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E-Science Institute Course Description

DuraSpace/ARL/DLF E-Science Institute Course Description

The E-Science Institute is designed to help research libraries develop a strategic agenda for e-research support, with a particular focus on the sciences. The Institute consists of a series of interactive modules that take small teams of individuals from academic institutions through a dynamic learning process to strengthen and advance their strategy for supporting computational scientific research. The coursework begins with a series of exercises for teams to complete at their institutions, and culminates with an in-person workshop. Local institution assignments help staff establish a high level understanding of research support background needs and issues.

The E-Science course materials for the 2011 Institute were initially funded and developed by the sponsors and supporting institutions of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) / Digital Library Federation (DLF) and was only available to their members. Going forward the E-Science Institute will be managed by the DuraSpace organization in partnership with ARL and CLIR/DLF, and will be open to all institutions. The current offering of the Institute includes improvements based on participant and faculty feedback as well as content updates as e-research services continue to mature individually and collectively.


The Institute will focus on e-research support with an emphasis on the sciences. While e-research encompasses all disciplines, in the context of the Institute, e-science covers the breadth of e-research activities which are applied across all disciplines, including interdisciplinary research, but with a particular focus on the sciences (physical and life). The scope is not limited to the types of scientific research requiring very large-scale computing (i.e., computational science or high-performance computing) but includes all aspects and types of computer-supported research including data production and curation, social interaction (e.g., virtual research environments), online publishing and scholarly communication, and the use of physical space for computer-based group activities. The E-Science Institute assumes the continuation of the traditional library mission to collect, preserve, and disseminate a documented record of research, and to provide environments suitable for study and learning. The Institute will not only help participants map their current services and resources into e-research support activities, but will also help them envision new services and new resources that support science within the scope of the research library’s mission, by building new partnerships and collaborations within and across institutions. Of particular importance for research libraries are the activities and expertise related to research data curation, starting with traditional expertise (e.g., collection development, description, and preservation) and moving through the data life cycle into more e-research-specific activities (e.g., structuring data, locating external research data collections). The policy and organizational changes implied by such activities and the requisite expertise are included in the scope of the Institute.

While the Institute is not intended to provide staff training in specific aspects of e-research support, assignments to be completed at the local institution will help staff establish a basic understanding of e-research background needs and issues.

Main Outcome

The intended outcome of the Institute is to prepare participants with tools and information in order that they may develop a strategic agenda for their institution’s approach to e-science. Once the course is over the resulting strategic agenda can then be used to help institutions develop a strategic plan around e-science. The strategic agenda will cover:

  • Institutional context and assumptions
  • Library’s aspirational goals and priorities
  • Possible activities to be prioritized: data curation, scholarly communication, virtual organizations, physical space, organizational development, funding, policy, developing collaborations, collection development, technical infrastructure


The Institute consists of three modules, beginning with a “baseline/context-setting” module to establish common understanding of the issues, identify existing assumptions, activities, and priorities of the institution around e-science. The second module will develop the “building blocks” of the library’s strategic agenda for e-research support. Modules include assignments for the teams to complete on campus, such as readings, structured interviews with key stakeholders both inside and outside the library, scenario planning, etc. The course will culminate with the third module where the strategic agenda will be further developed and discussed.

Module 1: Baseline/Context

The Baseline/Context Module provides participants with basic general information about the scope and nature of e-science, e-research, and the library’s potential support role. It is also an introduction to the team’s local e-science/e-research landscape, offering exercises to help the team understand where their institution/library is currently positioned relative to e-science and help identify who are the key players. During this module the team will conduct on-campus interviews and/or surveys of stakeholders, research current e-science activities and collaborations, identifying current research related policies (e.g. IP ownership, research data retention, IRB practices, Open Access policies). A key team member in this effort is the institution’s library director, who will help with outreach to stakeholders (library, research communities, technology providers like Amazon, campus storage services, etc. and professional communities like library organizations, scholarly societies) and understanding of the institutional culture. This module relies on assigned readings and early institutional community building efforts.

Module 2: Building Blocks Module

The Building Blocks Module introduces the components of an institutional strategic agenda, defines what that means and how it differs from a strategic plan. Elements of a strategic agenda can include assumptions, aspirational goals, priorities, activities, and next steps. The goal of this module is to figure out where the local institution/library would like to be positioned for e-research support in the sciences and identify potential collaborations as well as potential challenges or barriers. This module introduces organizational change, sustainability, and new policies.

Module 3: Capstone Events

Each team will participate in an in-person, two-day event during which they will develop a strategic agenda for their library as the final Institute deliverable. Since the elements of the agenda will be developed in Module 3, the event will focus on the collective understanding of these agendas and how inter-institutional or other types of collaboration will help libraries achieve their goals more effectively.

Teams will complete the E-Science Institute with a strategic agenda that is customized to their institution and will continue to inform their strategic planning activities for e–research support in the years that follow. While the Institute is not a training course, it will help to identify needs for staff training and skill development in specific activities. 

Institutional Teams

For each institution participating in the E-Science Institute there will be three official team registrants who are considered the official participants in the course. It is encouraged and recommended that the webinars and other learning resources from the Institute are made available to others in the library or on campus to further assist in the collaborative process. In fact, the only portion of the Institute that is limited to the official designated team members is the in-person event.

It is critical in order to maximize the benefit from the Institute and the resulting strategic agenda, that the official three person team include individuals that fit the following role descriptions at your institution:

A library administrator

Rationale: A library director is critical to the success of the outcome of the institutional team participating in the Institute. As a key decision maker, the library director understands the local institutional landscape, management structure, and culture. The library director also sets library priorities for e-research and can make key connections for the team. Because the Institute will include issues of organizational culture and change that require knowledge of the management structure and processes of each library, it is important to include the library director. Example role could include: Associate Director of  - Collections, Information Resources, Scholarly Communication, Technology, Research Services, etc.

A data or e-science librarian

Rationale: This person will bring subject and technical expertise to the group.

A non-library participant

Rationale: This person will bring perspective from beyond the main library, allowing the group to explore opportunities for collaboration with other campus entities. Examples of non-library team members include but are not limited to: science/research faculty or center director, CIO/IT Department director, Research Computing director, etc.

Other References

For information on registering for an upcoming offering of the E-Science Institute click here.

For E-Science Institute Faculty Biographies click here.

For the E-Science Institute Frequently Asked Questions, click here.

If you have any other questions, please contact Valorie Hollister, Director of Community Programs at