DataVault ‘at 100’ – stories from our users

The DataVault now contains over one hundred datasets, with a combined size of over one hundred terabytes. These are the stories of a handful of our happy customers, talking about the benefits of using the DataVault…

1.    Low-cost long term storage delivers flexibility

Emily Clark (PI) and Mazdak Salavati (Core Scientist)

Emily and Mazdak heard about the DataVault at an event at the Roslin Institute organised by Colin Simpson, local project officer, and expert user of the DataVault. They needed to archive a large amount of genomics data – more than three terabytes. They wanted to save money and liberate their active storage for other data by moving the files from DataStore to DataVault. As DataVault is much cheaper than DataStore (once you’ve used up your initial free DataStore quota). We also held an initial meeting with Colin to answer their questions about how they would be billed (via an eIT), who would be able to deposit and retrieve data and how. Emily wanted flexibility around the billing, and the control to restrict access. We discussed the usefulness of splitting the data into separate deposits, to enable subsets of the data to be exported back to DataStore. As you can see from the public metadata, link below, the information has been worded in such a way as to manage the expectations of the reader appropriately. Mazdak created the vault, gave Emily access, and then deposited the data as a series of separate deposits, over a few days. We then issued the eIT for payment.

Mazdak says:

“Engaging early and reading the documentation was key for the use of DataVault. Having a research data management (RDM) plan from the beginning of your project helps with almost every aspect of dissemination of it i.e. publication, grant reports, collaborators and stakeholders etc. Understanding the types of storage and their cost makes this planning much easier for both the PIs and the data processors involved. Moreover, curating the metadata associated with biological datasets is much easier once the RDM plan is based on a streamlined platform such as DataVault. The clever use of low-cost long term storage solutions can free up lots of flexibility both in consumables and computational resources if considered from the start of every project. The DataVault is maintained and supported by very dedicated folks at the University who would their best to help and accommodate research needs. Talk to them in the earliest point possible to discuss your RDM plan and take advantage of their support.”

You can see the public details of the data by clicking on the DOI:

2.    A safe place for personal data

Professor Sue Fletcher-Watson

Sue had a set of video footage gathered as part of her work with children with autism, specifically the Click-East clinical trial. The audio-visual files, a little over a terabyte, were stored on an external hard drive, so she wanted to have them safely backed up, but did not have sufficient spare storage in her DataStore area. Sue had learned about the Edinburgh DataVault when chatting with a member of our team at an IAD event, so she knew DataVault would be an appropriate home for this sensitive data to be stored for the ten year period to which the participants’ parents had consented; the DataVault encrypts the data and stores three copies, and is cheaper than buying additional DataStore storage. Information Services provided Sue with a temporary ‘staging area’ on DataStore free of charge to accommodate the transfer of the data from the external hard drive, first onto the DataStore staging area and then into the vault she created, after first creating a Pure record which we validated. The Research Data Support team now has a similar dedicated staging area on DataStore which we can make available to those users who need the space temporarily for a DataVault deposit or retrieval. Of course, datasets should be split into deposits of an appropriate size so that the retrieval need not occupy too much space on DataStore. Sue successfully deposited the data. And later was able to use the staging area again to retrieve the data.

“The support I got from the DataVault team was exemplary and really helped me with this first deposit. I now have complete confidence that these valuable data are safe and secure. I’ll certainly be using DataVault again”

3.    Facilitating restricted sharing and citation of clinical data

An anonymous Edinburgh researcher

One research team contacted us about getting a DOI (Digital Object Identifier) for their pseudonymised clinical data, so they could cite the data in their manuscript, and so they could share the data on a restricted basis with their reviewers. We advised that while the reviewers would not be able to access the DataVault directly, the researchers could use DataSync to share an encrypted copy of the data with them, while protecting the anonymity of the reviewers, by sending the link for DataSync to the journal, for forwarding on to the editors. We helped the researchers describe their data in Pure. The researchers archived the data into DataVault. We minted a DOI on the Pure record, which the researchers then added into their manuscript and is now included in the finished publication. Of course, clicking on the DOI link does not give users direct access to the data – it merely takes them to the metadata, the description, on Pure’s public portal, the Edinburgh Research Explorer, where they can find the information they need to make a request for the data. Thus the research team still has the control, so that they can decline a request, or they can require such external researchers to sign a Data Sharing Agreement, undertaking not to attempt to re-identify any participants nor to share the data further with others.

