Research Data Management in the Humanities: Challenges and Opportunities in the Canadian Context

Authors : Stefan Higgins, Lisa Goddard, Shahira Khair

In recent years, research funders across the world have implemented mandates for research data management (RDM) that introduce new obligations for researchers seeking funding. Although data work is not new in the humanities, digital research infrastructures, best practices, and the development of highly qualified personnel to support humanist researchers are all still nascent.

Responding to these changes, this article offers four contributions to how humanists can consider the role of “data” in their research and succeed in its management. First, we define RDM and data management plans (DMP) and raise some exigent questions regarding their development and maintenance.

Second, acknowledging the unsettled status of “data” in the humanities, we offer some conceptual explanations of what data are, and gesture to some ways in which humanists are already (and have always been) engaged in data work.

Third, we argue that data work requires conscious design—attention to how data are produced—and that thinking of data work as involving design (e.g., experimental and interpretive work) can help humanists engage more fruitfully in RDM.

Fourth, we argue that RDM (and data work, generally) is labour that requires compensation in the form of funding, support, and tools, as well as accreditation and recognition that incentivizes researchers to make RDM an integral part of their research.

Finally, we offer a set of concrete recommendations to support humanist RDM in the Canadian context.

URL : Research Data Management in the Humanities: Challenges and Opportunities in the Canadian Context


It Takes a Researcher to Know a Researcher: Academic Librarian Perspectives Regarding Skills and Training for Research Data Support in Canada

Author : Alisa B. Rod


This empirical study aims to contribute qualitative evidence on the perspectives of data-related librarians regarding the necessary skills, education, and training for these roles in the context of Canadian academic libraries.

A second aim of this study is to understand the perspectives of data-related librarians regarding the specific role of the MLIS in providing relevant training and education. The definition of a data-related librarian in this study includes any librarian or professional who has a conventional title related to a field of data librarianship (i.e., research data management, data services, GIS, data visualization, data science) or any other librarian or professional whose duties include providing data-related services within an academic institution.


This study incorporates in-depth qualitative empirical evidence in the form of 12 semi-structured interviews of data-related librarians to investigate first-hand perspectives on the necessary skills required for such positions and the mechanisms for acquiring and maintaining such skills.


The interviews identified four major themes related to the skills required for library-related data services positions, including the perceived importance of experience conducting original research, proficiency in computational coding and quantitative methods, MLIS-related skills such as understanding metadata, and the ability to learn new skills quickly on the job.

Overall, the implication of this study regarding the training from MLIS programs concerning data-related librarianship is that although expertise in metadata, documentation, and information management are vital skills for data-related librarians, the MLIS is increasingly less competitive compared with degree programs that offer a greater emphasis on practical experience working with different types of data in a research context and implementing a variety of methodological approaches.


This study demonstrates that an in-depth qualitative portrait of data-related librarians within a national academic ecosystem provides valuable new insights regarding the perceived importance of conducting original empirical research to succeed in these roles.

URL : It Takes a Researcher to Know a Researcher: Academic Librarian Perspectives Regarding Skills and Training for Research Data Support in Canada


How Open Is the U15? A Preliminary Analysis of Open Access Publishing in Canadian Academic Libraries

Authors : Nikki Tummon, Robin Desmeules


This study offers insight into open access (OA) culture at Canadian university libraries by detailing the degree to which librarians working at Canada’s U15 (a collective of research-intensive institutions in Canada) make their research OA, as well as exploring the depth and reach of any OA mandates these institutions have.


This study uses a combination of bibliometric analysis and a review of institutional OA policies, beginning with an examination of a six-year span (2014–2019) of librarian-authored publications, searching four key library and information science databases, followed by a systematic search for a university-wide or library OA statement, policy, or mandate on each of the U15 websites.

Results & Discussion

The data suggest that Canadian academic librarians are personally motivated to self-archive and make their research open. The high rate of publication in Gold OA journals, combined with the fact that several of the key library and information science journals for Canadian librarians are already OA, points to the importance of OA publishing for librarians as a community, as does the high number of expressions of commitment to OA publishing.

Given the lack of variance comparatively between schools with an expression and without, the authors cannot comment on whether the expressions of support correlate to higher proportions of OA articles.


This article provides a snapshot of a positive OA publishing culture at 15 Canadian university libraries by presenting data that show that most libraries have an expression of commitment to OA principles and most Canadian academic librarians working at U15 schools ensure that their research is OA.

