Q&A with Wind Cowles, Director of Princeton Research Data Service

Wind Cowles

Director of Princeton Research Data Service, Wind Cowles

Bio: Wind Cowles, PhD

Before joining Princeton as the Director of the Princeton Research Data Service, Dr. Wind Cowles worked at the National Institutes of Health in the Center for Scientific Review, where she oversaw the review of grant applications on research related to a number of areas, including language, cognition, and Alzheimer’s disease. Prior to NIH, Wind was an associate professor in Linguistics at the University of Florida and the director of the Language and Cognition Lab. Her research interests included the role of working memory, predictive processing, and communicative intent in language use; second language acquisition; and the influence of sociolinguistic factors on speech production in children and adults. She received her PhD in Cognitive Science and Linguistics from UC San Diego, in addition to an MA in Linguistics. She received a BA in Linguistics from the University of Southern California, with minors in Neuroscience and English-Creative Writing.


What is Princeton Research Data Service (PRDS)?


The PRDS is a joint initiative and collaboration between the Office of the Dean for Research, Office of the University Librarian, and the Office of Information Technology with support from the Office of the Provost. The initiative was launched this spring (May 2019) to provide the Princeton research community with the expert services and infrastructure needed to store, manage, retain, and curate digital research data, and to make digital research data available to the broader research community and to the public. We will provide researchers with crucial resources throughout the life cycle of their research projects, working with them to make the process of data management and storage as seamless as possible with their current research practices.


What needs in academia prompted the launch of this new service?


Several issues prompted creating this service. While there has long been an expectation from research funders that researchers will publish the results of their work, concerns about reproducibility, transparency, and good stewardship of limited resources have broadened this to include making the data behind the published reports available as well. So, increasingly, we're seeing a mandate from funding agencies to provide good stewardship of research data well beyond the timeframe of the original project. There is also an increasing commitment in many fields to the principles of Open Research, reflecting a growing consensus that providing greater access to research data is a key part of future advances in science and in the humanities.


Who is the intended audience for this service?


This service will be a resource for Princeton researchers in all disciplines, including graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, and faculty. This service will be especially valuable for researchers who are interested in Open Research principles but not sure how to implement them and researchers who have a mandate to store their data in a digital repository.


What is your role as the new director of the service?


My role is to assess the evolving needs of the campus research community with respect to digital data management across disciplines and make sure that we are providing Princeton researchers with the resources and services they need to meet the data management and open data requirements of federal funding agencies and publishers and to support the goals of Open Research. Right now, I’m working to build the service from the ground up, meeting with researchers from different fields and working closely with the Office of the Dean for Research and Office of Information Technology. Going forward, I’ll be leading a team to provide training and resources on data management and help with curating and storing digital research data. I’m very pleased to be leading this initiative and to leverage my background on behalf of Princeton researchers. As a former university researcher, I know all too well how many claims there are on people’s time and one of my main goals to make sure that the process of data management is as painless as possible. I’m looking forward to working with researchers from all disciplines to help with research data stewardship. 


What challenges facing Princeton's researchers and the University will this new service address?


While the move to Open Research is a good thing, data management, especially tasks related to curation and storage, creates yet another task that researchers must deal with as part of their work, and can be particularly daunting in areas where research data has not typically been made available beyond the scope of the original project. The extra effort can be exacerbated when there aren’t clear guidelines and only limited or ad hoc resources to help with this process, or the information provided doesn’t seem relevant to the researcher’s particular data set. Recognizing that Princeton researchers would benefit from having a service that would take a systematic approach to providing support for managing research data, PRDS is being created to provide consistent, relevant resources for Princeton researchers that will support data of all shapes and sizes.  


What benefits will our researchers gain from the service?


The PRDS will provide researchers with a host of services and resources related to research data management and storage. One of our main goals is to make the process of storing digital research data at the end of a project as easy as possible, and we will work with researchers from the earliest stages of their projects to provide expertise and resources for issues related to research data management, including help with data management plans and data sharing plans, planning for what final data will look like, and how it can be stored in a way that will allow it be discoverable, usable, and citable by other researchers. We’ll facilitate the process of storing research data in our own, new repository, or in other, existing repositories.


If you would like more information or have any questions about the service, Wind Cowles can be reached at windcowles@princeton.edu.


Media contact: Barbara Valenza, Director, Library Communications