A note on Data Protection

It is important to keep in mind that Principal Investigators are responsible for understanding and complying with data protection law and their own funders’ and collaborative partners’ requirements. The DataVault should be used as part of good practice in research data management throughout the research data lifecycle. We strongly encourage researchers to make a Data Management Plan for every project; the Research Data Support team is happy to review your Data Management Plan, provide feedback, advise whether the DataVault would be a suitable solution, and help include the associated costs in your research bid.

Pauline Ward
Research Data Support Assistant
Library and University Collections

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DataVault – larger deposits and new review process notifications

New deposit size limit: 10TB

Great news for DataVault users: you can now deposit up to a whopping ten terabytes in a single deposit in the Edinburgh DataVault! That’s five times greater than the previous deposit limit, saving you time that might have been wasted splitting your data artificially and making multiple deposits.

It’s still a good idea to divide up your data into deposits that correspond well to whatever subsets of the dataset you and your colleagues are likely to want to retrieve at any one time. That’s because you can only retrieve a single deposit in its entirety; you cannot select individual files in the deposit to retrieve. Smaller deposits are quicker to retrieve. And remember you’ll need enough space for the retrieved data to arrive in.

We’ve made some performance improvements thanks to our brilliant technical team, so depositing now goes significantly faster. Nonetheless, please bear in mind that any deposit of multiple terabytes will probably take several days to complete (depending on how many deposits are queueing and some characteristics of the fileset), because the DataVault needs time to encrypt the data and store it on the tape archives and into the cloud. Remember not to delete your original copy from your working area on DataStore until you receive our email confirming that the deposit has completed!

And you can archive as many deposits as you like into a vault, as long as you have the resources to pay the bill when we send you the eIT!

A reminder on how to structure your data:
https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/research-support/research-data-service/after/datavault/prepare-datavault/structure

 Ensuring good stewardship of your data through the review process

Another great feature that’s now up and running is the review process notification system, and the accompanying dashboard which allows the curators to implement decisions about retaining or deleting data.

Vault owners should receive an email when the chosen review date is six months away, seeking your involvement in the review process. The email will provide you with the information you need about when the funder’s minimum retention period (if there is one) expires, and how to access the vault. Don’t worry if you think you might have moved on by then; the system is designed to allow the University to implement good stewardship of all the data vaults, even when the Principal Investigator (PI) is no longer contactable. Our curators use a review dashboard to see all vaults whose review dates are approaching, and who the Nominated Data Managers (NDMs) are. In the absence of the Owner, the system notifies the NDMs instead. We will consult with the NDMs or the School about the vault, to ensure all deposits that should be deleted are deleted in good time, and all deposits that should be kept longer are kept safe and sound and still accessible to all authorised users.

DataVault Review Process:
https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/research-support/research-data-service/after/datavault/review-process 

The new max. deposit size of 10 TB is equivalent to over five million images of around 2 MB each – that’s one selfie for every person in Scotland. Image: A selfie on the cliffs at Bell Hill, St Abbs
cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Walter Baxter – geograph.org.uk/p/5967905

Pauline Ward
Research Data Support Assistant
Library & University Collections

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DataVault user roles let you share access to archived data

The Edinburgh DataVault is a secure long-term retention solution for research data.

Thanks to the hard work of our software developers in the Digital Library and EDINA, the Edinburgh DataVault now facilitates five different user roles. This means busy PIs can delegate the work of depositing and retrieving data, to members of their team or other collaborators within the University. It also allows PIs to nominate support staff to deposit and retrieve data on their behalf, or grant access to new members of their team.

