Dealing with Data 2019 – Registration now open!

Collaboration Across the Nations: Managing, sharing and securing research data across space and time

Dealing with Data 2019 will take place from 09:30 – 16:00 on the 27th of November in the Informatics Forum. This year our theme is “Collaboration Across the Nations: Managing, sharing and securing research data across space and time” and we are now inviting all staff and post-graduate students at the University of Edinburgh to register for this event.

Collaboration is vitally important to academic and commercial research in all areas as it enables the pooling of resources to answer increasingly complex, or interdisciplinary research questions.

The effective collection, processing, and sharing of research data is integral to successful collaborations, but it can also present many challenges. In particular the practicalities of co-ordinating data management across large multi-centre collaborations, sharing large data, or handling sensitive data, can present difficulties if not planned for appropriately.

Dealing with Data 2019 is your opportunity to hear from, and network with, other members of the UoE research community about how they have addressed these issues to build successful collaborations, or the lessons they have learned which will enable them to be more successful in the future.

In previous years DwD has attracted over 100 attendees from across the university to hear contributions by research staff and students at all stages of their careers and from diverse disciplines. You can view the presentations from 2017 & 2018 now on MediaHopper (https://media.ed.ac.uk/channel/Dealing+With+Data+2017+Conference/82256222)

Conference Programme – Dealing_with_Data_2019_Programme_V1.2

If you have any questions please get in touch using  dealing-with-data-conference@mlist.is.ed.ac.uk

Dealing with Data is an annual event sponsored and organised by the Research Data Service to provide a forum for University of Edinburgh researchers to discuss how they are benefiting from, or experiencing struggles with, the fast-changing research data environment.

Kerry Miller

Research Data Support Officer

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Research Data Workshops: Sensitive Data Challenges and Solutions

This workshop at the Bioquarter was attended by 27 research staff representing all three colleges, with a majority of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine. It began with an introductory presentation from Robin Rice covering the new Data Safe Haven facility of the Research Data Service and and was followed by brief presentations from Lynne Forrest (Research Support Officer on Scottish Longitudinal Study); Fiona Strachan (Clinical Research Manager, Centre for Cardiovascular Science); and Jonathan Crook (Professor of Business Economics). Each speaker shared their experiences of both conducting research using sensitive data and supporting other researchers. Although they work with very different types of data it was easy to identify certain common requirements:

  • Easy access to secure data storage and analysis platforms;
  • Consistent & comprehensive training and guidance on working with sensitive data;
  • Support to meet the necessary requirements to gain access to the data they need;

In the discussion groups that followed, participants were asked about their experiences working with sensitive data, the requirements researchers needed services such as data safe havens to fulfil, and ramifications of the cost recovery model, with regard to including costs in grant proposals.

The major themes that emerged were concerns around training, data governance, and concerns about meeting costs for protecting sensitive data. There was a strong feeling that more and better training was required for all those working with sensitive data. There was also confusion about the number, location, and criteria of different Data Safe Havens now available, and no single place to find clear information on these.

When talking specifically about the Data Safe Haven offered by IS for UoE researchers, the biggest concern was around cost. The standard price was considered high for the majority of grants, which are either small or need to be highly competitive. In some disciplines grant funding is not common and so it is unclear how the costs would be able to be met. The Research Data Service representatives encouraged people to get a bespoke quote and discuss requirements with the team as early as possible, as flexibility on both cost and build specifications (e.g. high performance computing) is built-in.

Some specific points arising from the discussions were:

  • One negative experience about working with sensitive data is the length of time needed to get data approvals (e.g. from NHS bodies). Participants wondered if the University could help to speed those up.
  • More training was desired in sensitive data management and better ways to structure training for students.
  • Learning outcomes need to focus on change of behaviour; with focus on local procedures.
  • One participant felt that schools need a researcher portfolio system, some way of keeping track of who has what data. A suggestion was made to have an asset manager in the university, similar to the one in NHS.
  • Less than optimal security practices can be observed, such as leaving a clinical notebook in a coffee room. More training is needed but this is not fully covered in either clinical practice courses nor ethics.
  • There were concerns around data governance – how to set up gatekeepers for research projects using Data Safe Haven, how long to store things in the DataVault. ACCORD was pointed to for having good structure in data governance.
  • Long-running projects (e.g. ten years) would have trouble meeting the annual costs.
  • Projects are invested in locally run services and expertise; added value centralised services need to be low-cost.

