A Problem Shared Is a Community Created: Recommendations for Cross-Institutional Collaborations

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Lamar Soutter Library, UMass Chan Medical School

Research Projects

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Committee work is a requisite job function for many in academia, yet designing a productive collaborative experience often remains a challenge. In this article, we reflect on our experiences as part of a successful cross-institutional working group and describe strategies to improve leadership structure, group dynamics, accountability, and incentives for collaborative projects. As of January 2023, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Data Management & Sharing (DMS) Policy requires investigators applying for funding to submit a Data Management and Sharing Plan (DMS Plan) that describes how scientific data will be managed, preserved, and shared. In response to this new policy, a community of more than 30 librarians and other research data professionals convened the Working Group on NIH DMSP Guidance, collaboratively producing comprehensive guidance about the policy for researchers and research support staff. In less than a year, the working group produced glossaries of NIH and data management jargon, an example data management and sharing plan, a directory of existing example plans, checklists for researchers and librarians, and an interactive repository finder. This group was a successful grassroots effort by contributors with diverse expertise and backgrounds. We discuss practical strategies for each stage of activity throughout the lifecycle of the working group; from recruiting members, designing pathways to encourage participation from busy professionals, structuring the meetings to facilitate progress and productivity, and disseminating final products broadly. We invite fellow librarians, data professionals, and academics to apply and build upon these strategies to tackle cross-institutional challenges.


This project was made possible with support from the RDAP Association and the National Center for Data Services (NCDS). This project was supported in part by federal funds from the National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health (NIH), under cooperative agreement numbers UG4LM01234, UGLM013724. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH, NLM, NCDS, or RDAP association.
This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Research data management, collaboration, NIH, data librarians, working groups


Hertz, Marla, Kelsey Badger, Lena Bohman, Lucy Carr Jones, Christine Nieman Hislop, Katy Smith, and Hao Ye. 2023. "A Problem Shared Is a Community Created: Recommendations for Cross-Institutional Collaborations." Journal of eScience Librarianship 12(3): e754. https://doi.org/10.7191/jeslib.754