Different types of users of data generally have different needs for annotation. Researchers in the same field can be expected to need less metadata than a researcher in a quite different field or a nonresearcher. Making data usable in the latter case can be difficult and involved, and researchers do not have a responsibility to make data understandable to a nonexpert. However, guidelines should exist for the degree of expertise required to use a dataset.

E-science that ranges widely across research fields requires standardized interfaces and protocols to enable useful communication across widely separated research fields. However, there is a trade-off between the demands of interoperability between research fields and detailed annotation within a field.26


Most of the discussion in this chapter involves overseeing and promoting data stewardship in individual fields of research. There is also the question of how the broad research enterprise should develop data management standards and long-term strategies across all fields of research, both within and outside government. Many issues are common to multiple fields.

In late 2007, the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Sustainable Digital Preservation and Access was created to “analyze previous and current models for sustainable digital preservation, and identify current best practices among existing collections, repositories and analogous enterprises.”27 The Task Force is developing recommendations and a research agenda aimed at catalyzing and supporting sustainable economic models for stewardship of digital information, including research data. The Task Force is supported by NSF, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and several other organizations. NSF’s DataNet program, described earlier in this chapter, is seeking to develop technologies and organizational capabilities that would be broadly applicable to long-term data stewardship in science and engineering.

Within the U.S. federal government, the Interagency Working Group on Digital Data under the National Science and Technology Council has been examining the needs for preservation and dissemination of publicly funded research data. In January 2009 the working group released its report, Harnessing the Power of Digital Data for Science and Society. The report provided goals and implementation plans for the federal government to work, as both leader and partner, with other sectors to enable reliable and effective digital data preservation and access. The working group noted, as we have in this report, that “communities of practice are an essential feature of the digital landscape”


Christine L. Borgman. 2007. Scholarship in the Digital Age: Information, Infrastructure, and the Internet. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


See blueribbontaskforce.sdsc.edu.

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