ing the degree of expertise needed to use the data. Establishing such policies is the collective responsibility of the researchers in each field, given the potential value of data to future researchers in that field and others.

Recommendation 10: As part of the development of standards for the management of digital data, research fields should develop guidelines for assessing the data being produced in that field and establish criteria for researchers about which data should be retained.

As research data become more voluminous, complex, and valuable, a need may arise to formalize the process of making data management decisions within research fields. As with data access and data integrity, international participation may be needed in the development of data management standards, or international organizations might take the lead role. Often ad hoc groups can provide guidance, such as National Research Council committees, federal agency advisory groups, or collaborative efforts such as the one undertaken by the Ecological Society of America and described in Box 4-2. In some fields it might become desirable to charge a data oversight board with this responsibility. Such a board could serve many functions including the following:

  • Make recommendations about whether data should be stored in special repositories or by individuals.

  • Determine how long particular kinds of data need to be preserved and who is responsible for the quality of the data as they move from one storage platform to another.

  • Inventory and publicize good practices for data management.

  • Conduct assessments of which datasets offer the most potential future value and which can be sacrificed.

  • Organize interactions with specialized support organizations, either nonprofit or commercial, to store and distribute data.

  • Evaluate access and preservation to identify problems and ensure that data with the greatest potential utility are being preserved.

As was discussed in Chapter 3, science, engineering, and medical research is a global enterprise. A wide range of governmental and private entities around the world have developed expertise in areas related to data stewardship, many working at the level of disciplines and fields.30 Professional societies and indi-


Raivo Ruusalepp. 2008. Infrastructure Planning and Data Curation: A Comparative Study of International Approaches to Enabling the Sharing of Research Data. Data Curation Centre and Joint Information Systems Committee (UK). November. Available at

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