The Insitutional Repository's Role in Preserving Research Data
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In recent years, many funding agencies have started to require long-term preservation and open access to research data. While most research universities have already run their own institutional repositories (IR), it's not clear what role the IR can play in managing these data. Unlike the textual and even multimedia contents currently archived by the conventional IR, research data are much more diverse in terms of format, metadata, storage, rendering, and access requirements. The differences between the geospatial data, astronomical observation data, DNA sequencing data, and computational fluid dynamics simulation data can be so large as to deserve their own disciplinary data repositories. A disciplinary repository can customize its structure and functionality for a specific type of data, a luxury not available to the general-purpose IR. On the other hand, the IR is uniquely positioned to manage the research data. The university provides the IT infrastructure where most of the data are initially generated, processed, stored, and managed. As part of the IT infrastructure, the IR usually presents the lowest migration barrier and also the cheapest cost for data created within the same institution. In order to meet the data managing challenges, we therefore must clearly define the core functionality an IR must provide during the lifecycle of the research data, which may include: - Closely integrate the IR with the university's IT infrastructure to allow easy deposit and access control - Provide the baseline storage needs, which may be further differentiated by the usage pattern to lower the cost - Act as a metadata hub that not only can understand various disciplinary metadata, but can also translate them into more widely understood terms for easy discovery and access - Facilitate reuse and preservation by at least maintaining the preservation metadata that document the environment where the data originally lived - Provide programming interfaces to facilitate the data visualization, presentation, and usage from external services - Provide data exchange interfaces to various disciplinary data repositories Virginia Tech is working towards building its IR, VTechWorks, as an exemplary general-purpose repository that fulfills these data management roles.