News and Updates

Understanding the Value of Data Curation

posted Nov 28, 2018, 7:45 AM by Lisa Johnston   [ updated Nov 28, 2018, 8:26 AM ]

The encompassing work and actions taken by curators of a data repository in order to provide meaningful and enduring access to data can be very time and resource intensive. Which begs the question: does data curation add value? This is a difficult question to tackle as each curation story is as different as the datasets we curate. Therefore one dataset might inherently be of greater interest - a hot topic dataset that everyone is searching for - regardless of the "value added" by any curation actions taken. Value is a multifaceted concept, and hard to nail down.
  • Is the reuse value of a curation measured by how useful the dataset becomes over time, with more value derived from many uses (e.g., downloads, citations, etc.)? Or is one important use enough to secure lasting value? Maybe it is both.
  • Is there a monetary value of data curation where measurable staff time or dollars were saved by not recreating the same dataset over and over? 
  • Reputational value is generally at stake when a dataset is shared. How well does data curation pay toward the credibility of an individual dataset? And by extension, to it's author?
  • How do the practical aspects of data curation impact value. If a dataset is housed in a stable location over a period of time, at what point does it become the standard for the field due to sheer availability?
The Data Curation Network project is actively pondering these questions. We wonder if the steps that digital repositories take to contextualize, describe, arrange, transform digital files for long-term and persistent access...the things we do day-to-day... add value to research data and to what extent. We welcome your thoughts!

ADRF Coverage of the First Data Curation Network Workshop at DLF

posted Nov 2, 2018, 7:29 AM by Elizabeth Coburn   [ updated Nov 2, 2018, 7:29 AM ]

The Administrative Data Research Facilities Network recently posted a wonderful review of the first Specialized Data Curation Network Workshop held in conjunction with the 2018 Digital Library Federation Forum in Henderson Nevada last month. The post, "Data Curation Network Hosts First Specialized Workshop", can be viewed on their blog. Thanks to Monica King and the ADRF team! 

Stay tuned for additional coverage of the workshop here on the DCN blog! 

RFP - Sustainability Consulting for the DCN Project

posted Oct 29, 2018, 7:29 AM by Lisa Johnston

Data Curation Network - Sustainability Consulting Services

Request for Proposal (informal)

The University of Minnesota Libraries invites proposals to provide sustainability consultant services to the Data Curation Network project ( Electronic proposals may be delivered to the email of Lisa Johnston, Principal Investigator of the Data Curation Network, University of Minnesota (

RFP Issue Date: October 29, 2018

Proposals Due: December 15, 2018, 11:59pm CST

Scope of Work

Sustainability Consulting—The Data Curation Network (DCN) seeks a sustainability consultant for short-term contracted work. The consultant will work closely with the co-principal investigators to deliver an actionable sustainability plan for the DCN.

The DCN is currently in Year 1 of a 3 year implementation grant, supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and led by the University of Minnesota Libraries with Cornell University, Dryad Digital Repository, Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, Penn State University, University of Illinois, and the University of Michigan as partners. The DCN must transition to a self-sustaining organization immediately following the grant funded period, or June 2021. The principal investigators of the DCN will work with the consultant to craft a work plan to conduct an investigation that will inform key decisions about this transition. The consultant’s work plan may include:

  1. Market analysis: Conducting research to better understand the potential demand for Data Curation Network services and programs. Research could involve literature and other information review, interviews, surveys, focus groups, or other activities.

  1. Administrative Structure: Research and compare various options for situating the DCN within an organizational home, including possible third-party fiscal agents. Explore opportunities for DCN partnership to identify the most efficient solution to managing membership and/or service fees, providing legal support, and maintaining a not-for-profit status.

  2. Financial Model Recommendation: Investigate and recommend a financial model for the DCN for the next 5 years. Potential membership models include: in-kind (all effort contributed by partners), membership, fee-for-service, or a hybrid of these.

