Mar 28 2013

DataPool Steering Group, third meeting

Steve Hitchcock

There are moments for a project to be steered, and others when the results of steering come to the fore. This was the case for the third and final Steering Group meeting – at least in the context of DataPool if not of research data management at the University of Southampton – held on 12 March 2013. Another well attended meeting testified to the ongoing commitment to continue this work across the university beyond the end of the DataPool project, which completes its term of JISC funding at the end of March.

As with other posts in this series on the project Steering Group meetings, we present a record of these meetings based on copies of documents made available to the group prior to the meeting, where possible.

Collected documents for 3rd Steering Group meeting

  • Agenda, Steering Group meeting, 12 March 2013
  • Minutes of previous Steering Group meeting, 12 November 2012
  • Progress Report by Wendy White, DataPool PI

From the Introduction to the Progress Report: “We will take the opportunity with this final Steering Group update to highlight key areas of activity over the last period and illustrate themes for sustainability as we approach the mid-term of the 10 year roadmap (for research data at Southampton).

“Almost all aspects of the project have required collaboration. This has been true of the development of policy, joint work to review storage and investment priorities, training design and delivery, research data management planning and support services and iterating technical developments.  To help support on-going collaboration in the next phase of the roadmap some of the responsibilities as PI of this project are now formally embedded in my role to continue to take initiatives forward and lead co-ordination of services. This reflects an institutional commitment to ensure that responsibility for research data management is reflected in a range of existing roles and not handled as adjunct activity.”

Case study reports

Case studies produced by DataPool were circulated prior to the meeting in draft or summary form. If linked here these will point to complete final versions. If not linked try the case studies tag for updates.

Screenshot of Tweepository: jiscdatapool tweet collection

Screenshot of Tweepository: jiscdatapool tweet collection, from the Collecting and archiving tweets case study

Members of the steering group present at the meeting (University of Southampton unless otherwise indicated): Wendy White (Chair, DataPool PI and Head of Scholarly Communication), Philip Nelson (Pro-VC Research), Adam Wheeler (Provost and DVC), Mark Brown (University Librarian), Helen Snaith (National Oceanography Centre Southampton), Mylene Ployart (Associate Director, Research and Innovation Services), Sally Rumsey (Digital Collections Development Manager at The Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford), Oz Parchment (iSolutions), Les Carr (Electronics and Computer Science), Simon Cox (Engineering Sciences), Jeremy Frey (Chemistry), Simon Coles (Chemistry, case presenter), Gareth Beale (Archaeology, case presenter) Dorothy Byatt, Steve Hitchcock (DataPool Project Managers). Joined by teleconference: Louise Corti (Associate Director, UK Data Archive). Apologies from: Graham Pryor (Associate Director, Digital Curation Centre).

Mar 25 2013

Institutional alignments for progressing research data management

Steve Hitchcock

Can visualisation of alignments – of people and ideas across an institution – reveal and predict progress towards research data management (RDM)?

DataPool has been seeking to institute formal RDM practices at the University of Southampton on three fronts – policy, technical infrastructure, and training – as we have noted before. In addition, the university has a longer-term roadmap looking years beyond the point reached in DataPool.

One aspect of this work we haven’t addressed is the alignments that have been instrumental in making progress on these three fronts. It follows that if we can visualise these alignments then not only does this chart progress but it may reveal new alignments that need to be forged looking forward, and where there may be gaps in existing alignments there could be lessons for future progress. Since in terms of these alignments the University of Southampton may be distinctive but not unique, this analysis might extend to other institutional RDM projects. That is the idea, at least, behind the latest DataPool poster presentation, shown below, prepared for the final JISC MRD Programme Workshop (25-26 March 2013, Aston Business School, Birmingham).

Within DataPool we have established formal and informal networks of people that connect with and cross existing institutional forums. For example, the project has close and regular contact with an advisory group of disciplinary experts, has established a network of faculty contacts, has been working with the multidisciplinary strands of the University Strategic Research Groups (USRGs), and with senior managers and teams in IT support (iSolutions) and Research and Innovation Services (RIS). At the apex, we have a high-level steering group that spans all of these areas with in addition senior institutional managers (Provost, Pro-VC) as well leaders from external data management organisations. A series of case studies provide insights into the current data practices and needs of those researchers who are data creators and users.

