Research data management as a “wicked problem”

Awre, C. and Baxter, J. and Clifford, B. and Colclough, J. and Cox, A. and Dods, N. and Drummond, P. and Fox, Y. and Gill, M. and Gregory, K. and Gurney, A. and Harland, J. and Khokhar, M. and Lowe, D. and O Beirne, R. and Proudfoot, R. and Schwamm, H. and Smith, A. and Verbaan, E. and Waller, L. and Williamson, L. and Wolf, M. and Zawadzki, M. (2015) Research data management as a “wicked problem”. Library Review, 64 (4/5). pp. 356-371. ISSN 0024-2535

PDF - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (462kB) | Preview


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the usefulness of the concept to thinking about Research Data Management (RDM). The concept of “wicked problems” seeks to differentiate very complex, intractable challenges from tamer issues where approaches to problem solving are well-understood.

Design/methodology/approach – The paper is based on and co-authored by a collaboration of practitioners from libraries, information technology and research administration, with facilitators from the Sheffield Information School. Participants worked together in two-day-long workshops to understand the wicked problem concept and advice on leadership in wicked problem contexts.

Findings – Participants concurred that RDM had many features of a wicked problem and most of Grint’s advice on leadership for wicked problems also resonated. Some elements of the issue were simple; participants were optimistic about improving the situation over time. Participants were resistant to the more negative or fatalistic connotations of the phrase “wicked problem”. Viewing RDM as a wicked problem is an interesting way of looking at it as a challenge for support professionals. Practical implications – The notion of a wicked problem is a generative concept that can be usefully added to professional vocabulary.

Originality/value – The paper captures an in-depth response from practitioners to the notion of wicked problems as a lens for examining RDM.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: research data management; research data services; academic libraries; data curation; research;
Schools/Departments: University of Nottingham UK Campus > Professional services > Library
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Williamson, Ms Laurian
Date Deposited: 05 Oct 2015 07:32
Last Modified: 16 Sep 2016 11:57

Actions (Archive Staff Only)

Edit View Edit View