  3. Community engagement case studies: Provide example case studies of successful community-owned infrastructure or projects in the library and archives sector and make recommendations so that the DCN can establish and maintain a successful “for the community” brand.

There are no requirements that the consultant work on site. Work may be performed from any location. In-person meetings, if required, will be funded by the DCN project. The consultant’s work will begin by June 2019, and the final deliverable, a report with recommendations, is due by December 2019.

Consultants are requested to submit a brief proposal to by December 15, 2018 outlining proposed work plan, with time and cost estimates. The DCN will evaluate brief proposals and conduct follow-up conversations with potential consultants, and will request expanded proposals based on these conversations.

Putting the Data Curation Network to the Test

posted Oct 12, 2018, 2:37 PM by Elizabeth Coburn   [ updated Oct 15, 2018, 6:15 AM ]

We are happy to report that the implementation phase of the DCN is well underway! Shortly after the first DCN All Hands Meeting held July 2018 in Minneapolis, MN we began piloting our shared staffing model for curating research data across a network of data repositories. Our goals for these first six months are to test and improve the DCN workflow, to inform our tracking system development (in Atlassian’s Jira) where all of the curation work will take place, and to give every curator in the network a chance to test the curation process with real data. We’ve run two datasets through the workflow so far. These exercises have proven to be informative, successful, and overall exceeded our expectations in terms of their utility.

The first pilot involved a Bioinformatics dataset (R and CSV files) submitted by a DCN curator from the University of Illinois. The dataset was matched with the expertise of a DCN Curator at Penn State University. The resulting curation and timeline view of this first pilot are detailed in the Value Stream Map (Figure 1), below.

Figure 1. Pilot 1 Value Stream Map

Value Stream Maps are a useful tool in the DCN’s workflow development. By tracking a dataset as it makes its way through our workflow from start to finish (e.g., how much time is spent working versus how much time is spent waiting) we can begin to label the necessary steps for tracking using our software. In Figure 2, below, the Jira workflow steps (“statuses”) are matched to the corresponding Value Stream Map steps.
Figure 2. Jira Workflow is derived and confirmed from the Pilot 1 Value Stream Map

In addition to confirming our assumptions regarding workflows, and giving curators an opportunity to test drive the process, the pilots have proven illuminating in other ways. Our test cases have shown real world challenges that our Network will face. For example, as each pilot has operated on a fairly relaxed timeline (we have not imposed deadlines or due dates up to this point) we’ve experienced delays related to other professional obligations and priorities outside of the Network, such as vacation schedules, weekends, waiting on researchers and data submitters for more information or dealing with any other issues. Timing and scheduling are especially important issues for the Network given its end-user oriented nature, and having a chance to begin to develop methods for dealing with these issues now, during the implementation phase, is essential. 

We will continue testing the DCN throughout the fall, giving every curator at least one opportunity to participate, and many opportunities for discussion and to provide feedback. Our goal is to have the DCN operational in early 2019 to begin curating data sets originating from institutions in the Network.

Seeing everything come together, and our success with these first two test datasets, has been both exciting and encouraging!

DCN Holds First Annual All Hands Meeting

posted Aug 17, 2018, 2:26 PM by Elizabeth Coburn

Our first annual Data Curation Network All Hands Meeting was hosted at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota USA July 23-25, 2018. The meeting provided a valuable opportunity for all of the team members of the Data Curation Network (DCN) implementation phase to meet one another and engage on important and pertinent topics such as the challenges of, and strategies for, curating research data. Who are we? The DCN is currently made up of 28 people that includes librarians, data curators, administrators, and digital repository specialists from eight academic institutions and the general purpose repository Dryad. Our kick-off meeting helped inform and shape the goals of the DCN and will allow us to share expert data curation staff across a network of institutions.

