“Personas” to Support Development of Cyberinfrastructure for Scientific Data Sharing

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Journal of e-Science Librarianship, Volume 4, Issue 2 (2015)




Objective: To ensure that cyberinfrastructure for sharing scientific data is useful, system developers need to understand what scientists and other intended users do with data as well as the attitudes and beliefs that shape that use. This paper introduces personas—detailed descriptions of an “archetypical user of a system”—as an approach for capturing and sharing knowledge about potential system users.
Setting: Personas were developed to support development of the ‘DataONE’ (Data Observation Network for Earth) project, which has developed and deployed a sustainable long-term data preservation and access network to ensure the preservation and access to multi-scale, multi-discipline, and multi-national environmental and biological science data (https://www.dataone.org/what-dataone) (Michener et al. 2012).
Methods: Personas for DataONE were developed based on data from surveys and interviews done by members of DataONE working groups along with sources such as usage scenarios for DataONE and the Data Conservancy project and the Purdue Data Curation Profiles (Witt et al. 2009).
Results: A total of 11 personas were developed: five for various kinds of research scientists (e.g., at different career stages and using different types of data); a science data librarian; and five for secondary roles.
Conclusion: Personas were found to be useful for helping developers and other project members to understand users and their needs. The developed DataONE personas may be useful for others trying to develop systems or programs for scientists involved in data sharing.


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