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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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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RDM Training for Undergraduate Students

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RDM Training for Undergraduate Students

The Research Data Service at the University of Edinburgh provides research data support and training for staff and postgraduate students. Yet, over the last year through an Innovation Grant  – we have decided to branch out and produce training materials to support our undergraduate students as well.

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The result is a new handbook called ‘Data Mindfulness: Making the most of your dissertation’, along with a set of face-to-face workshops that we have delivered during the spring semester and will be delivering again this autumn. The idea behind this handbook and the workshops is to take UG students through all the stages of their dissertation journey: from choosing their question to dealing with literature and data to preserving their data after submission.

Unlike existing material for postgraduates and researchers, this handbook has been written by one of our PhD interns from the perspective of a student; and it places data management tips within the broader experience of conducting a UG dissertation. We believe this student perspective is what makes this handbook unique and particularly innovative.

Download Data Mindfulness-Making the Most of your Dissertation handbook for your own use or to customise for your own UG students.

Candela Sanchez-Rodilla Espeso
UG Research Data Management Skills Co-ordinator

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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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