially graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, on how to work with data, especially given data's mounting importance in nearly every area of study,” Jarvis said.

To lead the service, the University in April appointed Wind Cowles as director, reporting to the University Librarian. Cowles comes to Princeton from the National Institutes of Health where she served as a scientific review officer with a focus on language and communication research. Prior to NIH, Cowles was an associate professor in linguistics at the University of Florida and the director of the Language and Cognition Lab. Read a Q&A with Cowles.

The Office of Information Technology will provide the storage and network infrastructure in partnership with the Princeton Institute for Computational Science and Engineering (PICSciE). The data will be stored at Princeton's High-Performance Computing Research Center as well as in commercially available cloud storage.

Until now, faculty requests to store data were handled on a case-by-case basis, but the new repository creates a systematic and institution-wide method for storing data, at no charge to the researcher, said Jay Dominick, Princeton's vice president for information technology and chief information officer.

"The strong investment we've made in computational infrastructure here at Princeton makes this new data service relatively easy to implement technologically and reduces the burden on the faculty," Dominick said. "For us, it was a chance to provide the technological support to address a need that benefits not only our researchers but also the global community."

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