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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fort Collins, Colorado » Center for Agricultural Resources Research » Rangeland Resources & Systems Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #376762

Research Project: Adaptive Grazing Management and Decision Support to Enhance Ecosystem Services in the Western Great Plains

Location: Rangeland Resources & Systems Research

Title: Long live the data! Embedded data management at a long-term ecological research site

item Kaplan, Nicole
item BAKER, KAREN - University Of Illinois
item KARASTI, HELENA - University Of Illinois

Submitted to: Ecosphere
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/18/2020
Publication Date: 5/14/2021
Citation: Kaplan, N.E., Baker, K., Karasti, H. 2021. Long live the data! Embedded data management at a long-term ecological research site. Ecosphere. 12(5). Article e03493.

Interpretive Summary: Agricultural and ecological research takes place in hundreds of sites across the United States, many of which were established decades ago and contain a rich legacy of data. Data and information from these places help us to understand the structure and function of local ecosystems, as well as provide a window into how research missions, objectives and methods evolved over time. But for a more in-depth view, the stories, artifacts and supporting evidence must be managed and shared in order for people to understand the research that happened at a certain place. Thus, we examine approaches to data management at the Shortgrass Steppe Long-term Ecological Research (LTER) site, a project hosted at the USDA ARS Central Plains Experimental Range in Nunn, Colorado and funded by National Science Foundation as part of the US LTER Network from 1982-2014. Our paper presents the evolution of data management as an embedded component at a long term research site and we offer recommendations for ensuring data can be discoverable and accessible in the future within a context-rich digital legacy project collection.

Technical Abstract: Open access data associated with research efforts depends upon managing, packaging, and preserving data for sharing with collaborators and the public. The U.S. Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network, established in 1980, provides an early example of embedded data management supporting long-term, place-based research and contributes to our understanding of the enactment of open data access within scientific research arenas. Here, we examine collective data activities enabled by embedding data management within the Shortgrass Steppe (SGS) research site. Study of the SGS LTER, a member of the U.S. LTER Network for more than three decades, provided a unique opportunity to investigate data management practices and challenges during the lifecycle of a long-term project. It illustrates how a continuous, uninterrupted focus on data management positioned in dynamic interaction with researchers at a site as well as with an active network-wide data management committee, can stimulate the growth of both data expertise and data infrastructure. We report on an ethnographic study investigating data management challenges faced during the periods of activation, maturation, and decommissioning of a project at a research site. Termination of the SGS site’s membership in the U.S. LTER Network prompted rethinking about long-term data management. During the decommissioning phase, we document how views on temporality and the strategy of data management is transitioned from planning for a longitudinal, ongoing site to wrapping up a long-term project. Striving to ensure ‘long live the data’ at the end, novel data arrangements such as development of a digital legacy project collection, contributed to data stewardship. Lastly, from this study of a long-term research site, we offer five recommendations about data management and describe strategies pertinent to planning for data management and open access by other research projects.