The Problem

In the 21st century, research data and creative content drive innovation in virtually every field. Moreover, data-driven research is increasingly expected to be both reproducible and available to the broader community.

To use data now and in the future requires that projects and organizations take responsibility for the stewardship (current management) and preservation (management over time) of data on which modern research and creative work depend.

Yet even as the importance of research data increases, we know little about the quantity, characteristics or sustainability of those data. It is broadly suspected that there is a "stewardship gap" between the amount of valuable data developed as part of sponsored research/creative work or used in a research publication, and the amount of data that is at risk for loss or damage. However, key questions remain unanswered: What is the size of the stewardship gap? What should we do about it? The answers are important as lack of stewardship and preservation of the valuable data on which research depends can reduce competitiveness and slow innovation.

The Project

The Stewardship Gap Project is an 18 month effort to do a strategic comparative case study that sheds light on the size, characteristics and sustainability of valuable sponsored research data and creative work. The goal is to estimate the size of the stewardship gap for a cohort of these data and provide recommendations about research data stewardship useful to stakeholders. Specific tasks of the project are:

  • To get a good sense of the "sponsored research data/creative content universe" by identifying a sampling frame and strategic case studies that provide an accurate and meaningful view of research data stewardship on a broader scale.
  • To assess the stewardship gap by developing a robust evaluation instrument, flexible to multiple levels on which research data is created and maintained, and capable of providing useful information for data stewards, research administrators, and other stakeholders to underlie strategic decision-making about research data stewardship.
  • To produce a set of actionable recommendations and summary reports that can help guide strategic decisions about the stewardship gap, the research data/creative content stewardship landscape, and needed efforts to ensure sustainable long-term access to valuable sponsored research data and creative content.

The project is funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.