Best Practices for Curators

This page contains best practices for the Curators of Discuss Data.

Curators: The "editors" of Discuss Data

Curators function as the “editors” of Discuss Data. They organise the discussion process for Published Data Collections, manage the community’s communication (answer questions and requests, connect people with the resources they need, deal with legal issues that might occur), pursue community outreach (acquire new users, Discussants and Curators; encourage/start conversations, etc.), and ensure the rules of Discuss Data laid down in the Discuss Data Policy are respected.

Registered Users, who have actively participated in the communication on Discuss Data (mainly through comments) and proven their expertise, can either volunteer or be approached by Discuss Data for the role of Curator. If they are accepted, they will be gradually integrated into the editorial process of Discuss Data under the guidance of existing Curators.

In the early stages of the project, members of the Discuss Data team in Bremen will fulfil this role. Over the course of the project verified, experienced active users of Discuss Data are gradually integrated into the editorial process. These Users will be tutored by existing Curators in order to eventually take over the responsibility of a Curator independently. The long-term goal of the project is to establish a community-driven and organised online platform.

The following collection of best practices gives an overview about the main procedures and the workflow for Curators.

Checklist for technical review

The technical review of data collections pending for publication is among the core duties of curators. The following checklist might be helpful in assessing whether the respective data collection is qualified to be published on Discuss Data - or whether it needs amendments:

Legal issues


  • Is a correct and preferably long-term reachable e-mail address registered as contact?
  • Is the metadata complete, sufficient to understand, find and use the dataset?


  • Is the data stored in an open and/or common and/or interoperable file format?
  • Is the data prepared approriatedly for submission?
  • Is the data readable/executable?
  • Is it comprehensible what the data can be used for?

Documentation of data collection

  • Is the documentation of data collection written in an understandable language?
  • Is the documentation of data collection drafted according to the suggested checklist?

Communication with community

The key responsibility of a Curator is to engage with his/her respective research community and keep the communication process alive. This includes, among other tasks:

  • send (ready-made) Emails to verify Email address of new users and to welcome them,
  • send automated acknowledgement of receipt for Emails,
  • delete inappropriate comments (“Your comment has been deleted due to …”) and refer to the netiquette
  • respond to questions and requests timely: the aim should be to attempt to answer requests/questions within five working days (in case of absence/unavailability, please organise a substitution)

To make your communication more efficient, you can create standardised email templates for certain events/situations to inform the users about the further procedure:

  • “We received your message and we will get back to you within a few days.”
  • “Thank you very much for your Data Collection. We will check it now for technical and legal compatibility. Afterwards, your data will be made available online.”
  • “Your comment has been deleted due to …”
  • “Your Data Collection has been deleted due to violation of copyright regulations.”
  • “Your account has been suspended due to …”
  • etc.

Communication style

As a Curator, there are two core goals when you communicate with the community you will want to meet: (1) Keep everyone satisfied and engaged and (2) reduce the amount of back and forth messaging you do with each member. Here are some tips that can help you to design the best practices for communicating with your community.

Be pleasant, but not too conversational

Time management is essential and using too relaxed a tone can encourage a casual, conversational interaction. Acknowledge this by structuring your answers as letters, and not conversational messages. Getting into a drawn out back-and-forth wastes time and can prevent you from responding promptly to all of your inquiries.

Be clear that you are there to help, but you are not tech support

Write a Knowledge Base to help members to self-service solutions or redirect them to the right contact person or the FAQ.

Only give good answers

When you offer them, your solutions need to be rock solid in order to avoid frustration. If you cannot help them, redirect them to someone who can right away.

Invite Participation (=> comments)

Integrate comments to readers that will invite others to participate. Simple phrases like “I am anxious to see if you agree with me?” or “What do you think about my ideas? Is it practical enough?” can let readers know that you are really interested in their opinions.

Practice what you preach

Check your own messages for attitude, tartness or condescension. It is easier than you think to accidentally be curt or short with your users. So double-check your messages and do your best to empathize with your users. Maintain professionalism and do not be overly casual but at the same time do not sterilize your messages.

