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Obtain a Specialization

What is DSS?

The Medical Library Association's Data Services Specialization (DSS) is built upon the Data Services Competency:

Health and biomedical information professionals with competency in Data Services engage with and support users across the data life cycle to promote data literacy, data science, and open science practices.

The competency encompasses five skill areas at two levels of expertise. A data services specialist:

  • Applies principles of data literacy
    • Basic: Finds, interprets, and manages data according to ethical principles  
    • Advanced: Critically appraises data and data collection methods
  • Establishes and advances data services
    • Basic: Collects and uses knowledge of institutional and research context to initiate institutionally relevant data services
    • Advanced: Evaluates and expands upon existing data services by developing partnerships and becoming integrated into the institutional research environment
  • Supports research data best practices across the data lifecycle
    • Basic: Provides guidance on generalizable, domain-agnostic research data best practices
    • Advanced: Identifies and implements domain-specific research data best practices
  • Applies knowledge of research methods, ethics and rigor, and open science practices
    • Basic: Applies a basic understanding of scientific method and ethical and sound research practices to data-related problems, encouraging open science practices when appropriate
    • Advanced: Applies specialized knowledge of one or more scientific disciplines and research methods to advanced, domain-specific data-related problems
  • Provides training and consultation on data-related topics
    • Basic: Develops and delivers instruction to enhance data literacy and skills
    • Advanced: Provides customized discipline- and context-specific training on advanced data-related topics, including those requiring computational approaches

Why get a DSS?

As scientific research becomes increasingly data-driven, libraries are expanding their data services. Medical librarians and other health information professionals are ideally situated in the research and information-seeking process to provide data services support.

Your DSS shows employers, colleagues and researchers and others who work with data that:

  • You have skills in providing a range of data services
  • You are committed to offering quality data services 
  • You are committed to staying current with developments in data management and data services.

A Basic DSS certificate gives you a solid grounding in all areas of the competency and the flexibility to choose additional learning based on your interests.

How to Earn DSS credits

DSS Basic Level


  • Earn three credits in each of the five skill areas. A single course can meet requirements for more than one area.

The experts who created the DSS competency have selected these courses for the DSS Specialization. Use the DSS Course Tracking Grid to ensure that you take courses in the required competencies.

List of currently active DSS courses

DSS Application Fee and Sponsorships Fee

MLA charges a modest fee (members: $55; nonmembers: $75) for reviewing applications and granting certificates. The cost of courses that satisfy the requirements for the certificates is determined by course owners. Courses offered by the Network of the National Library of Medicine are free.

Application Instructions: 
To apply for sponsorship please complete the DSS Sponsorship Application. If you have any questions about the application or funding please contact NTO.  We welcome your application!


If you have questions: Please contact MLA's Professional Development Department before completing your DSS application or taking a course.