Recently, one of the organisations we're a member of - RUGIT (The Russell Group of IT Directors) has been involved in an Invitation to Tender for a study into the feasibility of establishing a shared digital research data service for UK Universities. This is a joint proposal from RUGIT and CURL (the Consortium of Research Libraries). It’s being funded by HEFCE as part of its Shared Services programme – “shared services” being used to describe a model of providing services in a combined or collaborative way to improve efficiency and reduce costs.
In this case, the outcome could be a business case for a service shared among all UK Universities, with input from the IT departments and Libraries, and bringing huge benefits to researchers.
The amount of data being produced by research is enormous, especially with the advent of grid computing and e-science. Areas such as meteorology, aeronautics and particle physics are obvious producers of large data sets, but all disciplines including the social sciences and the arts and humanities are already producing large volumes of data, of all kinds - complex data used in climate modelling, aerodynamics, molecular modelling, bioinformatics; video and image archives used in archaeology, anthropology and drama; massively large data sets used in particle physics.
The intention is not just to set up a large shared data storage facility - this would be valuable, but would add no real value to the research process. What is being proposed is a facility to manage the whole data life cycle - including creation, selection, retrieval and preservation. This will allow researchers to access previously generated data sets, to undertake new analyses and to annotate existing data.
It’s a very exciting project, and on one which I’ll keep you posted.