Montana State University

Montana State University sharing research insights with the world

September 28, 2015 -- MSU News Service

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To understand how climate change affects the impact of fire in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, Montana State University doctoral student Kristen Emmett runs extraordinarily detailed computer simulations — down to the photosynthesis in plants and the amount of carbon they put into the soil.

MSU’s new high-performance computing cluster, Hyalite, can run Emmett’s simulations and store multiple gigabytes of data they produce. MSU’s 30 gigabytes per second data capacity can share those results with anyone in the world in just a matter of hours.

But making sure that research data is well organized, understandable, discoverable and useable by others requires extra effort.

That’s where Sara Mannheimer comes in. She is MSU’s data management librarian.

While MSU’s Research Cyberinfrastructure Group maintains the Hyalite Cluster and the network, Mannheimer and the MSU Library work to make sure other researchers around the world can find MSU’s raw data and use it to further science.

“As the university’s library, we are still helping undergraduates and still providing databases and books,” she said, “but we’re also seeing part of our role as being partners in the research that’s being done here, increasing the impact of MSU research and providing broader access to it.”

“It’s extraordinarily rare to find raw scientific data online,” said Jerry Sheehan, MSU’s Chief Information Officer. “Mostly, researchers publish just the summary of their findings or data needed to validate their findings. The data from which those findings were derived are often left lingering on disks in research labs.”

Though, Sheehan noted, federal funding requirements are changing. Many funders like the National Institutes of Health are requiring a data management plan to make sure researchers document their data well and put it in a safe place — or publish it openly.

MSU’s Research Cyberinfrastructure Group is working with MSU Library to turn the university’s raw research data into a widely useable resource, he said.

Already, MSU’s ScholarWorks repository ( holds the university’s openly accessible research publications. Now, with the proliferation of data-producing instruments and the Hyalite Cluster, the original datasets that undergird those publications are starting to become part of the library, Mannheimer said.

“It allows research to reach a wider audience, and then who knows what could happen?” Mannheimer said. “Students, other faculty and even the public may make additional new discoveries, allowing ScholarWorks to be a flywheel for innovation.”

Contact: Sara Mannheimer, MSU data management librarian, (406) 994-3361 or