A JISC-funded Managing Research Data project

Posts tagged MRD

I’m immensely excited that the following Grade 7 developer job at the University of Lincoln (initially for a fixed term of two years) is now open for applications. Please contact me if you’d like to discuss the role. If you don’t know Lincoln, it’s an interesting, historic small city and the University’s waterside Brayford Pool campus is a very nice place to work.

You can download the job description document, and apply online, at:


Research Information Services Developer

Brayford Library Team

Location: Brayford
Salary: From £30,424 per annum
This post is fixed term for two years
Closing Date: Sunday 30 June 2013
Reference: LR4068

We are seeking to appoint an innovative and enthusiastic software developer, with demonstrable experience and understanding of research in an HE environment.

Based in the Library, and reporting to the Head of Electronic Library Services, this exciting new role will lead on coordinating and developing the University’s services and resources for the researcher community, including support for Open Access publishing and research data management.

You can expect to contribute towards significant institutional change in the way research information and research data is managed, analysed and disseminated at the University of Lincoln.

Working closely with other colleagues within the Library, ICT and the Research Office, you will be responsible for leading the technical design and development of research information services at Lincoln, including research data management, bibliometrics and research intelligence, research dashboarding, and the University’s Institutional Repository.

You must have an excellent understanding of the technologies and programming languages used in developing data-driven web services to support research. You will also have successfully managed projects, have good communication skills, and enjoy working as a member of a team in a busy environment.

You must able to take initiative, be well organised and have a proven ability to prioritise and meet tight deadlines. A familiarity with the current UK research environment is also essential.

Potential applicants are encouraged to contact Paul Stainthorp <pstainthorp@lincoln.ac.uk>for an informal discussion on 01522 886 193 or pstainthorp@lincoln.ac.uk.

The final within-project version of the Orbital Research Data Management training materials are now live on the Orbital Researcher Dashboard website. They have been written collaboratively by the Orbital project team, and draw on a lot of existing RDM training and guidance material from across the web (in particular, from the DCC).

We intend that these materials will continue to be maintained and developed as part of the new University-wide research information service mentioned in a previous blog post.

Screenshot of the Researcher Dashboard

The training materials can be accessed at https://orbital.lincoln.ac.uk/ and cover the following areas:

  1. What is research data?
  2. The research data lifecycle
  3. Policies affecting your research data
  4. Data Management Planning (DMP)
  5. Data search and discovery tools
  6. Data storage and security
  7. Legal and ethical issues
  8. Tools for working with your data
  9. Data publishing and citation
  10. Licences for sharing your data
  11. Data curation and preservation
  12. Workshops and training events
  13. Help and support

The source text for each page is stored in an open Github repository (at http://github.com/unilincoln/rdm) in Markdown format. The page admin tools in the Researcher Dashboard can then be used to link to the source document, which is then formatted in the University’s Common Web Design.

These web pages will be used to support the ongoing RDM training for postgraduate students, which will shortly be rolled out to University staff.

As part of the JISC-funded Orbital project, we are starting to offer introductory training to (initially) postgraduate students, on how to look after their research data.

The first workshop is on 23 January 2013 at 10.00 in the Graduate School classroom, and there are further workshops every couple of weeks throughout 2013.

I’ll be arranging further workshops aimed more at staff in due course.


The Graduate School – University of Lincoln Multiple dates throughout 2013

Research data management is an important part of the research process, and a vital part of academic practice. This one-hour workshop will include a presentation and discussion of what you should consider when creating, looking after, and sharing/publishing your research data.

The workshop will cover:

  • What do we mean by research data?
  • Policies affecting your data
  • Data Management Planning (DMP)
  • The research data lifecycle
  • Practical tools for looking after your data
  • Data publishing and citation
  • Where to go for help

Postgraduate students can book a place on a workshop, online at: http://uolresearchdata.eventbrite.co.uk/

Note of apology: early in December 2011 we attended the launch event of the JISC Managing Research Data programme at the National College for School Leadership in Nottingham. I managed to blog day 1 of the event there and then. Unfortunately my notes on day 2 fell into an abyss. Here they are: late, but unscathed.


The first exercise (on this second day of the programme launch event) was to examine the benefits and metrics checklists provided by the KRDS frameworks project, and to identify the benefits that Orbital will provide & that we can measure. Then to blog a first statement of the benefits we expect Orbital will generate.

