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Realities of Academic Data Sharing (RADS) Research Purpose

This study, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF #2135874), is an exploratory examination of the costs, activities, services, and infrastructure of making research data publicly accessible from funded research across six academic institutions.

Federally mandated policies requiring public access to funded research data have impacted how institutions and researchers support the entire research data life cycle. The 2013 White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Holdren Memo on “Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research,” as well as others, transformed how institutions and researchers manage their research data.

In response to the growing number of federal requirements to share publicly funded research data, many academic institutions have developed and launched a variety of support services to reduce the faculty burden in meeting these requirements. These services are often spread across the institution and housed in various administrative units, such as campus IT, the university libraries, and the research office, among others. Similarly, a multitude of platforms exist for sharing research data. Researchers store their data in a variety of platforms including institutional repositories, generalist repositories, discipline-specific repositories, or in other locations (such as personal websites) to comply with these mandates. The extent of where funded research data are shared, as well as the costs to support this sharing, are not fully understood.

RADS considers these questions and examines where funded research data are shared, and the costs to support this sharing, at six academic institutions: Cornell University, Duke University, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, Washington University in St. Louis, and Virginia Tech. The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is the awarded organization, however, all inquiries and data collection will occur at the six participating institutions.

By examining researcher and institutional costs, activities, services, and infrastructure, the RADS Initiative will provide an exploratory, yet comprehensive, analysis of the true costs of public access to research data. Results of our study will inform funders, institutions, and other stakeholders of the scope and cost of public access to research data.

Research Streams

Two investigative research streams have been developed and are occurring at each of the six institutions.

Institutional Infrastructure, Services, and Activities

Campus administrators, such as research compliance officers, high-performance computing administrators, and data repository administrators, etc., are asked to determine what costs, activities, services, or infrastructure they are developing, or have developed, within their office, department or unit, to enable research data sharing. The results of this data collection will inform a campus-map of services and infrastructure for research data services.

Campus Administrators Interviews

Follow-up administrator interviews, anticipated to occur at the end of 2022 or in early 2023, will be conducted to clarify survey responses or to gather additional detail around costing issues.

Researcher-based Activities

Funded researchers are asked to identify activities, infrastructure, and costs required to make their data publicly accessible. The participant pool for the survey have been identified using several inclusion and exclusion criteria: 

  • Researchers must be externally funded and their project must be listed in one of three funder (DOE, NIH, and NSF) award databases.
  • Researchers must have a required public access component to their award.
  • Researchers must be currently employed at the same institution as when the award was granted.
  • Researchers and their projects must fall into one of the five disciplines of consideration in this study: environmental science, materials science, psychology, biomedical sciences, or physics.
  • Projects must have been completed between 2013 to present. Note: The year 2013 was selected as the starting point for analysis due to the release of the OSTP issued Holdren Memo.

Researchers will be asked to respond to survey questions concerning only one funded, completed project, as identified in the initial email from project co-PIs. If you have been contacted by email and you do not meet the criteria listed above, please contact your campus co-PI (contact information listed below) or the RADS Project Manager, Shawna Taylor, at staylor@arl.org and you will be removed from the RADS project list.

Research Team Group Interviews

The survey will ask participants (project PIs) if they would be interested in a potential follow-up group interview, which will include members of their project research team. Additional details from survey responses will be solicited, specifically around labor (staffing), service, and infrastructure costs, as well as other decisions related to where and how data was shared. We expect to conduct the group interviews in early 2023; more information will be posted later this year.

Informed Consent

Informed consent is required for survey and interview participation. Informed consent for the surveys will be sought in click to consent format in Alchemer, the survey platform, immediately preceding the start of the survey. Verbal consent is required immediately preceding interviews. If data is reused, additional consent will not be requested from participants. To view or download the informed consent sheets, please see the Documents section at the bottom of the page.

Confidentiality, PII, and Data Deidentification 

Selection of participants, their consent to participate in this study, and their responses will be de-identified and remain confidential when reports of this study are released publicly. However, potential identifiers, including institution names, discipline areas, or office or department descriptors will be included in data analysis. Raw data will not be de-identified, as responses will be attached to participant identifiers, including name, title, department, and email, in both surveys.

For all data collection methods, a coding scheme will be implemented to replace the direct identifiers with numeric codes. Personally identifiable information (PII) collected in the surveys and interviews will be recoded using numeric identifiers and researchers of this study will maintain a linking document with code descriptors. The final analysis dataset will not have direct identifiers (names or emails), but will include office or department and institution. PII collected in this survey will be maintained until grant end and final reports are released.

Raw identifiable data will be stored with ARL on secure servers and in Alchemer during the course of the project (expected end date August 2023). Assets with identifiable information will be destroyed at the end of the project.

Digital assets archiving and preservation is supported through an approach that starts with adequate documentation of data using metadata and other formats appropriate for long-term preservation. The digital assets from this project, excluding raw identifiable data, will be retained and curated for a minimum of 10 years.

Security of Information

The survey is hosted on the Alchemer platform, which encrypts data and can only be accessed through secure HTTPS. Alchemer utilizes TLS (Transport Layer Security) to secure the communication protocol and stay current at the most recent patch level.

Plans to Make Results Available

Research data from this award are under obligation to be shared and made publicly available.

Deidentified research data will be made available for reuse through each institution’s institutional repository and through ARL’s website. Please contact each institution’s co-PI (see contact information below) for more information on how data will be stored locally.

Results from this study will be publicly disseminated through conference presentations and materials, scholarly articles, organizational blog posts, and as part of publicly available reports published on ARL’s website and in institutional repositories.

The main RADS webpage keeps an updated list of all research outputs. All assets will be licensed as Creative Commons-Attribution (CC-BY 4.0) to allow for the broad sharing and adaptation of the materials.

Institutional Review

ARL does not have its own institutional review process and, due to this, each institution in the RADS study submitted an application to their Institutional Review Board (IRB) separately. Each institutional IRB issued an exempt status for the project on the following dates:

  • Cornell University: June 30, 2022
    Note: The Cornell IRB did not issue an exempt status, as it determined this study did not qualify as human subjects research; no modifications for the study were recommended.
  • Duke University: July 27, 2022; amended protocol approval September 23, 2022
  • University of Michigan: June 10, 2022
  • University of Minnesota: June 7, 2022
  • Virginia Tech: June 7, 2022
  • Washington University in St Louis: June 30, 2022

For additional information, please contact your campus co-PI or the RADS Project Manager. IRB contact information for each institution is also listed below.

Contact Information

Association of Research Libraries

  • Cynthia Hudson-Vitale, Director of Scholars and Scholarship, project PI
    Email: cvitale@arl.org

Cornell University

  • Wendy Kozlowski, Library Lead for Research Data Services, project co-PI
    Email: wak57@cornell.edu

Duke University

  • Joel Herndon, Director of the Center for Data and Visualization Sciences, project co-PI
    Email: joel.herndon@duke.edu

University of Michigan

  • Jake Carlson, Director of Deep Blue Repository and Research Data Services, project co-PI
    Email: jakecar@umich.edu

University of Minnesota

  • Alicia Hofelich Mohr, Data Management Research Associate, project co-PI
    Email: hofelich@umn.edu 

Virginia Tech

  • Jonathan Petters, Assistant Director, Data Management & Curation Services, Data Services, project co-PI
    Email: jpetters@vt.edu

Washington University in St. Louis


To preview the informed consent sheets, or to download a copy for your records, please select your institution below.

Cornell University
Duke University
University of Michigan
University of Minnesota
Virginia Tech
Washington University in St Louis