In 2007 the National Science Foundation (NSF) issued a report on technology-driven research, or “e-science” that describes a need to build public collections of digital data sets. NSF envisions digital science and engineering data being routinely deposited in community supported repositories, being readily discoverable and openly accessible in well-documented form by specialists and non-specialists alike, and being reliably preserved for long term access. Acting on this vision, NSF and other agencies are now requiring that researchers develop data management plans as a part of their grant applications. However, in most fields, researchers have generally not concentrated on the organization, access, re-use, and preservation of data in their day-to-day research activities. The lack of researcher awareness, knowledge and training on data disposition, management and curation issues present a significant challenge in realizing NSF’s vision of 21st century scientific practice. Raising awareness of researchers' responsibilities and affecting real change in their behaviors requires a concerted effort to educate scientists.

Project Overview

The Purdue University Libraries partnered with the libraries of the University of Minnesota, the University of Oregon, and Cornell University to address these issues through developing and implementing data information literacy (DIL) instruction programs for graduate students. The three central goals for this project are to build infrastructure in the library community for DIL skills, to have students learn DIL skills appropriate to their disciplinary context, and to develop a robust process for librarians to articulate DIL curricula in their research communities. Based on research conducted at Purdue, DIL seeks to incorporate and build upon relevant aspects of information and other literacies to articulate the skill sets needed by graduate students to fulfill their obligations and engage their communities of practice. A central tenant of DIL is the recognition of researchers as producers of data, as well as data consumers.

The work in developing and delivering the DIL program was carried out over a two year period by five project teams: two at Purdue and one at each of the other institutions. These teams were composed of a data librarian, a subject librarian, and a faculty researcher from a science or engineering discipline. This direct collaboration with researchers aimed to ensure that the resulting DIL program was directly relevant to their students. Each of the five teams began by conducting literature reviews and environmental scans to identify existing disciplinary resources and perspectives. Participating librarians then conducted interviews using the Data Curation Profile tool and observe the data handling and management practices in the researcher’s lab to understand real world activities as they relate to best practices. Each team developed a DIL program that included defined learning goals, educational interventions and metrics for assessment. The interventions were delivered in either laboratory or classroom sessions. Student achievements as well as student and faculty attitudes were assessed to determine the relevancy and effectiveness of the instruction. Project teams then conducted a collective analysis of the educational interventions to identify patterns and commonalities across their respective experiences in developing DIL programs, as well as account for the significant differences. The outcomes were then used to draft a model for other academic librarians to develop data information literacy programs of their own. The draft model was presented at a symposium held at Purdue for review and feedback, which was then incorporated into the final version.


This project aims to produce a community of trained librarians and disciplinary researchers who will share their skills with their institutions and local colleagues. An advisory council composed of information literacy experts will provide guidance on coupling DIL to the principles and practices of information literacy. Project librarians will work with their associated faculty to identify how to communicate the project effectively to others in their respective departments, institutions, and disciplines. The materials generated in this project, including the interventions and the DIL program model, will be made freely available on the project website for others to use as is or to modify for their own needs.