Communicate the value

When people receive an invitation to join Discuss Data, and if they visit it for a look-see, it is critical that the value be immediate and obvious. Among the greatest values of Discuss Data are academic visibility and feedback on the quality of Data. However, Discuss Data has much more to offer. Here are some highlights, which you could build upon in your communication with potential Discuss Data users:

  • Visibility: Easy discovery of your data through online catalogue
  • Feedback: Get unbiased, valuable and constructive criticism for your data
  • Citations: Make your data findable and permanently citable with a DOI
  • Security: Research data stored in a secure environment
  • Long-time archiving: Archive your data and make it available for secondary research
  • Licensing: Easy licensing procedure clarifies copyrights & usage of your data
  • Efficiency: No researchers negotiating access with you directly – saves time & effort
  • Fame: Mention the leaders and stars by name who have already joined
  • Networking: Connect with your research community
  • etc.


In order to attract new users to Discuss Data you might want to consider the following forms of advertisement:

  • Advertising in your email signoff signature
  • Posting on appropriate newsgroups or in other communities
  • News releases (of your university, institute)
  • Notices or links on your personal home page
  • Registering with forum or community directories
  • Networking among those who you know would be interested
  • Present Discuss Data at conferences, workshops, etc.
  • Cite your Discuss Data-Data Collection in your journals articles and edited volumes
  • Print advertising (flyers for conferences, etc.)
  • etc.

Editorial calendar strategy

As it cannot be expected that the community takes off of its own accord, or even when you give it a nudge, it might be helpful to employ an ‘editorial calendar’. This is a pre-set schedule of topical content, a widespread technique, which can be employed when planning the conversations in your community. For each time frame (e.g., one per month), identify a topic and several people that agree in advance to participate in a conversation on that topic. For example:


In this example, there are topics for two months that are pre-planned, with specific people identified and recruited to start and participate in those conversations. Moreover, recruit additional people to agree to respond to the person who starts the conversation. By ensuring that someone responds to every conversation started, you encourage the rest of your membership to start their own conversations, confident that there is an active community around them that will leap in and join. Eventually, you may be able to retire the calendar and the community will keep its own momentum.

Facilitation and outreach

Communities start small and grow organically over time; users stay to maintain a web of relationships. Use feedback loops to grow the community – personal Emails, surveys, etc. As the community grows, there will be different roles and increasing influence over time. At first, there is a lot of energy at the launching of a platform – provide ground rules for etiquette, and host events to attract new members.

Bringing members from watching into a more visible, participatory role often takes some form of offline or personal outreach. Many times, community managers are too focused on the public forum interactions and forget to reach out to the silent members. This can mean offering direct personal encouragement and support while each individual makes the transition into an active online participant.

  • Discover members: Introduce yourself and email them short overviews of the group. Give members a go-to resource (you and eventually peers)
  • Involve members proactively: Ask individuals for data, documents, opinions, posts and interviews to share with the community
  • Reward members: Reinforce community-enhancing behaviours by thanking members, featuring members, inviting to become a reviewer/ curator

Then eventually empower members to manage/ curate a subsection of Discuss Data, run events, and greet and mentor new members.

Capitalize “star power”

Identify the well-known members of your community and recruit them early. When the first user arrives at the site for your online community, the important people should already have joined and have public profiles set up. This will add the perception of value and credibility to your platform that will create a positive feedback loop.

Important people tend to be busy people, so make sure that your stars get the value proposition of participation:

  • Expose them: Many people get involved because of the exposure it offers them. In your invitation messaging, make clear that involvement in the community is not just a responsibility; it is an opportunity to be seen.
  • Flatter them: Make sure your stars “feel the love”. Invite them in early because they are special and important, and make sure they know you have invited them in early because they are special and important.
  • Twist their arms: When all else fails, you may use friendly reminders (conscience of the scientist, promise of support in the past).