The US National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and six universities involved in the Data Curation Network a $297,019 grant to conduct research, develop models, and collect costing information for public access to research data across five disciplinary areas. The Realities of Academic Data Sharing (RADS) Initiative (#2135874) will start in August 2021.

“Many institutions have built infrastructure and developed services to support faculty in meeting requirements for data management and sharing, but the true cost of sharing high-value, FAIR, research data is not well understood,” said Cynthia Hudson-Vitale, principal investigator on this project and director of Scholars and Scholarship for ARL. “Through this project, we intend to gain an understanding of the various service approaches taken by institutions, examine barriers to quality control and sustainable infrastructure, and evaluate associated costs.” 

This project, funded by NSF’s Early-Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) program, will develop functional models and collect costing information for public access to research data within five disciplines—environmental science, materials science, psychology, biomedical sciences, and physics—and across six academic institutions—Cornell University, Duke University, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, Virginia Tech, and Washington University in St. Louis. 

This work builds upon the ARL Scholars and Scholarship Committee’s engagement with the Association of American Universities (AAU) and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) work in the Accelerating Public Access to Research Data (APARD) project. Representatives from AAU, APLU, the Council on Governmental Relations (COGR), and others will engage the project as advisory committee members.

This research seeks to answer the following questions:

  1. Where are funded researchers across these institutions making their data publicly accessible and what is the quality of the metadata?
  2. How are researchers making decisions about why and how to share research data?
  3. What is the cost to the institution to implement the federally mandated public access to research data policy?

To better understand the institutional perspective and challenges to providing public access to research data, this project will assess use of publicly accessible research data repositories in order to uncover which repositories funded researchers are most frequently using to share their research data by institution and discipline. Next the team will conduct a retrospective study of discipline-specific and format-specific public-access research-data practices of faculty on academic campuses, to develop service- and infrastructure-based functional models for how public access to research data is taking place on our academic campuses using institutional resources. A key part of this project will collect financial information on expenses related to public access to research data in order to pilot and test existing financial models for public access to research data, such as those used by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology and in the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine biomedical-data costs report. The project will engage the broader academic research community in model feedback and costing strategies at strategic intervals to collectively work toward a sustainable functional and financial model for sharing research data. 

The research team includes the following individuals: 

  • Jacob Carlson, Director of Deep Blue Repository and Research Data Services, Michigan Publishing, University Library, University of Michigan
  • Joel Herndon, Director of the Center for Data and Visualization Sciences, University Libraries, Duke University
  • Cynthia Hudson-Vitale, Director of Scholars and Scholarship, Association of Research Libraries
  • Lisa Johnston, Research Data Management/Curation Lead, University Libraries, University of Minnesota
  • Wendy Kozlowski, Data Curation Specialist, John M. Olin Library, Cornell University 
  • Jennifer Moore, Head of Data Services, University Libraries, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Jonathan Petters, Assistant Director, Data Management & Curation Services, Data Services, University Libraries, Virginia Tech

About the DCN

The Data Curation Network (DCN) is a collaboration of academic and non-profit data repositories that enable researchers to openly share data. Launched in 2018 with funding by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the DCN is based at the University of Minnesota. For more information, contact

Full press release “ARL and Six Universities Awarded National Science Foundation Grant to Study Discipline-Specific Models and Costs for Public Access to Research Data,” released July 22, 2021.

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