The encompassing work and actions taken by curators of a data repository in order to provide meaningful and enduring access to data can be very time and resource intensive. Which begs the question: does data curation add value? This is a difficult question to tackle as each curation story is as different as the datasets we curate. Therefore one dataset might inherently be of greater interest – a hot topic dataset that everyone is searching for – regardless of the “value added” by any curation actions taken. Value is a multifaceted concept, and hard to nail down.
- Is the reuse value of a curation measured by how useful the dataset becomes over time, with more value derived from many uses (e.g., downloads, citations, etc.)? Or is one important use enough to secure lasting value? Maybe it is both.
- Is there a monetary value of data curation where measurable staff time or dollars were saved by not recreating the same dataset over and over?
- Reputational value is generally at stake when a dataset is shared. How well does data curation pay toward the credibility of an individual dataset? And by extension, to its author?
- How do the practical aspects of data curation impact value. If a dataset is housed in a stable location over a period of time, at what point does it become the standard for the field due to sheer availability?
The Data Curation Network project is actively pondering these questions. We wonder if the steps that digital repositories take to contextualize, describe, arrange, transform digital files for long-term and persistent access…the things we do day-to-day… add value to research data and to what extent. We welcome your thoughts!