Returning to the three fronts of our investigations, we have reached either natural and expected conclusions ready to be taken forward beyond DataPool, or in some cases incomplete and possibly unexpected conclusions. Below we reveal and assess the alignments that have driven progress on these three fronts:

Policy. Approved by Senate, the University’s ‘primary academic authority’, following recommendations from the Research and Enterprise Advisory Group (REAG), and officially published within the University Calendar. This alignment did not happen by chance, but began to be formed by the library team through the IDMB project and was taken forward within DataPool. Supporting documentation and guidance for the policy is provided on the University Library web site. The policy is effective from publication, but with a ‘low-profile’ launch and follow-up it has by design not had widespread impact on researchers to date.

Data infrastructure. Research data apps for EPrints repositories, with selected apps installed on ePrints Soton, the institutional repository, which is now better structured for data deposit. Progress made with initial interfaces in Sharepoint, the university’s multi-service IT support platform, to describe data projects and facilitate data deposit; some user testing, but currently remains incomplete. On storage infrastructure it has not been possible to cost extensions to the existing institutional storage provision, a limitation in extending data services to large and regular data producers, who by definition are the most active data researchers. One late development has been to embed support for minting and embedding DataCite DOIs for data citation in data repositories at Southampton.

Training and support. Principally extended towards PhD and early career researchers, and in-service support teams in the library. Plans to embed RDM training within the university’s extended support operations across all training areas, Gradbook and Staffbook. One highlight in this area is the uptake of support for data management planning (DMP), particularly at the stage of submitting research project proposals for funding.

In these examples we can see alignments spanning governance-IT-services-users.

From the brief descriptions of these fronts it can be seen that the existing alignments have brought us forward, but to go further we have to return to those alignments and reinforce the actions taken so far: to widen awareness, impact and uptake of policy; to provide adequate and usable RDM infrastructure for data producers; to develop and integrate training support within the primary delivery channels.

Almost all of these outcomes and the need for more follow-through can be traced to the alignments. However, the elusive element common across these alignments is the researcher and data producer, despite being a perennial target. Data initiatives, whether from institutions or wider bodies such as research funders, start out with the researcher in mind, but can lose momentum if the researcher appears not to engage. That may be because the benefits identified do not align with the interests of the researcher, or it may be because at a practical level the support and resources provided are insufficient. Thus the extended alignments required for full RDM do not materialise. Worse, the existing alignments can be prematurely discouraged, lack incentives and confidence to promote the real innovation they have delivered, in turn affecting investment decisions and service development.

Where the researcher is engaged the results can be quite different, as seen in the DataCite example, motivated and developed by researchers, and in DMP uptake, where researchers clearly begin to recognise both the emergence of good practice in digital data research and the need for compliance with emerging policy.

These alignments are a crucial but largely unnoticed aspect of DataPool, and no doubt of other similar #jiscmrd projects at other institutions as well. If this analysis is correct then for institutional-scale projects alignments can both reveal and predict progress.

Dec 7 2012

DataPool Steering Group, second meeting

Steve Hitchcock

Monday 12 November marked the start of a busy week for DataPool, being the date of the project’s second Steering Group meeting and leading towards a presentation at the 9th meeting of the DCC Research Data Management Forum. In other words, the project was to address two of its key audiences, and had to prepare appropriate documentation for the purpose. We are pleased to share the documentation, starting here with that presented to the Steering Group ahead of its meeting, complementing the record of the first Steering Group meeting.

Collected documents for 2nd Steering Group meeting

Agenda, Steering Group meeting, 12 November 2012
Minutes of previous Steering Group meeting, 31 May 2012
Progress Report by Wendy White, DataPool PI (corrected 20 November 2012)

Introduction to the Progress Report. At the last Steering Group there was a clear emphasis on the importance of supporting cultural change and identifying institutional benefits to improving research data management practice. Recent policy developments from funders have aligned parameters for the accessibility of research data to strengthening requirements for research publications.  There is a focus on benefits- led activity, working with Funders and other external bodies on developing an integrated approach to improving research data management practice. The mid-phase of the project has been informed by this context as we have made progress on the key strands of the project:

  • Developing and rolling out service and training models to work with researchers
  • Planning an evidence-based programme of support for professional services staff providing these services
  • Multidisciplinary engagements
  • Investigating requirements for data storage and archiving
  • Testing the SharePoint and ePrints data catalogue components

PGR Thesis Model: mapping support from start to award, a work-in-progress, particularly with regard to the role of data in the examiners’ process

Note, two documents provided to the Steering Group were from ongoing work and were for current information rather than this record. These were a draft training needs questionnaire aimed at research support staff, and an update report on a 3D data survey at the University of Southampton.