Overall researchers were in favour of having a Data Safe Haven available for projects that need it, but they would also like to have support to correctly anonymise and manage their data so that they could continue to use standard data storage and analysis platforms. This would mean that only those with the most sensitive of data would need to rely upon the UoE DSH to conduct their research.

Those with a University log-in may read the full set of notes on the RDM wiki.

Kerry Miller
Research Data Support Officer
Library & University Collections

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Research Data Training – Semester 1

Each semester the Research Data Support team puts together a training programme for researchers and research support staff in all schools, and at all points in their career. Our programme this year introduces a number of new courses, including one designed especially for Undergraduates planning their final year dissertation. We have also reviewed and refreshed all of our existing courses to ensure that they are not only up-to-date but also more engaging and interactive.

Course list:

  • Realising the Benefits of Good Research Data Management (RDS001)
  • Writing a Data Management Plan for your Research (RDS002)
  • Working with Personal and Sensitive Data (RDS003)
  • Data Cleaning with OpenRefine (RDS004)
  • Handling Data Using SPSS (RDS005)
  • Data Mindfulness: Making the Most of your Dissertation (RDS009)
  • Introduction to Visualising Data in ArcGIS (RDS011)
  • Introduction to Visualising Data in QGIS (RDS012)

Full details of all these courses, with direct booking links, can be found on our training webpage https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/research-support/research-data-service/training

Courses can also be found and booked via the MyEd Events page.

We are always happy to deliver tailored versions of these courses suitable for a specific school, institute or discipline. Just contact us at data-support@ed.ac.uk to let us know what you need!

Kerry Miller
Research Data Support Officer
Library and University Collections

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Announcing our new “Quick Guides” series

Earlier this week we bid farewell to our intern for the past four weeks, Dr Tamar Israeli from the Western Galilee College Library. Tamar spent her time with us carrying out a small-scale study on the collaborative tools that are available to researchers, which ones they use in their work, and what support they feel they need from the University. One of Tamar’s interviewees expressed a view that “[the University’s tools and services] all start with ‘Data-something’, and I need to close my eyes and think which is for what,” a remark which resonated with my own experience upon first starting this job.

When I joined the University’s Library and University Collections as Research Data Support Manager in Summer 2018, I was initially baffled by the seemingly vast range of different data storage and sharing options available to our researchers. By that point I had already worked at Edinburgh for more than a decade, and in my previous role I had little need or obligation to use institutionally-supported services. Consequently, since I rarely if ever dealt with personal or sensitive information, I tended to rely on freely-available commercial solutions: Dropbox, Google Docs, Evernote – that sort of thing. Finding myself now in a position where I and my colleagues were required to advise researchers on the most appropriate systems for safely storing and sharing their (often sensitive) research data, I set about producing a rough aide memoire for myself, briefly detailing the various options available and highlighting the key differences between them. The goal was to provide a quick means or identifying – or ruling out – particular systems for a given purpose. Researchers might ask questions like: is this system intended for live or archived data? Does it support collaboration (increasingly expected within an ever more interconnected and international research ecosystem)? Is it suitable for storing sensitive data in a way that assures research participants or commercial partners that prying eyes won’t be able to access their personal information without authorisation? (A word to the wise: cloud-based services like Dropbox may not be!)


[click the image for higher resolution version]

Upon showing early versions to colleagues, I was pleasantly surprised that they often expressed an interest in getting a copy of the document, and thought that it might have a wider potential audience within the University. In the months since then, this document has gone through several iterations, and I’m grateful to colleagues with specific expertise in the systems that we in the Research Data Service don’t directly support (such as the Wiki and the Microsoft Office suite of applications) for helping me understand some of the finer details. The intention is for this to be a living document, and if there are any inaccuracies in this (or indeed subsequent) versions, or wording that could be made clearer, just let us know and we’ll update it. It’s probably not perfect (yet!), but my hope is that it will provide enough information for researchers, and those who support them, to narrow down potential options and explore these in greater depth than the single-page table format allows.

With Tamar’s internship finishing up this week, it feels like a timely moment to release the first of our series of “Quick Guides” into the world. Others will follow shortly, on topics including Research Data Protection, FAIR Data and Open Research, and we will create a dedicated Guidance page on the Research Data Service website to provide a more permanent home for these and other useful documents. We will continue to listen to our researchers’ needs and strive to keep our provision aligned with them, so that we are always lowering the barriers to uptake and serving our primary purpose: to enable Edinburgh’s research community to do the best possible job, to the highest possible standards, with the least amount of hassle.

And if there are other Guides that you think might be useful, let us know!

Martin Donnelly
Research Data Support Manager
Library and University Collections

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