URL : How Open Is the U15? A Preliminary Analysis of Open Access Publishing in Canadian Academic Libraries


Practices Before Policy: Research Data Management Behaviours in Canada

Authors : Melissa Cheung, Alexandra Cooper, Dylanne Dearborn, Elizabeth Hill, Erin Johnson, Marjorie Mitchell, Kristi Thompson

In anticipation of the then forthcoming Tri-Agency Research Data Management Policy, a consortium of professionals from Canadian university libraries surveyed researchers on their research data management (RDM) practices, attitudes, and interest in data management services.

Data collected from three surveys targeting researchers in science and engineering, humanities and social sciences, and health sciences and medicine were compiled to create a national dataset.

The present study is the first large-scale survey investigating researcher RDM practices in Canada, and one of the few recent multi-institutional and multidisciplinary surveys on this topic.

This article presents the results of the survey to assess researcher readiness to meet RDM policy requirements, namely the preparation of data management plans (DMPs) and data deposit in a digital repository.

The survey results also highlight common trends across the country while revealing differences in practices and attitudes between disciplines. Based on our survey results, most researchers would have to change their RDM behaviors to meet Tri-Agency RDM policy requirements.

The data we gathered provides insights that can help institutions prioritize service development and infrastructure that will meet researcher needs.

URL : Practices Before Policy: Research Data Management Behaviours in Canada


What Are the Characteristics of Canadian Independent, Scholarly Journals? Results from a Website Analysis

Authors : Jessica Lange, Sarah Severson

The dominance of commercial publishers (Larivière, Haustein, and Mongeon 2015) has led to a discussion in Canada focusing on alternative models for supporting independent, non-commercial, scholarly journals.

Although small in number, these journals represent an important contribution to Canadian and global scholarship. They also act as a counterbalance to the increasingly for-profit nature of scholarly publishing. Despite their importance, there exists no definitive list of journals of this nature in Canada, making analysis and understanding of their characteristics difficult.

In order to address this gap, the researchers undertook an analysis of the websites of 485 Canadian, independent, scholarly journals. Independent was defined as journals which are not affiliated with a commercial publisher.

The researchers gathered data for each journal on their access type (e.g., closed, open access), subject area, size and composition of the editorial team, and any affiliation(s). This data was then analyzed to create a portrait of these journals with these themes.

The researchers found that most of these journals were affiliated with at least one organization, with over half being associated with two or more. They also discovered that affiliations varied depending on the discipline and that the size of the editorial team was correlated to the access type.

Journals were predominantly in the humanities and social sciences, and the majority were open access (OA) without article processing charges (APCs).

While the focus of this study is on Canadian journals, this article provides a framework for other researchers to examine non-commercial, independent publishing in their own countries.

Its results also provide preliminary data which may inspire future avenues of research, particularly into models for non-APC, open access journals as well as the editorial board structure and size for independent journals.


Creating New Roles for Libraries in Academic Research: Research Conducted at the University of Calgary, 2015–2020

Authors : H. Thomas Hickerson, John Brosz, Leonora Crema

A recently completed study at the University of Calgary has had broad professional impact and generated increased attention to the role of academic libraries in campus research. This multiyear, evidence-based study was conceived in recognition that the role libraries have traditionally played in research is of decreasing relevance.

With support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, this study employs intensive partnership among library staff, scholars, and research administrators to identify the transformational changes necessary for repositioning libraries in the research enterprise.

URL : Creating New Roles for Libraries in Academic Research: Research Conducted at the University of Calgary, 2015–2020


Promoting a culture of openness: Institutional open access policy development and evaluation at a Canadian university

Authors : Alison J. Moore, Jennifer Zerkee, Kate Shuttleworth, Rebecca Dowson, Gwen Bird

Institutional open access (OA) policies can act as a solid foundation on which to build university-wide support for open access. This is the first paper to reflect on the entire process of developing, implementing, and reviewing an institutional open access policy at a Canadian post-secondary institution.

Simon Fraser University (SFU) is one of a few Canadian universities with an institutional open access policy. As a leader in open access, SFU is well positioned to share observations of our experiences in the first three years of our OA policy.

Throughout this paper, we reflect on the role that the policy plays in the broader culture of openness at SFU and on the OA resources and supports provided to SFU researchers.

Other institutions may find our observations and adoption of the SOAR (strengths, opportunities, aspirations, results) appreciative inquiry framework useful as they explore future policy development or review and work to promote a culture of open access within their university community.

URL: Promoting a culture of openness: Institutional open access policy development and evaluation at a Canadian university