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Researcher’s findings to support grant applicants nationwide

Spencer Keralis is a postdoctoral research associate hosted by UNT Libraires through the Council on Library and Information Resources.By Nancy Kolsti, News Promotions

Academic researchers now are regularly asked to include a plan to digitally preserve findings when they apply for grants from certain national funding agencies, including the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Thanks to research conducted by Spencer Keralis, above, grant applicants will have guidance as they seek funding which requires digital preservation of data.

He is conducting the research through the Council on Library and Information Resources, an independent, nonprofit organization that supports research and teaching in libraries, cultural institutions and higher education.

Keralis received a two-year Postdoctoral Fellowship in Academic Libraries to analyze programs in digital curation, which are provided in a only a few library and information sciences colleges. Faculty in the College of Information plan to develop courses for a Graduate Academic Certificate in Digital Curation and Data Management.

“I’m looking at the roles that professionals and scholars will be cast in while archiving their research. A researcher in chemistry or physics, for example, may have little to no knowledge about how to assemble data for Internet archiving so that the research can be reproduced by others,” he says.

Keralis is also investigating data management policies at U.S. colleges and universities with a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The UNT Libraries and the College of Information received more than $800,000 in institute grants last summer to address the challenges of developing data management policies, including services and technical support that colleges and universities provide to faculty researchers.

Keralis is surveying and conducting focus groups with officials at the top 200 institutions that receive National Science Foundation grants and at the top 200 institutions that receive National Institutes of Health grants. Many of these institutions are on both lists, he says.

“During this past year, applicants have had grants denied because of inadequate written data management plans, and the National Science Foundation may start auditing the plans, evaluating them as part of the intellectual merit of the project,” Keralis says.

He notes that some colleges and universities offer services for data management in libraries or research offices.  “Institutions should have staff members who know both the research processes used by faculty members and the steps needed for data preservation,” he says. 

Keralis worked 10 years in the telecommunications industry before earning a bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Minnesota. He also has a master’s degree in early American literature from New York University and recently completed his doctoral dissertation at NYU.

“The interface of technology and academia has always interested me,” he says. He adds that what he learns from research on digital curation and data management “will help me make strong innovations in my own field.” Data from his doctoral research includes about 3,000 photographs of illustrations from early American children’s books, taken during Keralis’ fellowships at the American Antiquarian Society and the Library Company of Philadelphia.

“Digital humanities is becoming increasingly important, but humanists aren’t used to thinking about research in terms of data. All research data, however, should be preserved and have the opportunity to be viewed and shared with other researchers,” he says.

 (Photo by Michael Clements)

Posted on: Thu 26 January 2012

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