KRDS = Keeping Research Data Safe

Notes from Neil Beagrie‘s presentation on the benefits analysis toolkit (which I have already blogged about at the RDMF7 event, but noted here in more detail.)

  • There are two strands to the KRDS toolkit. These tools can be combined for maximum effect (and to reduce wasted effort); tools can also be customised to specific project needs:
    1. The KRDS Benefits Framework (guide + worksheet)
    2. The KRDS/I2S2 value chain and benefit impact tool (guide + impact statement + impact analysis worksheet)
  • Designed for use by wide audience over the full RDM project lifecycle.
  • Conisider the KRDS Benefits Framework ‘triangle’
    • What is outcome? direct/indirect
    • When is it received? near-term/long-term
    • Who benefits? internal/external
  • Tips: quantitative benefits must be measurable (“cashable“) – if not within the project lifecycle then longer-term benchmarking… qualitative benefits could take the form of case studies (working in a team can help to tone down the subjectivity of benefit assessments. Don’t go it alone!)
  • More information at: http://beagrie.com/krds-i2s2.php
  • Previous RMD programme produced benefits report & case studies which can be useful reference points.

Practical workshop

The KRDS benefits and metrics handouts provided here were extremely useful in developing this first statement of benefits for the Orbital project.

Points from the round-table discussion:

  • Checklist v useful brainstorming exercise – not a to do list!
  • Want to do everything and world peace too
  • But how make relevant to project? Target useful examples of top-level things
  • How evidence?
  • Lack of evidence/measurement not a reason not to do it – think of a way of measuring!”
  • Don’t rely on q’aires :-)
  • Think of benefits from the programme as a whole into which orbital can feed in
  • Practical time & efficiency savings for researcher – i.e. not having to go to london with a USB in pocket
  • Similarities engineering with other applied – e.g. NHS
  • Case studies/user story – iterative method  – as user requirements change (become more mature) – that’s a way of measuring benefit!
  • Set actions for the steering group / RIEC

Benefits of Orbital

This is the list of benefits we came up with. Bear in mind, some of them are benefits specific to an MRD project, such as Orbital, but some of benefits of any large project where the institution has a vested interest. Note that some of these can also be found in the ‘Anticipated Outputs and Outcomes’ section of our Project Plan. As Joss mentions in the post on awareness of open source, not all benefits can be anticipated and there may be outcomes of the project, which are quite tangential to the original objectives. We especially look forward to those!

  • Very mention of Orbital attracting expressions of interest from research staff applying for funding. Researchers have to consider RDM when writing bids. We’re doing their work for them!
  • Knock on effect on other university services: authentication, repository, staff profiles, cloud computing, software development environment and methodology, open source awareness and guidance.
  • Supports the development of RDM plans and policies.
  • MRD programme activity is akin to staff training and development of a community of practice.
  • Combines and improves our understanding about research administration, research methods, research data and research outputs.
  • Changes to researcher practices. Improves RDM practices.
  • Should reduce institutional risk (legal liabilities of commercial contracts)
  • Simplifies collaboration among researchers
  • Produces open source software for re-use
  • Provides rapid access to results and derived data
  • Increases awareness of support among researchers. e.g. Aids grant writing.
  • Produces reliable citations of research data
  • Embeds institutional support and training
  • No recreation of existing data. Better security, greater efficiency.
  • Improved version control and transparency.
  • Improved understanding of research methods.
  • Further thinking about and planning for the sustainability of institution-wide services. Who pays?

Long day on the trainI’ve been at the University of Warwick today, for a workshop organised by the Digital Curation Centre (DCC), entitled RDMF7: Incentivising Data Management & Sharing. There appeared to be a wide range of attendees, from data curators & data scientists, ICT/database folk. actual researchers and academics, as well as at least one fellow library/repository rat.

Unfortunately I was only able to attend part of the event (which ran over two days). The following notes have been reconstructed from the Twitter stream (hashtag #RDMF7)!

The first speaker I heard was Ben Ryan of the funding council, the EPSRC. He talked about the “long-established” principles of responsible data management [links below]… this may be my own interpretation of Ben’s presentation, but I don’t think I was imagining undertones of “…so there’s really no excuse!“. He also covered individual and institutional motivations for taking care of data [much more about which later], policy and the enforcement of policy, dataset discoverability/metadata, funding (including the EPSRC’s expectation that institutions will make room in existing budgets to meet the costs of RDM), and embargo periods (inc. researchers’ entitlement to a period of “privileged use of the data they have collected, to enable them to publish” first – important to stress this in order to allay fears/get researchers on board?).

