Research Data Workshop Series 2019

Over the spring of 2019 the Research Data Service (RDS) is holding a series of workshops with the aim of gathering feedback and requirements from our researchers on a number of important Research Data topics.

Each workshop will consist of a small number of short presentations from researchers and research support staff who have experience of the topic. These will then be followed by guided discussions so that the RDS can gather your input on the tools we currently provide, the gaps in our services, and how you go about addressing the challenges and issues raised in the talks.
The workshops for 2019 are:

Electronic Notebooks 1
14th March at King’s Buildings (Fully Booked)

DataVault
1200-1400, 10th April at 6301 JCMB, King’s Buildings, Map
Booking Link – https://www.events.ed.ac.uk/index.cfm?event=book&scheduleID=34308
The DataVault was developed to offer UoE staff a long-term retention solution for research data collected by research projects that are at the completion stage. Each ‘Vault’ can contain multiple files associated with a research project that will be securely stored for an identified period, such as ten years. It is designed to fill in gaps left by existing research data services such as DataStore (active data storage platform) and DataShare (open access online data repository). The service enables you to comply with funder and University requirements to preserve research data for the long-term, and to confidently store your data for retrieval at a future date. This workshop is intended to gather the views of researchers and support staff in schools to explore the utility of the new service and discuss potential practicalities around its roll-out and long-term sustainability.

Sensitive Data Challenges and Solutions
1200-1430, 16th April in Seminar Room 2, Chancellors Building, Bioquarter, Map
Booking Link – https://www.events.ed.ac.uk/index.cfm?event=book&scheduleID=34321
Researchers face a number of technical, ethical and legal challenges in creating, analysing and managing research data, including pressure to increase transparency and conduct research openly. But for those who have collected or are re-using sensitive or confidential data, these challenges can be particularly taxing. Tools and services can help to alleviate some of the problems of using sensitive data in research. But cloud-based tools are not necessarily trustworthy, and services are not necessarily geared for highly sensitive data. Those that are may not be very user-friendly or efficient for researchers, and often restrict the types of analysis that can be done. Researchers attending this workshop will have the opportunity to hear from experienced researchers on related topics.

Electronic Notebooks 2
1200-1430, 9th May at Training & Skills Room, ECCI, Central Area, Map
Booking Link – https://www.events.ed.ac.uk/index.cfm?event=book&scheduleID=34287
Electronic Notebooks, both computational and lab-based, are gaining ground as productivity tools for researchers and their collaborators. Electronic notebooks can help facilitate reproducibility, longevity and controlled sharing of information. There are many different notebook options available, either commercially or free. Each application has different features and will have different advantages depending on researchers or lab’s requirements. Jupyter Notebook, RSpace, and Benchling are some of the platforms that are used at the University and all will be represented by researchers who use them on a daily basis.

Data, Software, Reproducibility and Open Research
1100-1430, 21st May at G03, Bayes Centre Central Area, Map
Booking Link – https://www.events.ed.ac.uk/index.cfm?event=book&scheduleID=34309
In this workshop we will examine real-life use cases wherein datasets combine with software and/or notebooks to provide a richer, more reusable and long-lived record of Edinburgh’s research. We will also discuss user needs and wants, capturing requirements for future development of the University’s central research support infrastructure in line with (e.g.) the LERU Roadmap for Open Science, which the Library Research Support team has sought to map its existing and planned provision against, and domain-oriented Open Research strategies within the Colleges.

Kerry Miller
Research Data Support Officer
Library & University Collections

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Dealing With Data 2018: Summary reflections

The annual Dealing With Data conference has become a staple of the University’s data-interest calendar. In this post, Martin Donnelly of the Research Data Service gives his reflections on this year’s event, which was held in the Playfair Library last week.

One of the main goals of open data and Open Science is that of reproducibility, and our excellent keynote speaker, Dr Emily Sena, highlighted the problem of translating research findings into real-world clinical interventions which can be relied upon to actually help humans. Other challenges were echoed by other participants over the course of the day, including the relative scarcity of negative results being reported. This is an effect of policy, and of well-established and probably outdated reward/recognition structures. Emily also gave us a useful slide on obstacles, which I will certainly want to revisit: examples cited included a lack of rigour in grant awards, and a lack of incentives for doing anything different to the status quo. Indeed Emily described some of what she called the “perverse incentives” associated with scholarship, such as publication, funding and promotion, which can draw researchers’ attention away from the quality of their work and its benefits to society.

