This week sees the formal two-day launch event for the JISC Managing Research Data programme 2011–2013 (the programme which is funding Orbital). It’s being held in the National College for School Leadership, next to the University of Nottingham’s Jubilee Campus.

Unfortunately, after schlepping it from the furthest fringes of Lincolnshire (and then having to go back home for the evening), I was only able to attend a couple of hours of day 1. But it was worth it.

I arrived just in time for a workshop about a number of research data management tools developed/provided by the Digital Curation Centre (DCC). Dr Mansur Darlington, who’s acting as external assessor/consultant to the Orbital project, was also in this workshop and contributed greatly to the discussions. (My Orbital colleagues Joss Winn and Nick Jackson attended the [parallel] workshop on various JANET, Eduserv and UMF SaaS/cloud storage services.)

Slides from this workshop will be posted online. When they’re available I’ll link to them here.

The tools being discussed were:

1. DAF – the Data Asset Framework (

  • A methodology for identifying gaps in an institution’s data management practices; designed to help institutions ‘clarify their thinking’ around how they manage research data.
    • N.B. We are already planning to use this methodology within the user requirements analysis workpackage of the Orbital project.
  • DAF arose out of recommendations made in the JISC/UKOLN Dealing with Data report (2007): initially the Data Audit Framework, the name was changed because ‘Audit’ was felt to be off-putting, and not an accurate reflection of what DAF is for – now DAF = Data Asset Framework.
  • “It’s worth looking at the four DAF pilot implementation projects” (carried out in 2008), because there’s likely to be one that has subject-relevance to your #jiscmrd project. The pilot projects found that most HEIs were at a very early stage (lack of RDM infrastructure; an emphasis on needs-scoping).
    • (N.B. the ERIM project at the University of Bath [engineering] used DAF but found it rather daunting and “stopped halfway down the page”(!): since then it has been condensed from a 60-page handbook into a shorter implementation guide. However the Dublin Core-based metadata requirements for datasets in DAF are still rather complex – one suggestion is to “ask fewer questions about more things”: the University of Northampton did something like this; running their own tailored ‘mini-DAF': broadly following the DAF methodology, but tweaking it to meet their own end and the available resources.)
  • Key points:
    • Speak to lots of people in as many different roles as possible.
    • Use a variety of datagathering techniques (desk research, questionnaires, shadowing researchers, etc.)
    • Ask the DCC for tips!


  • A freely-available benchmarking tool, designed to help institutions assess strengths and weaknesses in their RDM infrastructure. Developed out of the IDMP: Integrated Data Management Planning toolkit and support project.
  • Based on a ‘three legged stool’ model'; i.e. a successful RDM infrastructure will be based on three stable ‘legs': technical infrastructure, appropriate resources (e.g. staff & skills), and commitment from the institution. An imbalance in any of these ‘legs’ leads to unstable RDM. The tool helps institutions to identify short ‘legs’ and plan to improve them. Identifying these imbalances can also be helpful in providing evidence to your institution that further investment needs to be made in a particular area.
  • CARDIO is still effectively in beta, with some tweaks still to make (and perhaps a lack of documentation?) – however some institutions have already found it useful.
  • How it works… a co-ordinator registers with the system and initiates the CARDIO assessments. (“If the scale and nature of your research data holdings isn’t known, run a DAF assessment first.”) CARDIO emails participants and asks them to rate a series of statements relating to their institution’s RDM infrastructure. Only once someone has entered their own ratings are they able to view what other people have put. Takes from 30-60 minutes for a full assessment, though it is possible to target shorter sets of questions at particular groups. CARDIO then automatically generates a [customisable] PDF report complete with charts/visualisations of the data.
  • A shorther, nine-question ‘mini-CARDIO’ is also available: see the latest issue of JISC Inform.

3. DMP Online (

  • A practical, browser-based tool which allows researchers to create and store Data Management Plans (DMPs) for research projects – increasingly, research funders explicity require a DMP (e.g. the Wellcome Trust’s policy on data management).
  • Funder- and institution-specific guidance is provided through the website, along with help (“pointers”) on filling in a DMP. Completed plans can be exported in a number of formats.
  • Researchers may also be interested in the JISC guidance document, How to develop a Data Management and Sharing Plan – complementary to DMP Online.
  • The impression I get is that DMP Online is a tool which will be of practical, day-to-day utility to researchers/groups engaged in funded projects (and to the research offices that support them), whereas the other two tools (DAF/CARDIO) are perhaps aimed more at institutions starting out on the road to developing institutional RDM policies & systems, and/or looking to improve on current practice.
  • Some interesting discussions in the workshop:
    • Can DMP Online be ‘scaled up’ to work at the level of the institution, rather than the individual researcher? (A couple of projects—at UCL and Oxford—are already looking at extending the toolkit to form a more institutional service.)
    • If DMP Online (or other similar tools) make it easier for academics to routinely create DMPs by copying/pasting boilerplate text, is there a danger that writing a DMP becomes a box-ticking exercise (less meaningful/less useful for funders if less consideration given by the researcher)?
    • “Who is qualified to peer-review DMPs!?”

More information and help on using all three of these tools can be got by emailing:

Then: a cup of tea, a quick catch-up with some colleagues, and to the road/rails again. I’ll be back tomorrow for day 2.