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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Updated MANTRA content: Research data in context

The Research Data Support team is pleased to announce the launch of the first in a series of updates to MANTRA, the free and open online research data management training course.

The first updated module ‘Research data in context’ (previously ‘Research data explained’) is now live on the MANTRA site and provides an introduction to research data, alongside detail on the contexts in which data are generated, and the challenges presented by big data in society.

MANTRA is designed to give post-graduate students, early career researchers, and information professionals the knowledge and skills needed to work effectively with research data.

Since launching in 2011, MANTRA has been through a number of significant rewrites to keep up with current trends, and over 10,000 different learners have visited MANTRA in the last academic year.

The ‘Research data in context’ module has been substantially revised in order to:

  • remove dated and obsolete content;
  • simplify and improve the readability of existing material;
  • add information on data literacy and data science.

The changes in this module include:

  • Revised pages: Introduction; Why is research data management important?; What are data?; What are research data?; Data as research output; Module Summary; Next & further reading.
  • New pages: Data in society; Data Science; Video: machine learning; Data literacy and skills.

A change log detailing all changes in this release is available on request from the Research Data Support team (data-support@ed.ac.uk).

We hope you find this update interesting and useful and welcome any feedback you may have.

Further MANTRA updates are forthcoming, focusing on FAIR data and newer data protection legislation and we will announce these in future blog posts.

Bob Sanders
Research Data Support

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Dealing with Data 2019- Call for Contributions *Deadline Extended*

*We have had several requests for an extension to the submission deadline, so, we have decided to extend it until 12 noon on Friday 11th October!*

Dealing with Data 2019 will take place 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 contributions from research staff and students at the University of Edinburgh.

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)

The full Call for Contributions is below. If you have any questions please get in touch using on dealing-with-data-conference@mlist.is.ed.ac.uk

Dealing with Data Conference 2019 – Call for Contributions

Date:                     Wednesday 27th November 2019

Location:             Informatics Forum, George Square, Central Area

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

Possible Contributions: Presentation; Lightning talk; Poster; Demonstration of a tool or method supporting collaboration; Stall or exhibit, panel.

Call for contributions:

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 share with the UoE research community how you have addressed these issues to build successful collaborations, or the lessons you have learned which will enable you to be more successful in the future.

Contributions should be aimed principally at an academic audience, but the programme will seek to represent a wide range of scholarly disciplines.

Possible themes may include (but are by no means limited to):

  • Data sharing within research groups or labs;
  • Challenges of data sharing across the University or with external partners;
  • Managing and securing sensitive data across distributed research projects;
  • Interdisciplinary issues;
  • Tools for enabling or simplifying collaborative data collection, management or analysis;
  • Data sharing at scale;
  • Interoperability of (meta)data;
  • Legal and licensing issues;
  • Credit and contributions for data use and reuse, including after a project has ended.

For all contributions please send an abstract detailing the content and proposed format (maximum 500 words) to dealing-with-data-conference@mlist.is.ed.ac.uk by Friday 11th october.  Posters should be A0 in size, portrait orientation.

Proposals will be reviewed, and the event programme announced by Friday 25th October 2019.

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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