New video: the benefits of RDM training

A big part of the role of the Research Data Service is to provide a mixture of online and (general/tailored) in-person training courses on Research Data Management (RDM) to all University research staff and students.

In this video, PhD student Lis talks about her experiences of accessing both our online training and attending some of our face-to-face courses. Lis emphasises how valuable both of these can be to new PhD candidates, who may well be applying RDM good practice for the first time in their career.

YouTube Preview Image

It is interesting to see Lis reflect on how these training opportunities made her think about how she handles data on a daily basis, bringing a realisation that much of her data was sensitive and therefore needed to be safeguarded in an appropriate manner.

Our range of regularly scheduled face-to-face training courses are run through both Digital Skills and the Institute of Academic Development – these are open to all research staff and students. In addition, we also create and provide bespoke training courses for schools and research groups based on their specific needs. Online training is delivered via MANTRA and the Research Data Management MOOC which we developed in collaboration with the University of North Carolina.

In the video Lis also discusses her experiences using some RDS tools and services, such as DataStore for storing and backing-up her research data to prevent data loss, and contacting our team for timely support in writing a Data Management Plan for her project.

If you would like to learn more about any of the things Lis mentions in her interview you should visit the RDS website, or to discuss bespoke training for your school or research centre / group please contact us via data-support@ed.ac.uk.

Kerry Miller
Research Data Support Officer
Library and University Collections
The University of Edinburgh

Share

Greater Expectations? Writing and supporting Data Management Plans

“A blueprint for what you’re going to do”

This series of videos was arranged before I joined the Research Data Service team, otherwise I’d no doubt have had plenty to say myself on a range of data-related topics! But the release today of this video – “How making a Data Management Plan can help you” – provides an opportunity to offer a few thoughts and reflections on the purpose and benefits of data management planning (DMP), along with the support that we offer here at Edinburgh.

YouTube Preview Image

“Win that funding”

We have started to hear anecdotal tales of projects being denied funding due – in part at least – to inadequate or inappropriate data management plans. While these stories remain relatively rare, the direction of travel is clear: we are moving towards greater expectations, more scrutiny, and ultimately into the risk of incurring sanctions for failure to manage and share data in line with funder policies and community standards: as Niamh Moore puts it, various stakeholders are paying “much more attention to data management”. From the researcher’s point of view this ‘new normal’ is a significant change, requiring a transition that we should not underestimate. The Research Data Service exists to support researchers in normalising research data management (RDM) and embedding it as a core scholarly norm and competency, developing skills and awareness and building broader comfort zones, helping them adjust to these new expectations.

“Put the time in…”

My colleague Robin Rice mentions the various types of data management planning support available to Edinburgh’s research community, citing the online self-directed MANTRA training module, our tailored version of the DCC’s DMPonline tool, and bespoke support from experienced staff. Each of these requires an investment of time. MANTRA requires the researcher to take time to work through it, and took the team a considerable amount of time to produce in order to provide the researcher with a concise and yet wide-ranging grounding in the major constituent strands of RDM.  DMPonline took hundreds and probably thousands of hours of developer time and input from a broad range of stakeholders to reach its current levels of stability and maturity and esteem. This investment has resulted in a tool that makes the process of creating a data management plan much more straightforward for researchers. PhD student Lis is quick to note the direct support that she was able to draw upon from the Research Data Service staff at the University, citing quick response times, fluent communication, and ongoing support as the plan evolves and responds to change. Each of these are examples of spending time to save time, not quite Dusty Springfield’s “taking time to make time”, but not a million miles away.

There is a cost to all of this, of course, and we should be under no illusions that we are fortunate at the University of Edinburgh to be in a position to provide and make use of this level of tailored service, and we are working towards a goal of RDM related costs being stably funded to the greatest degree possible, through a combination of project funding and sustained core budget.

“You may not have thought of everything”

Plans are not set in stone. They can, and indeed should, be kept updated in order to reflect reality, and the Horizon 2020 guidelines state that DMPs should be updated “as the implementation of the project progresses and when significant changes occur”, e.g. new data; changes in consortium policies (e.g. new innovation potential, decision to file for a patent); changes in consortium composition and external factors (such as new consortium members joining or old members leaving).

Essentially, data management planning provides a framework for thinking things through (Niamh uses the term “a series of prompts”, and Lis “a structure”. As Robin says, you won’t necessarily think of everything beforehand – a plan is a living document which will change over time – but the important things is to document and explain the decisions that are taken in order for others (and your future self is among these others!) to understand your work. A good approach that I’ve seen first-hand while reviewing DMPs for the European Commission is to leave place markers to identify deferred decisions, so that these details are not forgotten about (This is also a good reason for using a template – a empty heading means an issue that has not yet been addressed, whereas it’s deceptively easy to read free text DMPs and get the sense that everything is in good shape, only to find on more rigorous inspection that important information is missing, or that some responses are ambiguous.)