This year, the DCN took a “flipped classroom” approach to data curation training. Before the meeting, DCN Curators were asked to follow the DCN CURATE Steps for a dataset from one of four data types: tabular, survey, code or geospatial. During the workshop exercise, group members discussed their experiences curating the practice dataset, and made suggestions to the larger group on enhancements or changes that could be made to the CURATE Checklist to assist in real-life curation of datasets once we launch the DCN. Another interesting thing that came out of this exercise was the development of a shared list of tools for curating data. This “living” resource will eventually be published to the DCN website.





Caption: Dataset groups discussing the steps taken to curate their test case.

                       Caption: DCN co-PIs prioritize activities for the coming year.

The last day focused on workflows. Team members of each partner institution were asked to sit together and, as a group, channel their creative sides and map out their respective data curation workflows using as few words as possible and indicate where the DCN fit into their local workflow. Once completed these workflows were presented to the larger group round robin-style. Understanding all of the different processes and workflows at each institution was really helpful in thinking about how the workflows of the DCN would fit within the various ways that institutions curate data, and how to make everything as seamless as possible.

                   Caption: DCN teams share out their drawings of how their local institution curates data.

All in all the first annual All Hands Meeting was a great success! I started in my new role as the DCN Project Coordinator the week before the meeting, so this was my first interaction with the team as a whole. I was thrilled to witness and participate in all of the energetic and informative discussions that took place over the course of the meeting. I’m very excited about this project, and I’m proud to be working with such a wonderful and talented group of people.

Feedback from the other participants was also very positive overall. They found the meeting to be well-organized, well-led and ultimately useful. The webinars leading up to the meeting, and the activities, exercises, and discussions during the meeting were also helpful. Most participants also reported feeling more comfortable with the DCN and their ability to contribute in a meaningful way after attending the meeting. There was also a lot of great feedback on additional training, support, and resources that would assist curators in their work. We look forward to incorporating these ideas into the Data Curation Network in the coming months and are excited to get to work!

Thank you to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for making the DCN possible!



               Caption: DCN group photos!

DCN to Develop Nationwide Training on Specialized Data Curation

posted Jun 26, 2018, 11:58 AM by Lisa Johnston   [ updated Jul 6, 2018, 1:35 PM by Cynthia Vitale ]

Members of the Data Curation Network will lead a 2-year, specialized data curation training program. Funded by a $247,379 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, this program will develop and deliver specialized data curation training for library staff and professionals, nationwide.

This training will build upon previous efforts of the DCN to extend librarian capacity to richly curate research data. Many librarians and library staff are being called upon to archive and curate the heterogeneous data being produced on academic campuses nationwide. The Specialized Data Curation training program will address both the need for front line library staff to gain confidence in research data-related services, and enhance the discipline knowledge of research data, repository, and archival staff, through a peer-to-peer training model.  

Principal investigator, Cynthia Hudson-Vitale, will be joined by:

  • Mara Blake, Data Services Manager, Johns Hopkins University

  • Jake Carlson, Research Data Services Manager, University of Michigan

  • Joel Herndon, Head of Data and Visualization Services, Duke University Libraries

  • Lisa Johnston, Research Data Management/Curation Lead, University of Minnesota

  • Jennifer Moore, Data Services Coordinator, Washington University in St. Louis

  • Wendy Kozlowski, Data Curation Specialist, Cornell University Library

This program will be comprised of three geographically distributed workshops, the first of which will take place in October 2018 and co-located with Digital Library Federation Forum. Each training cohort will complete a capstone project that results in a functional or discipline specific data curation primer, which is meant to assist library staff nationwide in curating various types of research data.

For more information please visit:

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s approximately 120,000 libraries(link is external) and 35,000 museums. Our mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Our grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook(link is external) and Twitter(link is external).