However, Emily reminded us that the power to effect change does not just lie in the hands of the funders, governments, and at the highest levels. The journal of which she is Editor-in-Chief (BMJ Open Science) has a policy commitment to publish sound science regardless of positive or negative results, and we all have a part to play in seeking to counter this bias.

Photo-collage of several speakers at the event

A collage of the event speakers, courtesy Robin Rice (CC-BY)

In terms of other challenges, Catriona Keerie talked about the problem of transferring/processing inconsistent file formats between heath boards, causing me to wonder if it was a question of open vs closed formats, and how could such a situation might have been averted, e.g. via planning, training (and awareness raising, as Roxanne Guildford noted), adherence to the 5-star Open Data scheme (where the third star is awarded for using open formats), or something else? Emily earlier noted a confusion about which tools are useful – and this is a role for those of us who provide tools, and for people like myself and my colleague Digital Research Services Lead Facilitator Lisa Otty who seek to match researchers with the best tools for their needs. Catriona also reminded us that data workflow and governance were iterative processes: we should always be fine-tuning these, and responding to new and changing needs.

Another theme of the first morning session was the question of achieving balances and trade-offs in protecting data and keeping it useful. And a question from the floor noted the importance of recording and justifying how these balance decisions are made etc. David Perry and Chris Tuck both highlighted the need to strike a balance, for example, between usability/convenience and data security. Chris spoke about dual testing of data: is it anonymous? / is it useful? In many cases, ideally it will be both, but being both may not always be possible.

This theme of data privacy balanced against openness was taken up in Simon Chapple’s presentation on the Internet of Things. I particularly liked the section on office temperature profiles, which was very relevant to those of us who spend a lot of time in Argyle House where – as in the Playfair Library – ambient conditions can leave something to be desired. I think Simon’s slides used the phrase “Unusual extremes of temperatures in micro-locations.” Many of us know from bitter experience what he meant!

There is of course a spectrum of openness, just as there are grades of abstraction from the thing we are observing or measuring and the data that represents it. Bert Remijsen’s demonstration showed that access to sound recordings, which compared with transcription and phonetic renderings are much closer to the data source (what Kant would call the thing-in-itself (das Ding an sich) as opposed to the phenomenon, the thing as it appears to an observer) is hugely beneficial to linguistic scholarship. Reducing such layers of separation or removal is both a subsidiary benefit of, and a rationale for, openness.

What it boils down to is the old storytelling adage: “Don’t tell, show.” And as Ros Attenborough pointed out, openness in science isn’t new – it’s just a new term, and a formalisation of something intrinsic to Science: transparency, reproducibility, and scepticism. By providing access to our workings and the evidence behind publications, and by joining these things up – as Ewan McAndrew described, linked data is key (this the fifth star in the aforementioned 5-star Open Data scheme.) Open Science, and all its various constituent parts, support this goal, which is after all one of the goals of research and of scholarship. The presentations showed that openness is good for Science; our shared challenge now is to make it good for scientists and other kinds of researchers. Because, as Peter Bankhead says, Open Source can be transformative – Open Data and Open Science can be transformative. I fear that we don’t emphasise these opportunities enough, and we should seek to provide compelling evidence for them via real-world examples. Opportunities like the annual Dealing With Data event make a very welcome contribution in this regard.

PDFs of the presentations are now available in the Edinburgh Research Archive (ERA). Videos from the day will be published on MediaHopper in the coming weeks.

Other resources

Martin Donnelly
Research Data Support Manager
Library and University Collections
University of Edinburgh

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An internship in the Research Data Service: Towards tailored Research Data Support

For four weeks in July and August 2018, I did an internship in the Research Data Support (RDS) of the University of Edinburgh’s Information Services (IS). Otherwise, I am working as a librarian trainee in Bern University Library in Switzerland. There, as well as in other parts of Europe, research data is an issue which constantly gains momentum, and libraries are, among others, at the forefront of the changing scene. IS has a very good reputation for their work in this field, and so, as a librarian to be, the internship in the RDS was an outstanding opportunity for me to get first hand insights and experiences.

The project I was working on was about tailoring guidance for researchers writing their Data Management Plans (DMP) with the tool dmponline. As a basis for this, I had to gather information about the practices and needs of academic and support staff around research data management (RDM) and DMP. I was to work with staff from all three colleges. (In fact, I found that my project had quite some similarities to Clarissa’s who was just finishing her project when I joined the team.)

