#rds2013: Managing Research Data : Ideas from Ranganathan

Ranganathan is one of the great visionaries of the C20 and 90 years ago created http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_laws_of_library_science. These are as true today. I’ve urged that libraries and academics understand the true points of Ranganathan – they aren’t business rules, they are rules for a fair social system for information. In their simple form:

  1. Books are for use.
  2. Every reader his [or her] book.
  3. Every book its reader.
  4. Save the time of the reader.
  5. The library is a growing organism.

I spoke on these 3 years ago and proposed 12 actions points – somewhat off the cuff. There’s a good report here http://frommelbin.blogspot.com/2009/10/peter-murray-rusts-12-point-action-plan.html . I hoped they might spark discussion – but very little (at least back to me – Melbin says I am surprised that there has not been more debate about his address”). Here are the 12 points in no particular order.

1. We should act as citizen librarians towards a common or shared goal.

2. Post all academic output publicly: ignore Copyright.

3. Text mine everything.

4. Put 2nd year students in charge of developing educational technology resources

5. Actively participate in obtaining science grants

6. Actively participate in the scientific publishing process.

7. Close the science library and move it all to the departments.

8. Handover all purchasing to national Rottweiler publishing officers.
9. Set up a new type of university press.

10. We should develop our own metrics system.

11. We should publicly campaign for openness.

12. We should make the library an addictive “game

Most are still true, though given the lack of response I think I’d regard 9 as a lost cause and. I wrote 2 before I knew of Aaron Swartz. 1, 3, 4, 10, 11 are key. Academic libraries have very little time left: 5, 6, 7, 8, 12 will be irrelevant if we have no libraries. So here’s another interpretation of Ranganathan in the data age.

  1. Data belongs to the world. We are on a sick planet and data is a critical part of any solution. Data should not belong to people or institutions but to the people of the world and their machines.
  2. Data is for use. I wish this was self-evident.
  3. Every reader their data. I don’t have a good modern word: I am using “reader” to encompass humans and machines. This means that a reader should be able to access any data they need.
  4. Every data its reader. This means that there is potentially at least one person/machine interested in data that you might produce.
  5. Save the time of the reader. Make it as easy as possible to discover, understand and use data. Make it as easy as possible to create data.
  6. The data community is a growing organism. This is excitingly fact, though not generally in Universities.

The word “reader” is asymmetric. I’d like to add another law such as

  1. Every reader is an author and every author a reader. This was not true in Ranganathan’s time – books were physical objects requiring much effort. But now everyone can take part at every level.
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One Response to #rds2013: Managing Research Data : Ideas from Ranganathan

  1. Pingback: Unilever Centre for Molecular Informatics, Cambridge - #rds2013 Managing Research Data « petermr's blog

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