Academic Council Hears Report on Supporting Faculty’s Research Programs

As they address more challenging and complicated problems, Duke University researchers are responding with growing data sets that are beyond what was once imagined.

Last week at the Academic Council, Jennifer Lodge, vice president for research & innovation, answered faculty questions on the important challenges they face managing their data resources: Who owns the data, how it can be effectively stored and shared with others, and how to integrate best practices on research integrity.

“We want to support people on how to accumulate data, store data, and the entire suite of policies and procedures, resources and tools to help faculty to do their research with utmost integrity,” Lodge said.

The Office for Research & Innovation now offers a variety of services designed to advise faculty on all aspects of research, from finding grants to assisting postdocs to translating discovery into commercial markets. Lodge arrived in January to lead the office, and she said she is working with faculty to develop a new mission statement of vision and values.

In the past academic year, Duke researchers spent more than $1.3 billion in research expenditures, indication of the growing enterprise.

Lodge said her office is ready to assist faculty with the many challenges of working in the increasingly complex environment, starting with expectations from research funders.

“The landscape with the funders is getting more complicated,” she said. “We want to make sure we are following their rules – rules that are ever changing – and make sure that faculty are doing things in a way that in line with how funders expect and that the data is available and accessible.”

Lodge said a new Research Data Initiative, led by Pratt School professor John Dolbow, will clarify several areas where faculty have found uncertainty in current policies on issues of data management. A draft policy from the initiative should be posted for review later this year and is expected to go into effect in May 2023, leaving time for faculty to adapt their practices to the new policy, she said.

One question has to do with ownership of the data; for example, when a researcher leaves Duke, what data remains under Duke ownership? Lodge said the draft policy recommends a clear statement that Duke owns data up until the researcher leaves the university.

“We've had examples where a postdoc left the university, took the data with them and then refuses to return it,” Lodge said. “We had no recourse to do anything.”

Funders are also looking for strong data management by researchers, to ensure integrity and effective use of the results, Lodge added. The new policy clarifies when researchers are required to establish data management plans, and that her office has resources to assist faculty in creation of the plans and maintenance of the data.

Faculty have also called for more resources to help with data storage as the data size for genomic and other projects continue to grow. Effective data storage is also essential for data sharing with colleagues and in some cases for public use.

“We are looking to create data repositories where there currently isn’t a public repository, where data can be shared with others,” she said. “We know this is something that needs more attention.”

Lodge also said her office provides services to faculty in all disciplines, and is adding an Associate Vice President position to work with researchers in the social sciences, arts and humanities.