The DCN project is hiring!

posted May 1, 2018, 2:17 PM by Lisa Johnston

Data Curation Network Project Coordinator

 University of Minnesota Libraries

The Data Curation Network (DCN) project seeks applications for a proactive and enthusiastic Project Coordinator. This is a three-year project designed to expand and launch a cross-institutional staffing model for curating research data across a network of partner institutions and general data repositories.

With support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Data Curation Network will provide data curators an opportunity to share their specialized expertise across institutional boundaries and enable data repositories to professionally curate a wider variety of data at a greater depth than previously possible. Visit the project web site for more information at The Project Coordinator will bring combined skills in data curation, project management, and team-building to help shape the future of the DCN. This position, based at the University of Minnesota Libraries, will coordinate all aspects of the Data Curation Network and report to the project’s principal investigator and Director of the Data Repository for the University of Minnesota (DRUM).

The Project Coordinator will work with a distributed network of data curators across eight institutions: University of Minnesota Libraries, Sheridan Libraries at Johns Hopkins University, University of Michigan Library, Duke University Libraries, University Library at University of Illinois at Urbana­-Champaign, Cornell University Library, Penn State University Libraries, and Dryad Digital Repository. Specifically, the Coordinator will oversee the daily operations of the Network, assign data sets to the appropriate DCN Curator, and track/monitor a dataset’s progress through the Network to ensure consistent and high quality service. The Project Coordinator will engage in business and planning aspects of the project along with a team of 10 dedicated data repository managers and project Co-PIs who are committed to the success of the DCN. Dependent on disciplinary background and expertise, the Coordinator may also take on data curation duties as needed.



  • Master’s degree from an American Library Association accredited library school or equivalent combination of advanced degree and relevant experience.

  • Demonstrated understanding of scientific research methods and data collection processes.

  • Knowledge of data repositories, preservation, and curation concepts and their application.

  • Excellent communication, presentation, and interpersonal skills.

  • Ability to work collaboratively with colleagues in a service-oriented, virtual, and collaboration-intensive environment.

  • Demonstrated knowledge of and commitment to the benefits of diversity and inclusion throughout an organization.


  • Experience working with data in a research setting.

  • Demonstrated project management skills.

  • Demonstrated creativity, initiative and self-direction.

  • Familiarity with metadata standards, creation, schemas, or management.

  • Knowledge of software packages and file formats for collecting and analyzing scientific data, such as R, MATLAB, Python, as well as tools and workflows for supporting reproducible research.   

  • Understanding of trends in academic research support and expertise in providing research lifecycle support.

  • Demonstrated experience working collaboratively and effectively to support remote and/or virtual users.

This is a full-time, 12-month, annual renewable, academic professional position with an appointment at the assistant or associate librarian level. The University of Minnesota Libraries offers excellent benefits and the Twin Cities provide an exciting urban center surrounded by outdoor adventure.

For more information and to apply, go to Applications will be accepted until position is filled; first review of applications will be May 24, 2018.

DCN 3-year Implementation Phase Funded by Sloan!

posted Apr 16, 2018, 6:31 AM by Lisa Johnston

Launching the Data Curation Network

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation grant will fund implementation of shared staffing model across 7 academic libraries and the Dryad Digital Repository

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL, MN (04/06/2018) – The University of Minnesota Libraries will lead a three-year, multi-institutional effort to launch the Data Curation Network. The implementation — backed by a $526,438 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation — builds on research to better support researchers faced with a growing number of requirements to openly and ethically share their research data.

The result of many months of research and planning, the project brings together the following eight partners: University of Minnesota Libraries, Sheridan Libraries at Johns Hopkins University, University of Michigan Library, Duke University Libraries, University Library at University of Illinois at Urbana­-Champaign, Cornell University Library, Penn State University Libraries, and the Dryad Digital Repository.

Currently, staff at each of these institutions provide their own data curation services. But because data curation requires a specialized skill set — spanning a wide variety of data types and discipline-specific data formats — institutions cannot reasonably expect to hire an expert in each area.