Some links:

Next up was Miggie Pickton, ‘queen bee’ of the University of Northampton‘s repository (and self-described RDM “novice”, indeed!), talking about their participation in the multi-institution, JISC-funded KeepIt project, which aimed to design “not one repository but many that, viewed as a whole, represent all the content types that an institutional repository might present (research papers, science data, arts, teaching materials and theses).” This work lead almost by chance to Northampton’s undertaking of a university-wide audit of its research data management processes using the DCC’s Data Asset Framework (DAF) methodology. This helped them to make the case for an institutional research data management working group and [eventually, and not without resistance] to establish a mandatory, central policy for RDM. (Show of hands at this point: how many other institutions have completed a DAF? I counted perhaps only three, Lincoln certainly not being amongst them. Q. Should the University of Lincoln complete a Data Asset Framework exercise as part of the Orbital project?)

After coffee, we heard a third presentation from Neil Beagrie of (management consultancy partnership) Charles Beagrie Ltd. Neil delivered a very comprehensive explanation of the KRDS (“Keeping Research Data Safe”) project, which has developed both an activity model and a benefits analysis toolkit for the management and preservation-of-access to ‘long-lived data’. I have to come clean here and admit that I was a little bewildered by the detail: much of it went through both ears without sticking to the brain on the way through. I need to go back over the tweets more carefully and have a look at the KRDS toolkit and reports at: beagrie.com/krds.php

The morning’s presentations over, we split into three groups for breakout discussion.

I attached myself to the second of the three groups, led by (JISC programme manager for Orbital) Simon Hodson; our job to consider the question: “What really are the sticks and carrots that will make a long-term difference to the pursuit of structured data management processes?“. After spending some time picking apart the terminology, and what each of the various ‘processes’ might include, we had a wide-ranging (and allocated-time-overrunning) discussion about the things that genuinely motivate scientists, universities, and funding councils(!) to care about RDM; about some of the problems caused by the complexity and inconsistency of metadata for datasets; also about the issue of citations/digital object identifiers for data—how those citations might be treated by publishers and citation data services—and how that relates to any notions of ‘peer review’ in experimental data.

As requested, our group came up with three actions which we believe will help address the question of motivation:

  1. Data citation – publishers should consistently include e.g. DOIs for datasets in final published articles, so that citations of the data can be measured.
  2. Measurement of RDM “maturity” – departments and whole institutions should adopt a standardised quality mark for research data management, to give [potential] researchers, funding bodies, and the public confidence in their ability to handle data appropriately.
  3. Discovery – the research councils (probably) should push for common metadata standards for describing datasets and underlying data-generating research/experimental processes.

Lunch followed, and I had time to hear two more presentations in the afternoon before I had to run for a bus:

Catherine Moyes of the Malaria Atlas Project: in effect, demonstrating what really clear and consistent management of large-scale (geo)data looks like. This seems to consist of an extremely rigorous approach to requesting, tracking, and licensing data from the contributors of the project’s data… and an equally strict (but in a good way) expectation of clarity when dealing with requests from third parties to use the data. If that all comes across as restrictive, I’d point to Catherine’s slide on ‘legalities’ of the data that the Malaria Atlas Project has released openly – it’s about as open as it gets, with no registration needed, no terms & conditions placed on re-use of the published data, and all software/artefacts released under very permissive and free licences (Creative Commons or GNU). N.B. the Orbital project should look at the Malaria Atlas Project’s “data explorer”, available via map.ox.ac.uk, as an example of a really nifty set of applications built on top of openly accessible and re-usable data.

Finally (and I’m sorry I only got to hear part of his presentation), University of So’ton chemistry professor Jeremy Frey on their IDMB (Institutional Data Management Blueprint) Project—southamptondata.org—and some rather funny anecdotes about the underlying knowledge, expectations, and problems faced by researchers managing their own data, which emerged when they were surveyed as part of the above project.

Lots to take in (lots). But some useful suggestions for Orbital, which I’ll be bringing to the next project meeting: and plenty more reading material which I’ll add to the project reading list asap.

Paul Stainthorp, lead researcher on the Orbital project.