Planning for Data Curation in the Small Liberal Arts College Environment
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Mount Holyoke College is in an unusual position among small colleges: as a top National Science Foundation (NSF) grant money recipient among liberal arts colleges, we also face the same responsibilities as larger institutions in preparing for new NSF requirements stipulating data management plans in grant proposals. Like other small liberal arts colleges, we have smaller sets of resources at hand than large research universities, which makes our preparations for the new guidelines even more of a challenge. As we have begun to discuss ways to help our faculty and restructure our operations to manage ever more digital content, we have found that collaboration, both within and outside our institution, has proven essential in moving forward. Initial conversations among Mount Holyoke's Library, Information, and Technology Services departments led to helpful dialogue on improvements to our networking infrastructure, as well as new engagement with our grants office. These conversations led to the discovery of data in need of preservation, and to further meetings with faculty to discuss their needs. We also turned to our near neighbors, the Five Colleges, Inc. in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts. We have unique advantages in being able to collaborate via existing relationships to potentially build shared services and systems that would be difficult for one small college to support individually. Partnering on the establishment of a shared repository tool to assist with data curation (such as DSpace, Fedora, or another system) would allow us to pool staff talent, experience and perspectives. Solutions shared between campuses will promote sharing of data between institutions, and hopefully further collaboration between researchers, which would greatly benefit our students. We have also reached out to peer groups such the Oberlin Group of libraries in small liberal arts colleges, to assess their approaches to the new data management requirements. As we collect this information, we find that the challenge of data management is an opportunity to build relationships within Mount Holyoke College and at different levels (local, regional, national) beyond our gates. We are moving forward on the assumption that we should partner wherever possible because our needs and infrastructure for data management are so similar to those at other small colleges; we are starting to build what we hope will be an effective "machine" of relationships, collaborative architecture, and shared expertise. To further explore the shared goals and hopes for the future of data curation in smaller institutions, we summarize feedback from both our near neighbors in the Five Colleges, and from our national peer groups such as the Oberlin Group. We also assess our strengths and challenges within Mount Holyoke College and summarize the current state of scientific data on campus, and our hopes for providing better systems for data curation in the future.