Re3data launched at the tail end of 2012 with the goal of registering all research data repositories. These research data repositories are collections of datasets usually associated with a particular discipline or a particular geographic region. Because of the way data repositories have cropped up on an as-needed basis over the past 50 years, these repositories are myriad and take a specialized knowledge to navigate the options in any academic field.
Research data represents the lion’s share of effort for universities. The value of research data within universities is without peer; however, this data is often vulnerable to loss due to poor preservation practices. Data repositories provide long-term storage and potentially enable access to datasets, while also promoting reproducibility of research. Although this storage and access provide a clear benefit to the researcher, the funding agencies who support research can be the stimulus for researchers to use a data repository. For example, the National Science Foundation requires dissemination and sharing of research results:
Investigators are expected to share with other researchers, at no more than incremental cost and within a reasonable time, the primary data, samples, physical collections and other supporting materials created or gathered in the course of work under NSF grants. Grantees are expected to encourage and facilitate such sharing.
Certain publishers also stipulate the use of data repositories, such as this example for Scientific Data, a Nature Publishing Group journal:
Scientific Data mandates the release of datasets accompanying our Data Descriptors, but we do not ourselves host data. Instead, we ask authors to submit datasets to an appropriate public data repository. Data should be submitted to discipline-specific, community-recognized repositories where possible, or to generalist repositories if no suitable community resource is available.
For librarians, the benefits of data repositories are fairly clear. Repositories manage, organize, preserve, enable discovery of, and usually provide a persistent identifier for data. Re3data allows librarians to point researchers in the right direction regarding repositories. Re3data provides a basic search feature equipped with 27 facets to narrow or refine a search. Each repository record is tagged with icons to let uses know if the repository provides additional information about its service, if it is open, restricted, or closed access, and what persistent identifier is used (i.e. DOI, URN, ARK, handle, Purl, or other).
Users can also browse by country, subject, or content type (ex. Raw data, audiovisual data, source code, to name a few.) The subject browse function is particularly attractive:
Users can select a discipline and the wheel will react and narrow the search with a rotating animation action.
Also, librarians who play a role in their own institution repository can suggest their repository to be included in Re3data. Data repositories considered for inclusion must be run by a legal entity, clarify access conditions, and have a focus on research data (see: http://www.re3data.org/suggest).
Samuel R. Putnam, Assistant University Librarian, University of Florida
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