Nov 2 2012

Oh no, not another presentation!

Steve Hitchcock

Continuing, and concluding, our brief ‘oh no’ series of presentations by DataPool at the recent JISC MRD (#jiscmrd) programme update workshop held in Nottingham on 24-25 October.

Projects were invited to volunteer short 10 mins talks at the meeting to fit specified session themes. Given the tripartite approach of DataPool, shown in our ‘oh no’ poster, Wendy White chose to present Policy and Guidance on this occasion (noting that we will be covering the Data Repository aspects – the third tripartite element of the project’s work – at the forthcoming RDMF9 meeting).

Earlier in 2012 the University of Southampton approved a Research Data Management (RDM) policy (slide 2). Clearly it is not enough simply to announce a policy with far-reaching and long-term implications such as this. There has to be support for its implementation, and particularly for those it is aimed at, in this case the university’s researchers and producers of research data. The first step towards this is the RDM Web site (slide 3), with a collection of guidance and briefing notes on how to manage research data effectively, covering issues such as planning, description, sharing, access, storage, and more.

The presentation goes on to outline the principles that shape this guidance and its continuing development, and the contexts in which it is presented across the university.

In the #jiscmrd meeting as whole there were so many presentations like this it wasn’t possible for one person to attend them all. What you got therefore is a selective quickfire update on companion projects in the programme. Even if you couldn’t catch everything, you were certain to learn something.

Oh no, not another presentation! Why would we have thought that?

Aug 2 2012

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 – and not just because we can’t 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!