Dealing with Data 2019 (January 2020): Collaboration Across the Nations

Picture the scene: A cold January day, the wind blowing the scarves of the passers-by through the large windows of the Informatics Forum meeting room. The group inside listens, takes notes, tweets, and asks questions of the speakers, representing a range of disciplines across the University…

Dealing with Data is an annual event hosted by the Research Data Service. Its aim is to engage the University community of researchers and support professionals around a theme, to share success stories and challenges in the myriad, everyday issues involved with data-driven research. The theme this year reflected the difficulty of managing research data in large, collaborative projects. Due to industrial action, the original November event was postponed to January. Around a hundred researchers – staff and students – participated, along with support staff who gave lightning talks about research-focused services. Full presentations and videos are now available.

So Benjamin Bach, our keynote speaker, inspired us with state of the art data visualisation software and techniques for both exploration and presentation. But he also illustrated the difficulties of portraying all of the data in all of its facets of a rich dataset, and the consequences of making necessary choices for its interpretation.
The first session began with Tamar Israeli’s study of researchers’ use of collaborative and institutional tools showed the challenges of making local infrastructure user friendly enough to attract new users familiar with slick cloud-based services. Then Mark Lawson demonstrated his ingenuous ‘ethical hacking’ to piece together a set of APIs to create a research workflow for samples and images for histology research. Minhong Wang conveyed a higher level view of data management focused not just on data-driven, but knowledge-driven phenotyping.

Next were the lively lightning talks, in which Mike Wallis of Research Services warned of a new Digital Dark Age, and David Creighton-Offord spoke of the dillemmas in Information Security user support where shiny doesn’t always equal safe. Lisa Otty spoke of innovative training and text mining projects bringing data science to the Humanities, and Rory MacNeil demonstrated how the RSpace electronic lab notebook can connect to a host of popular open science tools.

Following a lively lunch with chat between delegates and with hosts of the service exhibitions, Alex Hutchison showed a highly programmatic view of data management and ethics control from the UNICEF collaboration, in collecting and analysing real world data about children in need. Caileen Gallagher offered a case study of how food courier data could be used to empower workers. Sanja Badanjak shared her data integration problems of peace agreements around the world, conveying both innovative solutions and time-consuming workarounds.

In the final session Edward Wallace brought in the Edinburgh Carpentries to the rescue of poor data skills within Biological Sciences and the wider University – itself a great example of cross-community collaboration building a community of trainers. Gillian Raab showed us how any data problem however intractable can be solved by resourcefulness and determination, making use of DataShield for multi-party computation when datasets are too sensitive to be shared. Johnny Hay and Tomasz Zielinski demo’d their Plasmo ‘boutique repository’ for plant-systems biology modelling and Holly Tibble described tackling an international collaboration in linking administrative datasets via ‘ridiculously detailed’ statistical analysis plans. Representing the Research Data Service, I wrapped up proceedings with some of these very observations.
Both presentations and videos are available.

Welcome

  • Jeremy Upton, Director of Library and University Collections. [Presentation]

Keynote

  • Data Visualization for Exploration and Presentation, Prof. Benjamin Bach. Lecturer in Design Informatics and Visualization. [Presentation] [Slides]

Session 1 – Chair: Theo Andrew

  • “Data Something”: Assessing Tools, Services and Barriers for Research Data Collaboration at the University of Edinburgh – a small-scale study carried out by Dr Tamar Israeli with support from the Research Data Support team. Robin Rice – Data Librarian & Head of Research Data Support Services. [Presentation] [Slides]
  • Integrated secure web application to deliver centralised management of research samples, histology services and imaging data. Mark Lawson, Data & Project Manager, MRC Centre for Reproductive Health, QMRI. [Presentation] [Slides]
  • Building the Knowledge Graph for UK Health Data Science Minhong Wang et. al, Deanery of Molecular, Genetic and Population Health Sciences. [Presentation] [Slides]

Session 2 – Chair: Kerry Miller

  • The Data Opportunities & Challenges when Collaborating across Organisations
    Alex Hutchison, Delivery Director – Data for Children Collaborative with UNICEF. [Presentation] [Slides]
  • Restoring Gig Workers to Power: Personal Data Portability, Supply of Digital Content and Free Flow of Data in the European Data Economy. Cailean Gallagher, Scottish Trades Union Congress, & St Andrews University Institute of Intellectual History. [Presentation] [Slides]
  • Dealing with data in peace and conflict research. Sanja Badanjak, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Law. [Presentation] [Slides]

Session 3 – Chair: Robin Rice

  • Bringing researchers to data: computing skills training with Edinburgh Carpentries.
    Edward Wallace, Sir Henry Dale Fellow, Institute of Cell Biology. [Presentation] [Slides]
  • Running an analysis of combined data when the individual records cannot be combined. Gillian M Raab and Chris Dibben, Scottish centre for Administrative Data Research. [Presentation] [Slides]
  • The grant is dead, long live the data. Johnny Hay and Tomasz Zieliński, School of Biology, University of Edinburgh. [Presentation] [Slides]
  • International collaborations using linked administrative data: Lessons from the MARIC study. Holly Tibble, Usher Institute, University of Edinburgh. [Presentation] [Slides]

Robin Rice
Data Librarian and Head, Research Data Support
Library & University Collections

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