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Research data management as a “wicked problem”

Awre, Chris; Baxter, Jim; Clifford, Brian; Colclough, Janette; Cox, Andrew; Dods, Nick; Drummond, Paul; Fox, Yvonne; Gill, Martin; Gregory, Kerry; Gurney, Anita; Harland, Juliet; Khokhar, Masud; Lowe, Dawn; O’Beirne, Ronan; Proudfoot, Rachel; Schwamm, Hardy; Smith, Andrew; Verbaan, Eddy; Waller, Liz; Williamson, Laurian; Wolf, Martin; Zawadzki, Matthew


Jim Baxter

Brian Clifford

Janette Colclough

Andrew Cox

Nick Dods

Paul Drummond

Yvonne Fox

Martin Gill

Kerry Gregory

Anita Gurney

Juliet Harland

Masud Khokhar

Dawn Lowe

Ronan O’Beirne

Rachel Proudfoot

Hardy Schwamm

Andrew Smith

Eddy Verbaan

Liz Waller

Laurian Williamson

Martin Wolf

Matthew Zawadzki


© 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited. 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 pr oblem 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.


Awre, C., Baxter, J., Clifford, B., Colclough, J., Cox, A., Dods, N., …Zawadzki, M. (2015). Research data management as a “wicked problem”. Library review, 64(4-5), 356-371.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 28, 2015
Online Publication Date Jul 6, 2015
Publication Date Jun 1, 2015
Deposit Date May 3, 2022
Journal Library Review
Print ISSN 0024-2535
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 64
Issue 4-5
Pages 356-371
Keywords Research; Academic libraries; Data curation; Research data management
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