The intent of the Data Curation Network is to serve as a cross-institutional staffing model that seamlessly connects a network of expert data curators to local datasets and to supplement local curation expertise. Data curators bring the disciplinary knowledge and software expertise necessary for reviewing and curating data deposits to ensure that the data are reusable. The project aims to increase local capacity, strengthen collaboration between libraries and disciplinary projects, and ensure that researchers and institutions ethically and appropriately share data.

“Functionally, the Data Curation Network will serve as the ‘human layer’ in a local data repository stack that provides expert services, incentives for collaboration, normalized curation practices, and professional development training for an emerging data curator community,” said Lisa R. Johnston, Principal Investigator for the Data Curation Network and Director of the Data Repository for the University of Minnesota (DRUM).

Data curation is a relatively new service at universities as funders increasingly require that the raw data from sponsored research be preserved and shared. In addition, many publishers now either require or encourage that data sets accompanying articles be made available through a publicly accessible repository. Finally, many researchers wish to make their data available regardless of funder requirements both to enhance their impact and also to propel the concept of open science.

“The Sheridan Libraries were amongst the first research libraries to offer data management services,” said Sayeed Choudhury, Associate Dean for Research Data Management at Johns Hopkins University’s Sheridan Libraries. “While we have developed relevant expertise, our experience has actually highlighted the need for a more coordinated, distributed approach that leverages the diverse knowledge and expertise of our colleagues at other institutions. We are thrilled to join the Data Curation Network for this reason.”

During the three-year implementation phase, members of the Data Curation Network will work to add new partners and build the network into a sustainable model.

“We’re confident that a collaborative approach to data curation will enable our services to be stronger and ultimately lead to better, more reusable, datasets being shared,” Johnston said. “And this will benefit researchers, their disciplines, and the end users of research data world-wide.”

Johnston will be joined by:

●      Mara Blake, Manager of Data Services, Johns Hopkins University

●      Jake Carlson,  Director of Research Data Services, University of Michigan Library

●      Joel Herndon, Head of Data and Visualization Services, Duke University

●      Elizabeth Hull, Operations Manager, Dryad Digital Repository

●      Heidi Imker, Director of the Research Data Service, University of Illinois at Urbana­-Champaign Library

●      Wendy Kozlowski, Data Curation Specialist, Cornell University Library

●      Tim McGeary, Associate University Librarian for Information Technology Services, Duke University

●      Robert Olendorf, the Research Data Librarian at Penn State University

●      Claire Stewart, Associate University Librarian for Research and Learning, University of Minnesota

This project builds on previous work that includes the July 2017 report: “Data Curation Network: A Cross-Institutional Staffing Model for Curating Research Data,” which is available on the project website,

For more information

Visit the Data Curation Network website at:

Follow on Twitter: #DataCurationNetwork


For Immediate Release

Contact: Lisa Johnston, Principal Investigator for the Data Curation Network,; Mark Engebretson, Director of Communications, University of Minnesota Libraries,, 612-625-9148.

DCN Presents at RDAP Summit in Chicago, IL

posted Mar 23, 2018, 8:46 AM by Cynthia Vitale   [ updated Mar 23, 2018, 9:05 AM ]

DCN members Wendy Kozlowski, Data Curation Specialist at Cornell University, and Jake Carlson, Research Data Services Manager at the University of Michigan, presented on the Data Curation Network planning phase and future work at the Research Data Access, and Preservation (RDAP) Summit in Chicago, IL on March 22, 2018. 

Check out the information packed slides below!

Presentation_DCN Implementation Slides RDAP 20180322.pptx

DCN Presents at RDA in Berlin, Germany

posted Mar 22, 2018, 6:00 AM by Lisa Johnston

The implementation phase of the DCN was presented at the international meeting of research data stakeholders at the 11th plenary of the Research Data Alliance (RDA) in Berlin Germany March 21-23, 2018.

See our beautiful poster!

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