Among the many issues discussed at the meeting, one noteworthy topic was funding models to support a storage strategy, i.e. once the costs have been mapped, does the funding come from grant funding bid applications or from institutional support infrastructure funds? We are particularly grateful to our external (i.e. outside Southampton) steering group members for the additional perspectives they bring, in this case for the valuable insights on the storage funding issue from research councils and data archives.

Members of the steering group present at the meeting (University of Southampton unless otherwise indicated): Wendy White (Chair, DataPool PI and Head of Scholarly Communication), Philip Nelson (Pro-VC Research), Mark Brown (University Librarian), Helen Snaith (National Oceanography Centre Southampton), Mylene Ployart (Associate Director, Research and Innovation Services), Louise Corti (Associate Director, UK Data Archive), Oz Parchment (iSolutions), Les Carr (Electronics and Computer Science), Simon Cox (Engineering Sciences), Graeme Earl (Humanities), Jeremy Frey (Chemistry), Dorothy Byatt, Steve Hitchcock (DataPool Project Managers). Apologies from: Adam Wheeler (Provost and DVC), Graham Pryor (Associate Director, Digital Curation Centre), Sally Rumsey (Digital Collections Development Manager at The Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford).

Jul 13 2012

DataPool Steering Group, first meeting

Steve Hitchcock

Before the UK took a break for the Diamond Jubilee weekend, DataPool had an important diary date of its own at the end of May, the first meeting of the project steering group, effectively ending phase 1 of the project.

The steering group includes senior managers and academics from the University of Southampton, and experts in running research data repositories elsewhere. This post collects and links to the documents and evidence that were circulated prior to the meeting or presented at it, and which informed discussion. We conclude by summarising and highlighting some of the main steers and outcomes of the meeting that will direct the project going forward to phase 2.

Collected documents for the Steering Group meeting

DataPool service model at the University of Southampton

A forthcoming report will give more detail on the SharePoint and EPrints developments. Similarly, another post here will consider progress with the institutional RDM policy and the accompanying guidance information.

Main steers and outcomes

So what did we learn from the meeting? Among such an eminent gathering and across a wide-ranging discussion it would be hard to represent all views in this short report. Important issues raised will be pursued in the project. To give an indication of some of those directions, here are just three of the more immediate actions identified by the project managers:

  1. There was endorsement for the concise policy guidance notes and iterative approach to engagement and evaluating progress. First guidance notes are now available, and the collection will be extended.
  2. The case study-based training guide was received enthusiastically and regarded as an ‘approach that could evolve incrementally’. Further case studies based on this model will be identified, and used for postgraduate training in more areas.
  3. More detailed disciplinary/multidisciplinary cost modelling case studies are needed to build evidence to support bids for significant institutional investment.

Overall, the meeting expressed a view that the project is working along the right lines, and it was interesting to note from our external advisers that in many cases we are dealing with similar issues to those faced by others.

We are grateful and thank members of the steering group for their commitment and contributions. With their encouragement and direction DataPool is able to tackle the challenges ahead with conviction.

Members of the steering group present at the meeting (University of Southampton unless otherwise indicated): Mark Brown (Chair and University Librarian), Philip Nelson (Pro-VC Research), Adam Wheeler (Provost and DVC), Pete Hancock (iSolutions, Director), Helen Snaith (National Oceanography Centre Southampton), Mylene Ployart (Associate Director, Research and Innovation Services), Graham Pryor (Associate Director, Digital Curation Centre), Sally Rumsey (Digital Collections Development Manager at The Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford), Louise Corti (Associate Director, UK Data Archive), Les Carr (Electronics and Computer Science), Simon Cox (Engineering Sciences), Graeme Earl (Humanities), Wendy White (Head of Scholarly Communication), Dorothy Byatt, Steve Hitchcock (DataPool Project Managers). Apologies from Jeremy Frey (Chemistry).