My first step was to get in touch with the school support staff, which was essential to get an overall impression of how RDM worked in each school, and to arrange my contacts with researchers. From this, along with information gathered from each schools’ websites, I created an interview questionnaire as well as an online survey. These served to capture researchers’ and support staff’s experience with RDM. For me, conducting interviews was a new and valuable experience. I gained confidence, and I was inspired by the staff’s willingness to share their experience with RDM. I think that interviewing is a very useful skill to develop, because finding out what school staff think and what they need is important in almost every sector of library work.

From the interviews and surveys, I also learnt a lot about researchers’ different practices and challenges in the context of research data management. I analysed the responses and documented my findings in reports for IS and school support staff. Unfortunately, my internship was too short for me to complete the tailored guidance part of the project, but I hope that my work will serve as a basis for the teams’ endeavours to further adapt their DMP support.

Summing everything up, my internship was an inspiring experience which was at times intense but also hugely enriching. This was due in large part to the fantastic team who were welcoming and supported me most effectively whenever needed (this is true, too, for my contact persons in the schools). I would have loved to learn even more about their various experiences, but, after all, I am really grateful for the opportunity I have been given to participate in their work and to learn so much about RDM.

Gero Schreier
Research Data Service Project Assistant
Librarian in training, University Library, University of Bern (Switzerland)

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New team members, new team!

Time has passed, so inevitably we have said goodbye to some and hello to others on the Research Data Support team. Amongst other changes, all of us are now based together in Library & University Collections – organisationally, that is, while remaining located in Argyle House with the rest of the Research Data Service providers such as IT Infrastructure. (For an interview with the newest team member there, David Fergusson, Head of Research Services, see this month’s issue of BITS.)

So two teams have come together under Research Data Support as part of Library Research Support, headed by Dominic Tate in L&UC. Those of us leaving EDINA and Data Library look back on a rich legacy dating back to the early 1980s when the Data Library was set up as a specialist function within computing services. We are happy to become ‘mainstreamed’ within the Library going forward, as research data support becomes an essential function of academic librarianship all over the world*. Of course we will continue to collaborate with EDINA for software engineering requirements and new projects.

Introducing –

Jennifer Daub has worked in a range of research roles, from lab-based parasite genomics at the University of Edinburgh to bioinformatics at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Prior to joining the team, Jennifer provided data management support to users of clinical trials management software across the UK and is experienced managing sensitive data.

As Research Data Service Assistant, Jennifer has joined veterans Pauline Ward and Bob Sanders in assisting users with DataShare and Data Library as well as the newer DataVault and Data Safe Haven functions, and additionally providing general support and training along with the rest of the team.

Catherine Clarissa is doing her PhD in Nursing Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Her study is looking at patients’ and staff experiences of early mobilisation during the course of mechanical ventilation in an Intensive Care Unit. She has good knowledge of good practice in Research Data Management that has been expanded by taking training from the University and by developing a Data Management Plan for her own research.

As Project Officer she is working closely with project manager Pauline Ward on the Video Case Studies project, funded by the IS Innovation Fund over the next few months. We have invited her to post to the blog about the project soon!

Last but not least, Martin Donnelly will be joining us from the Digital Curation Centre, where he has spent the last decade helping research institutions raise their data management capabilities via a mixture of paid consultancy and pro bono assistance. He has a longstanding involvement in data management planning and policy, and interests in training, advocacy, holistic approaches to managing research outputs, and arts and humanities data.

Before joining Edinburgh in 2008, Martin worked at the University of Glasgow, where he was involved in European cultural heritage and digital preservation projects, and the pre-merger Edinburgh College of Art where he coordinated quality and accreditation processes. He has acted as an expert reviewer for European Commission data management plans on multiple occasions, and is a Fellow of the Software Sustainability Institute.

We look forward to Martin joining the team next month, where he will take responsibility as Research Data Support Manager, providing expertise and line management support to the team as well as senior level support to the service owner, Robin Rice, and to the Data Safe Haven Manager, Cuna Ekmekcioglu – who recently shifted her role from lead on training and outreach. Kerry Miller, Research Data Support Officer, is actively picking up her duties and making new contacts throughout the university to find new avenues for the team’s outreach and training delivery.

*The past and present rise of data librarianship within academic libraries is traced in the first chapter of The Data Librarian’s Handbook, by Robin Rice and John Southall.

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

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