Supporting a Research Agenda: Using Library Funds for Access to Datasets in Management and the Social Sciences
Venetis, Mary Jo
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Over the past 8 years, the University of Texas at Dallas Libraries made a concerted effort to support the quantitative research of the faculty through the licensing of social and business datasets. For research efforts to be competitive, the faculty in the School of Management requested access to standard financial datasets so they could explore questions posed by larger, more established business programs. If the faculty was unable to use the same data resources and the same level of observation, their research would not be credible. Rather than purchase more monographs, the faculty provided a strong argument for using some funds to improve their research quality. While their use of journal collections was strong, the need for access to datasets was deemed essential for quantitative programs. Secondly, the School of Economics, Political and Policy Sciences wanted access to social and country macroeconomic data to support programs in geographic information systems, political science, criminology, and economics. In addition to supporting faculty and graduate student research, the students developed skills that could be used in their future work on real problems impacting cities and social organizations. Finally, a Data Librarian was added to the library staff to help customers gain access to the files and to market the products. The Librarian worked individually with faculty and students to find the appropriate files, gain access to various platforms, and show them how to extract and organize the datasets. WIthout someone in place, the resources would be underutilized. The Library developed the expertise to negotiate licenses to dataset resources. Since most datasets are licensed to commercial firms, the contracts are very different and extended negotiations can occur. In addition, how the datasets will be used and controlled requires cooperation from the Library and the Dean of the programs. The School of Management developed an internal committee of faculty members to reduce duplication of datasets, to create a priority for products, and to work with the Library to control the acquisition process. Rather than responding to individuals needs from faculty members, the Library deals directly with one representative from the committee. The success of the Data Services program elevates the quality of the work of the faculty and the University, provides a means for the Library to partner with them and to share the collective organizational expertise of the librarians, and recognizes what information is needed to research a problem in the 21st century. During the 2008, the Library received special recognition from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools for allocating funds to acquire and license datasets and for recognizing the need to provide information through a variety of means. In the future, the Library strives to incorporate the acquisition and storage of research datasets into its mission and to archive the research within the Texas Digital Library.