Southampton research data management policy: release and follow-up issues

Steve Hitchcock

The University of Southampton has a¬†Research Data Management Policy, coordinated by the DataPool Project.¬†Wendy White explains how the low-profile release of the policy is consistent with the project and the institution’s broader approach of iterative development¬†towards managing research data, and identifies some issues that have emerged following the release.

Champagne remains on ice for the launch of the Southampton RDM policy (photo by James Cridland)

We have had our Research Data Management Policy and our core guidance available for a short while now from our new “one-stop-shop” web pages. We are taking stock of our approach so far and gathering early feedback from users of the site.

You may have missed our grand launch with full orchestra and smashing magnum of champagne. That’s because there wasn’t one¬†‚Äď and not just because we can‚Äôt compete with the Olympics opening ceremony! The whole approach has been one of iterative development with staff from the academic community and services. Now the policy and guidance are widely available we will continue with this approach. This was influenced by¬†hearing¬†from colleagues working on earlier policy developments at Monash University and Purdue University, thanks to the JISC MRD¬†International¬†event held back in 2011. In the same spirt here are a few of our thoughts on our approach and emerging issues.

We hope that the integrated approach has helped:

  1. Develop institutional support that is complementary to funders’ guidance so researchers can meet local, institutional and discipline needs. If support feels fragmented and effort duplicated then we are not getting things right.
  2. Co-ordinate expertise across academic groups and services. The guidance has been produced with contributions from the Library, Research and Innovation Services, our IT service (iSolutions) and academic staff. Early queries have been about sharing knowledge, problem solving and agreeing approaches.
  3. Provide clear contacts¬†and signposting. We have tried to provide contact for specific services contextually within the guidance,¬†whilst having a single overarching point of contact. So far we have been Googled, referred to by word-of-mouth and by e-mail alert. We don’t mind how we are discovered – we’re here to help!

Emerging issues include:

  • Linking our definition of research data in the policy to more discipline-specific guidance so researchers can determine what data are “significant” and therefore in scope for¬†storage and¬†archival¬†retention¬†requirements. The more queries we get and examples we work with the better as we explore these issues.
  • Translating roles and responsiblities over the longer term¬†–¬†from written nominees on a document to¬†support for¬†effective decision making. Addressing the key risks without creating¬†a¬†burdensome process.
  • Providing appropriate long-term archival¬†and¬†storage options. We have already undertaken cost modelling as part of the 10 year roadmap produced by the IDMB (Institutional Data Management Blueprint) project, DataPool’s¬†predecessor RDM project at the University of Southampton,¬†but it is clear that more granular disciplinary case studies with details of specific requirements are required.
  • Data Management Planning support is welcomed. We have early encouraging feedback that academic staff do value additional support for this as bids are considered.
  • Imaging requirements are important. Our Life Sciences Institute and Computationally Intensive Imaging multidisciplinary groups have growing data challenges. We will be engaging with some requirements gathering/case analysis over the next few months.
  • Visualising data will be an important component for some research,¬†so we will need to¬†further¬†explore the link between archival storage, workflow access and data visualisation. As the number of datasets that are openly accessible rises, how many of these would benefit from¬†enhanced¬†institutional¬†support for data visualisation options?

It does feel like we are still at the start of an Olympic challenge. We are aiming for gold. However, we are happy to get into training and start with a few personal bests along the way!


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