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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Reflections on Repository Fringe 2017

The following is a guest post by Mick Eadie, Research Information Management Officer at University of Glasgow, on his impressions of Repository Fringe 2017.

Capture1From the Arts

The first day afternoon 10×10 (lightning talk) sessions had many of the presentations on Research Data topics.  We heard talks about repositories in the arts; evolving research data policy at national and pan-national level; and archival storage and integrations between research data repositories and other systems like Archivematica, EPrints and Pure.

Repositories and their use in managing research data in the arts was kicked off with Nicola Siminson from the Glasgow School of Art with her talk on What RADAR did next: developing a peer review process for research plans.  Nicola explained how EPrints has been developed to maximise the value of research data content at GSA by making it more visually appealing and better able to deal with a multitude of non-text based objects and artefacts.   She then outlined GSA’s recently developed Annual Research Planning (ARP) tool which is an EPrints add-on that allows the researcher to provide information on their current and planned research activities and potential impact.

GSA have built on this functionality to enable the peer-reviewing of ARPs, which means they can be shared and commented on by others.   This has led to significant uptake in the use of the repository by researchers as they are keen to keep their research profile up-to-date, which has in turn raised the repository profile and increased data deposits.  There are also likely to be cost-benefits to the institution by using an existing system to help to manage research information as well as outputs, as it keeps content accessible from one place and means the School doesn’t need to procure separate systems.

On Policy

We heard from Martin Donnelly from the DCC on National Open Data and Open Science Policies in Europe.  Martin talked about the work done by the DCC and SPARC Europe in assessing policies from across Europe to assess the methodologies used by countries and funders to promote the concept of Open Data across the continent.   They found some interesting variants across countries: some funder driven, others more national directives, plans and roadmaps.  It was interesting to see how a consensus was emerging around best practice and how the EU through its Horizon 2020 Open Research Data Pilot seemed to be emerging as a driver for increased take up and action.

Storage, Preservation and Integration

No research data day would be complete without discussing archival storage and preservation.  Pauline Ward from Edinburgh University gave us an update on Edinburgh DataVault: Local implementation of Jisc DataVault: the value of testing. She highlighted the initial work done at national level by Jisc and the research data Spring project, and went on to discuss the University of Edinburgh’s local version of Data Vault which integrates with their CRIS system (Pure) – allowing a once only upload of the data which links to metadata in the CRIS and creates an archival version of the data.  Pauline also hinted at future integration with DropBox which will be interesting to see develop.

Alan Morrison from the University of Strathclyde continued on the systems integration and preservation theme by giving as assessment of Data Management & Preservation using PURE and Archivematica. He gave us the background to Strathclyde’s systems and workflows between Pure and Archivematica, highlighting some interesting challenges in dealing with file-formats in the STEM subjects which are often proprietary and non-standard.

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Research Data Management Forum: Third meeting – 28/03/2017

Harkening back to a bygone era of libraries, when books were printed on paper and research data management meant not accidentally burning your notes with your candle, the third meeting of the university RDM forum was held in the impressively aged Old Library in Geography’s Old Infirmary building at the end of March.

As a regular participant, I find the RDM forum is a very useful platform for everyone who has an interest in supporting research data management. It is an opportunity for me to update myself on the support and services that the university has in place in this area, to ask the daft questions but get a sensible answer and more generally, to meet the others in the university who are working in the same area as myself and face the same issues and challenges.

This edition of the RDM forum was no different. After a quick introduction of the participants, Cuna, leading the forum, took us through the following agenda:

  • Cuna Ekmekcioglu – RDM update
  • Dominic Tate – DataVault update
  • Pauline Ward – DataShare new features
  • Cuna Ekmekcioglu – development of Data Safe Haven

The session began with the RDM update which went into detail about the RDM Sharepoint site and some of the tools and documents that have been uploaded to the site. There are some useful threads looking to collect information about the different types of data that we have, as well as some guidance on recording datasets in PURE, RDM journey flowchart and sample Data Management Plans amongst other things. The Sharepoint site can be accessed by request, and can be found here: https://uoe.sharepoint.com/sites/rdmforum (access is only for UoE staff and students).

We had updates on the existing services such as DataShare and details about the development of both DataVault and the future Data Safe Haven, a system which will allow the storage and analysis of very sensitive data. There were some discussions around the new systems and practical issues such as cost and training/guidance for the new services.

It was a very worthwhile event and I shall be looking forward to the next forum.

Michelle O’Hara
Research Data & Information Officer
School of Social and Political Science

 

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Research Data Management (RDM) Forum

RDM Forum is a newly created platform to bring together both researchers and research & IT support staff from across the University whose role involves helping academics in managing their research data. The aim of the Forum is to share good practice, exchange experiences as well as discuss current and future challenges related to data curation, preservation and publishing. We hope that the Forum will allow its participants to learn from one another and gain a new perspective on some common issues.

The Forum takes the form of meetings as well as e-mail updates (done through the RDM Forum mailing list) and an online platform (SharePoint website) for sharing useful resources, engaging with each other and keeping up-to-date with recent developments in RDM.

The first meeting took place on 7th September 2016. There were 24 in attendance and participants had the opportunity to introduce themselves, ask questions, and provide their expectations and suggestions for future RDM Forum meetings, which have been summarised below:

  • Overcoming challenges:
    • Supporting academic engagement
    • Going beyond funder requirements
    • Engagement beyond training
    • Avoiding last-minute arrangements
    • Addressing concerns about data sharing and reuse
  • Finding solutions that will work
    • Early training
    • Establishing workflows for standard processes
    • Developing an Information Governance structure for data
    • Sharing real-life scenarios
  • Forum structure
    • Forming several user groups focused on specific aspects of RDM
    • Organising meetings around specific themes
    • Updates from Research Data Service team
    • Forum as a platform for training
    • Forum to meet every two months at different locations

The Forum is only open to the University of Edinburgh staff and postgraduate research students. If you are interested in joining the Forum mailing list you can do so at: https://mlist.is.ed.ac.uk/lists/info/rdm-forum
RDM Forum SharePoint website (access by request) is available at:
https://uoe.sharepoint.com/sites/rdmforum

Cuna Ekmekcioglu
Senior Research Data Officer

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