Research data management in a time of quarantine

Covid-19 has shaken up our world, and disrupted University life as we know it. But in terms of a silver lining, it has provided opportunities for open data / open research to prove their worth, in the search for a vaccine and other approaches to managing and treating the complications of the virus. SPARC Europe have collected a number of case studies on Open Science and the Coronavirus. If you’ve been working on Coronavirus research here at Edinburgh, we’d love to hear from you, especially if there is anything we might be able to do to help. So far we have engaged with researchers in all three Colleges studying, or hoping to study, an aspect of COVID-19; about handling sensitive data, archiving or sharing relevant data, or bidding for new research.

How has it affected us in Research Data Support?

  • We are all working from home, although some of us have unavoidable childcare responsibilities which may slow down responses;
  • In terms of answering Research Data Management (RDM) enquiries it’s business as usual. UniDesk has been a little quieter than usual, but we are receiving more complex queries as researchers adjust to the new reality;
  • Data Management Plan (DMP) assistance is business as usual, and we are now set up on Teams for video consultations – let us know if you’d be interested in one of these;
  • During the lockdown we will be refreshing our existing Research Data MANTRA training and directing research staff and students to this resource in place of our face-to-face training, which has been temporarily suspended. If you have a question or would like to discuss any aspect of RDM or Data Management Planning please contact the team using data-support@ed.ac.uk to setup an online consultation.

From the researcher’s point of view, in some cases collecting and processing or analysing new data may be more difficult than it usually is, and in many cases impossible without access to lab equipment or direct contact with research subjects. So why not turn your attention to other elements of RDM, such as preparing older data for deposit, and linking it with your published research papers to fortify the scholarly record?

What can you do?

  • Use the time away from the lab or the field to tidy up data you’ve already collected or created (and don’t forget to attach metadata/contextual information!);
  • Deposit completed data in DataShare (or a disciplinary repository, with metadata recorded in Pure);
  • If you have deposited in DataShare before, check the usage stats and AltMetrics feed to see whether it has been used by others;
  • Create an ORCID (unique, persistent global researcher’s ID), and link it with your Pure account to ensure you stay linked with your outputs throughout your career;
  • Invite us to comment on your DMP, or get in touch about anything else RDM-related;
  • Let us know if you’d like to arrange any bespoke training or awareness-raising sessions;
  • Take some or all of the MANTRA course and let us know if you have any comments.

Martin Donnelly
Research Data Support Manager
Library and University Collections

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A visit from the data jungle: My internship in research data management

This is a guest post from Dr. Tamar Israeli, who completed a work/study internship with the Research Data Support team last Autumn. A link to her report is available below.

Recently, there has been a rumor in Israel that research data should be managed. As a librarian and information specialist working in an academic institution, I decided to check if this was true.

When looking for a place for an internship on the role of the library in research data management (RDM), I was happy to find out that the University of Edinburgh RDM support team has a good reputation. I remember enjoying very much my visit to Edinburgh 30 years ago so I was very happy to get Robin Rice & Martin Donnelly’s kind invitation so I could boldly go where… I had already been before.

During September 2019, I worked with the RDM support team, attended some of the staff meetings and participated in one of the RDM trainings.  As part of my internship we carried out a small scale study. The purpose of the study was mainly to understand what are the barriers that prevent researchers from using tools and services provided to them by the university when collaborating with data.

For that purpose, I interviewed six researchers from different schools and disciplines. The researchers were open and cooperative and the interviews were very interesting and insightful. If you’d like to learn about the way researchers collaborate and what influences their decision to use a particular tool or service, here is a link to our report: http://dx.doi.org/10.7488/era/2

Many thanks to the support team for their invitation and warm hospitality. It was one of the most pleasant months of my life.

Tamar Israeli
Librarian and information specialist
Western Galilee College

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Research Data Training – Semester 1

*UPDATE* – We have just added two new and exciting courses to our training schedule:

  • Assessing Disclosure Risk in Quantitative Data (RDS006)
  • Assessing Data Quality in Quantitative Data (RDS007)

To find out more about these courses just visit our training page.

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.

Full 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)
  • Assessing Disclosure Risk in Quantitative Data (RDS006)
  • Assessing Data Quality in Quantitative Data (RDS007)
  • 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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