Cal Lee co-authors CLIR report on the implications of federal public access plans for data curation

August 4, 2016

A new report from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) offers a series of recommendations to improve open data infrastructure, engage a broad community of stakeholders to support the management of data as an asset, and expand collaboration that is vital to ensuring public access to data.

The Open Data Imperative: How the Cultural Heritage Community Can Address the Federal Mandate examines the data curation challenges and opportunities resulting from the 2013 U.S. government-issued mandate that requires federal agencies with annual research and development expenditures of more than $100 million to create plans for increasing access to scientific research, both as published articles and as data. Christopher (Cal) Lee, Professor at the UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS), co-authored the report, which was funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

In Part I of the report, Suzie Allard presents an analysis of 21 federal agency public access plans that were openly available as of late 2015. Allard, Associate Dean for Research in the College of Communication and Information and Professor in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Tennessee, provides 12 high-level findings grouped around open data infrastructure, roles and responsibilities, and making data public. These findings, she writes, “suggest that the mandate has created opportunities for cultural heritage institutions to both build upon and contribute to the infrastructure being developed by the federal agencies.”

Providing public access to data requires effective digital curation strategies. In Part II, Lee reports on interviews with project staff from seven recent IMLS-funded projects that included significant digital curation objectives to identify lessons about skills, capabilities, and institutional arrangements that can facilitate digital curation activities.

A skilled workforce is essential if the promise of public access to data is to be fulfilled. In Part III, Nancy Y. McGovern, Head of Curation and Preservation Services at MIT Libraries, surveys curriculum development and training programs relating to digital curation, examines digital curation competencies, and analyzes job descriptions for digital curation to identify the skills and roles they entail.

“The cumulative results, findings, and recommendations of this report provide a holistic view of data stewardship and the infrastructure required to support data-driven research and innovation,” writes CLIR Senior Program Officer Alice Bishop, who co-authored the report.

The report is available as a PDF download free of charge at


CLIR is an independent, nonprofit organization that forges strategies to enhance research, teaching, and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of higher learning. It aims to promote forward-looking collaborative solutions that transcend disciplinary, institutional, professional, and geographic boundaries in support of the public good.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Its mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Its grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit and follow IMLS on Facebook  and Twitter .