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OpenAIRE Survey: Who is Managing Research Data?

Feb 24, 2023

by Gultekin Gurdal and Begüm Yavuz

The OpenAIRE Research Data Management Working Group (RDM WG) recently published a survey to learn about Data Stewardship definitions, skills, roles, and responsibilities of OpenAIRE National Open Access Desk (NOAD) member institutions. Please note that this work does not aim to replace or overturn any previous work on this subject, such as that done in the Netherlands, Austria, or elsewhere, but rather strives to be complementary. 

Institutional RDM: Policies and Practices - results from our survey

Eighteen people from sixteen different countries participated in the survey, which consisted of fifteen questions, while most of the institutions participating in the study (78%) focused on both research and teaching activities. When asked whether these institutions had an RDM policy in place, 28% confirmed that they do and 44% do not, and 28% are planning to implement one soon. Nearly half of our respondents have an RDM department, which was set up either through their library (4), computer science department (2), or library/computing centre (1). One institution is also a national centre of expertise and repository for research data.

Meanwhile, when asked about staffing in RDM services, 22% reported that they do not have any dedicated persons. However, the vast majority have at least some and in 17% of the cases, there were over 10 persons.

Also of note is that 67% of institutions do not have an official job description for data management, and for those that have an official job description for RDM, they use the following titles; Data Steward, Data Curator, Data Manager, RDM Specialist, Data Station Manager, and Project employee.

RDM Personnel: Education, Work Experience, Roles and Responsibilities 

While two-thirds (67%) of our respondents have worked in RDM services for 1-5 years, many (39%) also had library and information science training. However, there are also respondents with educational and/or research backgrounds and expertise in other disciplines, such as computer science, software development, education, law, and linguistics, while most respondents have work experience in library and information science before working in RDM services. Respondents also reported that they started working in RDM services due to the need for RDM personnel, institutional assignment in this department, and their interest in this field.

In general, the roles and responsibilities of our respondents fell into these categories:

  • Supporting researchers in data management processes (Choosing a suitable repository, working with sensitive data, publishing and sharing data/metadata, etc.)
  • Assisting/reviewing researchers to write a data management plan
  • Organising training and workshops
  • Preparing RDM guides and documents
  • Preparing RDM policy documents.


From our analysis of RDM roles and responsibilities amongst the OpenAIRE network, we found that there was a well-established cohort of people that undertook the work required for proper data management in their institutions. However, those roles appear to be very heterogeneous in nature, and moreover, the concept of data stewardship is only formally recognised in a few. Many people also appear to be doing these roles in an informal capacity which highlights the need to properly recognise the important role that these individuals play in their research environments. This is already being addressed in some institutions, and indeed there is a data stewardship diploma from the University of Vienna, for example, but more needs to be done to raise the profile of these individuals and give them proper credit.


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OpenAIRE has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme under Grant Agreements No. 777541 and 101017452 (see all).

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