Diagram representing a PI and two postdocs using the roles of Owner and Nominated Data Manager to share access to data in the DataVault

There are five user roles:

  • Data Owner
    Usually the Principal Investigator. Can add/remove other users to their vault(s).
  • Nominated Data Manager (of a given vault)
    Can view and edit metadata fields, deposit data and retrieve any deposit in the vault. May add/remove Depositors to the vault.
  • Depositor (of a given vault)
    Can view the vault contents, deposit data and retrieve any deposit in the vault.
  • School Support Officer
    Acting on behalf of the Head of School, may view all vaults and associated deposits belonging to the School.
  • School Data Manager
    Assigned only with the express permission of the Head of School, may view, deposit into and retrieve data from any vault belonging to the School.

Full details of the permissions associated with each role:
Roles and permissions

Support staff who need to view reporting data for their School, or admin access to their School’s vaults, should attend our training – Edinburgh DataVault: supporting users archiving their research data.

Further information on why and how to use the DataVault is available on the Research Data Service website:
DataVault long-term retention

If you have any questions about using DataVault please don’t hesitate to contact the Research Data Support team at data-support@ed.ac.uk.

Pauline Ward, Research Data Support Assistant
Library and University Collections
@PaulineData

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Research Data Workshops: DataVault Summary

Having soft-launched the DataVault facility in early 2019, the Research Data Support team -with the support of the project board – held five workshops in different colleges and locations to find out what the user community thought about it. This post summarises what we learned from participants, who were made up roughly equally of researchers (mainly staff) and support professionals (mainly computing officers based in the Schools and Colleges).

Each workshop began with presentations and a demonstration by Research Data Service staff, explaining the rationale of the DataVault, what it should and should not be used for, how it works, how the University will handle long-term management of data assets deposited in the DataVault, and practicalities such as how to recover costs through grant proposals or get assistance to deposit.

After a networking lunch we held discussion groups, covering topics such as prioritisation of features and functionality, roles such as the university as data asset owner, and the nature of the costs (price).

The team was relieved to learn that the majority (albeit from a somewhat self-selecting sample) agreed that the service fulfilled a real need; some data does need to be kept securely for a named period to comply with research funders’ rules, and participants welcomed a centralised platform to do this. The levels of usability and functionality we have managed to reach so far were met with somewhat less approval: clearly the development team has more work to do, and we are glad to have won further funding from the Digital Research Services programme in 2019-2020 in order to do it.

Attitudes toward university ownership of data assets was also a mixed bag; some were sceptical and wondered if researchers would participate in such a scheme, but others found it a realistic option for dealing with staff turnover and the inevitability of data outlasting data owners. Attitudes toward cost were largely accepting (the DataVault provides a cheaper alternative than our baseline DataStore disk storage), but concerns about the safekeeping of legacy and unfunded research data were raised at each workshop.

A sample of points raised follows:

  • Utility? “Everyone I know has everything on OneDrive.”
  • Regarding prioritisation of features – security first; file integrity first; putting data from other sources than DataStore; facilitating larger deposit sizes; ease of use.
  • Quickness of deposit and retrieval? Deposit was deemed more important to be quick than retrieval.
  • University as data asset owner?
    • Under GDPR the data are already university assets (because the Uni is the data controller).
    • People who manage the data should be close to the research; IT people can manage users but shouldn’t be making decisions about data. Danger that because it’s related to IT it gets dumped on IT officers. The formal review process helps to ensure decisions will be made properly. Include flexibility into the review hierarchy to allow for variation in school infrastructure.
    • When I heard that I was – not shocked – but concerned. If I move to another university how do I get access? This might be a problem. Researchers might prefer to retain three copies themselves.
  • Is the cost recovery mechanism valid?
    • Vault costs are legitimate costs.
    • Ideally should come from grant overheads, until then need to charge.
    • Possible to charge for small / medium/large project at start rather than per TB?
  • Is the 100 GB threshold sufficient for unfunded research? How else could unfunded or legacy data be covered (who pays)?
    • Alumni sponsor a dataset scheme?
    • There will be people with a ‘whole bunch of data somewhere’ that would be more appropriately stored in DataVault.

The team is grateful to all of the workshop participants for their time and thoughts; the report will be considered further by the project board and the Research Data Service Steering Group members. The full set of workshop notes are colour-coded to show comments from different venues and are available to read on the RDM wiki, for anyone with a University log-in (EASE).


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

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