The importance of community-driven development and interoperability

Jonathan Petters,  Shane Coleman

The importance of community-driven development and interoperability

Jonathan Petters,  Shane Coleman

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In this case study, Jonathan Petters, Assistant Director of Data Management & Curation Services, and Shane Coleman, Data Curator, of Virginia Tech discuss the benefit of a strong user community and why a move from open source was right for them.

Visit their repository at data.lib.vt.edu.

In 2016, Virginia Tech University Libraries began offering a service to support the publication of research data at the university. Prior to implementing Figshare as a data repository, they had a separate open source data repository and institutional repository. Since the start of 2021, they have implemented a Figshare-powered data repository to support the long-term storing and sharing of research data.

“It became difficult for us to maintain an open source platform,” said Shane. “Our development team had lots of projects, not just the data repository. Because we didn’t have a full time developer focusing just on the data repository, we were never able to maintain it and develop the features that suited us.”

“Because we didn’t have a full time developer focusing just on the data repository, we were never able to maintain it and develop the features that suited us.”

Shane Coleman

Virginia Tech is part of the Figshare community of users who push for the development of new features and help shape the development roadmap. “The recent Make Data Count work and GitLab integration are two examples of the community-driven development work that goes on that we benefit from,” said Jonathan. “It’s great that these things are happening and the fact that we can take advantage of them as opposed to having to develop them ourselves is really nice.”

“It’s great that these things are happening and the fact that we can take advantage of them as opposed to having to develop them ourselves is really nice.”

Jonathan Petters

“With our previous system, we were stuck and unable to improve,” said Jonathan. “Now, we have an opportunity for growth and can scale up. As we automate more things, we can process more datasets and we’ll be able to help more people.” 

Since the migration from their previous repository, there has been an uptake in dataset deposits by researchers. There are currently almost 130 datasets in the repository and over 8,000 views since they went live in February 2021. They also request README files for every deposit to aid with reuse and reproducibility. “The Figshare interface is much better than the one we had previously,” said Jon. “It’s much more intuitive and the documentation directly in the interface is really helpful for researchers.”

Personnel in Virginia Tech University Libraries are working on automating data preservation actions using Figshare’s API. “This is an advantage of using Figshare: it should allow us to develop automated processes both saving time and reducing curator mistakes,” said Jonathan.



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