open science and information professionals

“Service opportunities have been revealed for supporting the research process, sustaining and capturing the non-published conversations of science, and curating the resulting data” (Ogburn).

The changes brought by open science have important implications for information professionals, who must now rethink what it means to collect and provide access to scientific findings. Already well underway are efforts to curate the masses of data entering the public domain thanks to the open data movement. Because preserving data in an accessible format requires proper planning and funding, data archivists must be involved, proactively, at the beginning of the research cycle – before funding decisions are made and software platforms selected (Ghosh). This early participation helps ensure that the data formats are appropriate and non-proprietary, data management schemes are sensible and clearly communicated, and that the funding is sufficient.

The knowledge and resources required to properly collect and preserve such data given its particular characteristics – compliance or not with (competing) standards, (possible) dependency on proprietary software, its intrinsically technical quality, and so forth – require new competencies from information professionals. Such a shift is already affecting the curricula of library schools.

Another factor is that, when we consider the varied artifacts of open research, the journal article is no longer the unit to be collected, preserved, and distributed. How do information professionals – and should they – attempt to curate living content, whether that be merely early versions and post-publication revisions of the published article, or artifacts as ephemeral as wiki pages, blog posts, discussion boards, and even tweets? Dorothea Salo states:

While a few scientific publishers are beginning to accept and even require supplementary data deposition, and a few research libraries are evaluating data curation as a potential professional specialization, even these have no useful response as yet to the ‘Open Notebook Science’ movement.

The answers to these questions are not yet clear, but the information professional may need to take a leadership role in convincing researchers that what they produce along the way to a published paper is worth preserving.

One of the most essential roles for the information professional in the age of open science (and, more generally, of open access) is that of advocacy. For instance, the members of the ALA who opposed the Research Works Act may rightly feel some satisfaction that perhaps their strong position had an effect on the act’s defeat. In addition, information professionals can help find a place for the “grey literature” that has historically been ignored by traditional publishers. And finally, as interest in open data grows, information professionals can expound the virtues of the Panton Principles, helping researchers design projects that will yield preservable data suitable for the public domain.



Flood, Alison. “Scientists sign petition to boycott academic publisher Elsevier.” Guardian. 2 Feb. 2012. Web.

Ghosh, Maitrayee. “Information professionals in the Open Access Era: the competencies, challenges and new roles.” Information Development 25.1 (2009): 33-42. Web.

Ogburn, Joyce L. “The imperative for data curation.” portal: Libraries and the Academy 10.2 (2010): 241-246. Web.

Panton Principles. “Principles for open data in science. ” Web. Retrieved June 1, 2013 from

Salo, Dorothea. “Who owns our work?.” Serials: The Journal for the Serials Community 23.3 (2010): 191-195. Web.


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