Do the stars align? Stakeholders and strategies in libraries' curation of an astronomy dataset

Peter T. Darch, Ashley E. Sands, Christine L. Borgman, Milena S. Golshan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When developing university-based research data curation services, libraries face critical decisions around organization and sustainability that can affect dataset producers' satisfaction with these services. We present a study, involving interviews (n = 43) and ethnographic observation, of how two libraries partnered with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) to curate a significant astronomy dataset. Each library took different decisions: one library assigned activities to a unit specializing in digital curation, while the other distributed activities across its existing units. Neither approach proved a silver bullet. While library staff members felt the outcomes largely met their expectations, SDSS leaders expressed mixed opinions. We identify three factors that contributed to these differences in perspective: differing strategic motivations for undertaking this Data Transfer Process, SDSS leaders' misperceptions about libraries, and organizational mismatches. These factors contributed to four differences in perspective between SDSS leaders and library staff: provenance as technical information or as information about social context, dataset as a live research object or as a static object to be preserved, systems and services tailored to the dataset or easily adaptable to other datasets, and obstacles as setbacks or as opportunities. Only those differences that emerged when SDSS collaboration members and library staff communicated frequently were resolved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-252
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the Association for Information Science and Technology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems and Management
  • Library and Information Sciences


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