NSF Links to Open Context for Data Sharing

The National Science Foundation lists Open Context as one option for grant-seekers to archive archaeological research data. See here for an example. This demonstrates how data sharing is becoming an expected outcome of the research process. This is something that many other fields have been practicing for a few years now, but archaeology and the small sciences are a few steps behind (largely because it is difficult to meet all the data sharing needs of small science disciplines). We at the Alexandria Archive Institute / Open Context have been working hard to promote open data publication and archiving, and we see this development as a huge step in the right direction.

Here is a bit of background on this development: Earlier this year, the NSF announced new data sharing requirements for grantees. Grant-seekers now need to supply data access and management plans in their proposals. This new requirement has the potential for improving transparency in research. Shared data also opens the door to new research programs that bring together results from multiple projects.

The downside is that grant seekers have additional work, since they now have to create a data access and management plan. Many grant seekers will probably lack expertise and technical support in making data accessible. Thus, the new data access requirements will represent something of a burden, and many grant seekers may be confused about how to proceed.

That’s why it is useful for the NSF to link to specific systems and services. (Along with Open Context, the NSF also links to Digital Antiquity’s tDAR system.) Open Context offers researchers guidance on how prepare datasets for presentation and how to budget for data dissemination and archiving (with the California Digital Library). Open Context also points to the “Best Practice” guidelines prepared by the Archaeology Data Service (and now in revision with Digital Antiquity). Researchers can incorporate all of this information into their grant applications.

While the NSF did (informally) evaluate these systems for their technical merits, as you can see on the NSF pages, these links are not endorsements. Researchers can and should explore different options that best meet their needs. Nevertheless, these links do give grant-seekers some valuable information and services that can help meet the new data sharing requirements.

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