“Cutting and pasting”

It has often been said that plans are less important than the process of planning, and I’ve been historically resistant to sharing plans for “benchmarking” which is often just another word for copying. However Robin is right to point out that there are some circumstances where copying and pasting boilerplate text makes sense, for example when referring to standard processes or services, where it makes no sense – and indeed can in some cases be unnecessarily risky – to duplicate effort or reinvent the wheel. That said, I would still generally urge researchers to resist the temptation to do too much benchmarking. By all means use standards and cite norms, but also think things through for yourself (and in conjunction with your colleagues, project partners, support staff and other stakeholders etc) – and take time to communicate with your contemporaries and the future via your data management plan… or record?

“The structure and everything”

Because data management plans are increasingly seen as part of the broader scholarly record, it’s worth concluding with some thoughts on how all of this hangs together. Just as Open Science depends on a variety of Open Things, including publications, data and code, the documentation that enables us to understand it also has multiple strands. Robin talks about the relationship between data management and consent, and as a reviewer it is certainly reassuring to see sample consent agreement forms when assessing data management plans, but other plans and records are also relevant, such as Data Protection Impact Assessments, Software Management Plans and other outputs management processes and products. Ultimately the ideal (and perhaps idealistic) picture is of an interlinked, robust, holistic and transparent record documenting and evidencing all aspects of the research process, explaining rights and supporting re-use, all in the overall service of long-lasting, demonstrably rigorous, highest-quality scholarship.

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

Share

Data Carpentry Workshop, Spring 2018

Following on from the success of previous Carpentry workshops we have hosted, the Research Data Support team organised another two day Data Carpentry workshop on 12th /13th June 2018 in the David Hume Tower teaching studio.

Students at work on the Data Carpentry workshop held in David Hume Tower teaching studio.

Data Carpentry workshops focus on introductory computational skills needed for data management and analysis in all domains of research. If you have never heard of ‘Data Carpentry’, ‘Software Carpentry’ or ‘the Carpentries’ we suggest you go take a look around the Data Carpentry and Software Sustainability Institute websites. While the ‘Data Carpentries’ follow a similar theme, the lessons can vary between different workshops, depending on the level of the learners and their requirements. The topics covered were:

  • Data Cleaning with OpenRefine
  • Programming and Data Visualisation with R
  • Relational DataBases and SQL

All the sessions received positive feedback from students on both content and delivery. The headliner for the workshop was undoubtedly the R programming: two R sessions delivered over Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning by the lead instructor Edward Wallace. Edward is based at King Buildings and uses R in his own research into RNA-protein interactions. He is clearly a great teacher as the feedback on these sessions indicated it was really well delivered and the pace of the course was just right. That is not easy to do when you have such a wide range of students from all disciplines.

This course was fully booked within a few hours of being advertised and there remained over 50 people registered on the waiting list indicating the demand for these data handling courses. The overwhelming feedback from the course was “more R training please!”. Keep a lookout for advertising on the RDS website and the university Events booking as more Carpentry training is on its way!

Thanks from the Research Data Support team to all the excellent helpers and trainers for making this event possible. All the trainers and helpers for this workshop were Edinburgh University staff.

Some of the students, teachers and helpers on the June 2018 Data Carpentry Workshop.

Trainers: Edward Wallace, Giacomo Peru, Manos Farsarakis, Lucia Micheilin.

Helpers: Rosey Bayne, Sean McGeever, Mario Antonioletti, Daniel Robertson, Evgenij Belikov, Jennifer Daub.

This workshop was organised in collaboration by Research Data Service, EPCC, ARCHER and the Software Sustainability Institute.

Jennifer Daub
Research Data Support
Library & University Collections

Share

Research Data MANTRA gets a refresh

Research Data MANTRA updates

MANTRA, the free online training course which provides guidelines for good practice in research data management (RDM), has recently been refreshed. The course content remains applicable to all research disciplines, and is particularly appropriate for postgraduate students and early career researchers who would like to learn more about managing their research data.

The latest release helps ensure that content from each of the eight learning modules remains up-to-date, with interactive elements across all units being revised to make them more user friendly, and new content added to some units.

Additionally, as part of the CEPAL, United Nations project some video content used within MANTRA has been translated. Claudia Vilches and Gabriela Andaur from Hernán Santa Cruz Library (Santiago, Chile) have helpfully translated several of the video interviews with research staff, and these can now be viewed with Spanish subtitles within MANTRA or on our Youtube channel, helping to widen accessibility to these training materials for researchers outside the UK. Please contact us if you wish to translate any of the MANTRA materials.

MANTRA learning units now available via Zenodo

In addition to being a free-of-charge online learning resource, all content from MANTRA is openly available for use and re-use by others. For those interested in developing their own RDM training materials based on MANTRA content, all MANTRA units (along with four sets of data handling exercises) are now available for direct download from the Zenodo repository’s RDM Open Training Materials community. The eight individual MANTRA units were created using open source software Xerte Online Toolkits and units can be imported and edited in Virtual Learning Environments (VLE) such as Moodle. All that we ask is for attribution according to our CC-BY licence.

Content from a number of shorter MANTRA ‘taster’ units is also openly available from Zenodo. These provide an overview of RDM in four very short modules which can be edited so as to add information about local RDM support services, before deploying locally in a VLE or on the Web.

Share