The Art, Science, and Magic of the Data Curation Network

A Retrospective on Cross-Institutional Collaboration

Subjects: Language Arts & Disciplines, General, Computers, Data Processing
Imprint: Maize Books
Open Access : 9781607858140, 85 pages, 6 color figures, 8.5 x 11, March 2023
Paperback : 9781607858133, 85 pages, 6 color figures, 8.5 x 11, June 2023
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An in-depth study of the labor of building and sustaining an active community.


The Data Curation Network (DCN) is a membership organization of institutional and non-profit data repositories whose vision is to advance open research by making data more ethical, reusable, and understandable. Although initially conceived of and established through grant funding, the DCN transitioned to a sustainable, member-funded organization in July 2021, and is now composed of almost 50 data curators from 17 institutions.

The Art, Science, and Magic of the Data Curation Network: A Retrospective on Cross Institutional Collaboration captures the results of a project retrospective meeting and describes the necessary components of the DCN’s sustained collaboration in the hopes that the insights will be of use to other collaborative efforts. In particular, the authors describe the successes of the community and challenges of launching a cross-institutional network. Additionally, this publication details the administrative, tool-based, and trust-based structures necessary for establishing this community, the “radical collaboration” that is the cornerstone of the DCN, and potential future collaborations to address shared challenges in libraries and research data management. This in-depth case study provides an overview of the critical work of launching a collaborative network and transitioning to sustainability. This publication will be of special interest to research librarians, data curators, and anyone interested in academic community building.

Jake Carlson is the Director of the Deep Blue Repository and Research Data Services (DBRRDS) department at the University of Michigan (U-M) Library. DBRRDS oversees the Library’s two institutional repositories: Deep Blue Documents, for articles, dissertations, presentations and other human-readable materials, and Deep Blue Data, for data sets and other machine-readable materials generated by the U-M community. Carlson’s work centers on developing and supporting services to publish materials of scholarly value that do not have a home in traditional publication structures, including research data, following FAIR and ethical practices. Carlson has authored or co-authored more than 20 articles on research data services in libraries. He is a co-editor, with Lisa Johnston, of the book Data information Literacy: Librarians, Data and the Education of a New Generation of Researchers published in 2015 by the Purdue University Press.

Mikala Narlock is the Director of the Data Curation Network, where she is a strong advocate for data curation and open scholarship. In her role, she collaborates with the DCN community to ensure the organization develops in a responsive and sustainable manner while upholding DCN's reputation as a trusted, transparent, and empowering partner. Prior to this role, she was the Digital Collections Strategy Librarian at the University of Notre Dame, where she managed the institutional and cultural heritage repositories, connected with students and faculty around research data management, and collaborated with other librarians and data stewards to serve campus needs. She is an active researcher, and presents and publishes regularly.