A JISC-funded Managing Research Data project

Posts tagged Nick Jackson

With the Orbital project at its end, and plans for a University research information / research data service afoot, I’m reviewing the excellent work carried out by our (now-departed) developers Harry Newton and Nick Jackson – work which linked up CKAN, the Orbital ‘bridge’ application, and the Lincoln Repository (EPrints) using SWORD – described in earlier blog posts here and here.

“One important piece of work that we’re undertaking at the moment in Orbital is the facility to deposit the existence of a dataset, from CKAN and the University’s new Awards Management System (AMS), into our (EPrints) Repository via SWORD – at the same time requesting a DOI for the dataset via theDataCite API. The software at the centre of this operation is what we refer to as Orbital Bridge.”

This deposit workflow is now broadly working as it should – I think only a few tweaks would be necessary now to turn this into a working tool for the University of Lincoln.

Most urgent is the need for the University to sign up with the DataCite DOI service, which would secure a DOI for each dataset record deposited from CKAN and hence formally published by the University. This subscription should form part of the new research information service.

The underlying code could be used for other SWORD-enabled deposit from sources of metadata (e.g. the Library’s discovery system, Find it at Lincoln), to the Lincoln Repository as the University’s bibliographic ‘system of record’.

Warning: this is an extremely screenshot-heavy blog post! Click on any one of the screenshots below to view a larger image.

Here’s a step-by-step walkthrough of the entire process of adding a dataset to CKAN, and depositing it as a record in the Lincoln Repository.

  1. Go to the Researcher Dashboard at: https://orbital.lincoln.ac.uk/ and click on “Sign In”.
    Screenshot from the Researcher Dashboard
  2. Enter your staff accountID and password to sign in to the Researcher Dashboard.
    Screenshot from the Researcher Dashboard
  3. Once you have been signed in and returned to the Researcher Dashboard, click on your name (in the top right-hand corner) and then click on “My Projects”.
    Screenshot from the Researcher Dashboard
  4. You will see an overview of your research projects – both funded projects (derived from the AMS), and unfunded projects you have added locally. Click on the name of the project you want to add data to.
    Screenshot from the Researcher Dashboard
  5. You will be taken to a page for that research project. On the right-hand side of this page, under the heading “Options”, click on “Create Research Data Environment”.
    Screenshot from the Researcher DashboardImage7
  6. You will be taken to the University’s CKAN research data platform, where a page/group will have been created which corresponds to your project in the Researcher Dashboard. Sign in to CKAN using your staff accountID (there is currently no single sign-on between the Researcher Dashboard and CKAN) and password and you should be returned to the same page. However you will probably be sent instead to the CKAN home page, in which case you will have to look again for your project under the “Groups” menu.
    Screenshot from CKAN
  7. Toward the top of the project screen in CKAN, click on “Add Dataset” > “New Dataset…”.
    Screenshot from CKAN
  8. Fill in the form with information about the overall dataset, including the following fields:
    • Title
    • URL
    • License (N.B. US spelling!)
    • Description
      Screenshot from CKAN
  9. Then click on “Add Dataset”
    Screenshot from CKAN
  10. If you now click on “Further information” tab on the left-hand menu, you can add the following additional information about the dataset (this is not obvious from the initial dataset form):
    • Author
    • Author email
    • Maintainer
    • Maintainer email
    • Version
    • Summary [of changes]
      Screenshot from CKAN
  11. To attach individual data document(s)—which CKAN refers to as “resources”—to the dataset, scroll down the page and click on “Upload a file” (there are other options) > “Choose file” > “Upload”.
    Screenshot from CKAN
  12. Then fill in the form with the following basic information about the “resource”:
    • Name
    • Description
    • Format
    • Resource Type
    • Datastore enabled (ticked by default)
    • Mimetype
    • Mimetype (Inner)
    • “Extra Fields” (user-defined, or used by Orbital)
      Screenshot from CKAN
  13. To deposit a record for this dataset in the Lincoln Repository, go back to the Orbital Researcher Dashboard at: https://orbital.lincoln.ac.uk/ and navigate to your project. Toward the bottom left of the page you should now see a table containing the dataset(s) you have created in CKAN for this project. Choose which dataset you want to deposit, and hit the “Publish to Lincoln Repository” button.
    Screenshot from the Researcher Dashboard
  14. The Researcher Dashboard will then display a deposit form containing the following fields (some of which should be being autopopulated from CKAN fields but which do not appear to be):
    • Title
    • Description
    • Type of Data
    • Keywords
    • Subjects
    • Divisions
    • Metadata visibility [Show|Hide]
    • People
      Screenshot from the Researcher Dashboard
      “Publishing will publicly announce the existence of your dataset on the Lincoln Repository, as well as start the process of long-term preservation of your data.“Usually you should only publish a dataset either at the end of a research project, or if the data is being cited in a paper. Publishing a dataset will place some restrictions on the changes you can make to the dataset in the future, such as removing your ability to delete the data. It will also generate a DOI, which allows your dataset to be uniquely identified and located using a simple identifier.“Please check the information in this form and make any necessary changes, as this is the information which will be entered into the published record of the dataset.“If you have any questions about this process please contact a member of the research services team for advice or assistance.”
  15. When you hit the “Publish Dataset” button, the dataset record from CKAN will be used to create a record in the Lincoln Repository. The record will be submitted for review by the Repository team, who will then make it live. N.B. for the time being, you will see an error “Validation errors: [doi] is a required string” – this happens because the University does not currently have access to the live DataCite DOI service, which would secure a DOI for each dataset record deposited from CKAN. This should form part of the new research information service.
    Screenshot from the Researcher Dashboard
  16. Here’s an example of a record in the Lincoln Repository, created from a CKAN dataset and made live by the Repository team.
    Screenshot from the Lincoln Repository

Problems with the deposit process as it currently stands:

  1. Permissions are not correctly cascaded from a project the Researcher Dashboard to a group in CKAN.
  2. There is currently no single sign-on between the Researcher Dashboard and CKAN.
  3. When CKAN challenges a user to log in to a group, they should be redirected back to the group page after logging in – instead they get sent back to the CKAN home page, in which case they will have to look again for their project under the “Groups” menu.
  4. A minor one – in CKAN “License” (noun) appears in US spelling (should be “Licence”).
  5. In order to add all the information needed to deposit a dataset from CKAN, user has to click  “Further information” tab on the left-hand menu (this is not obvious from the initial dataset form).
  6. Some of the field labels in CKAN are a bit opaque or use technical terms (“Mimetype”) which could do with explanation.
  7. When depositing to EPrints, some of the deposit fields should be being autopopulated from CKAN fields – this does not appear to be happening. The fields affected are:
    • “Description” (could be derived from CKAN dataset/resource Description fields)
    • “Type of Data” (could be derived from CKAN resource Format field)
  8. Repository records created from CKAN have the data “Creator” attached, but not the “Maintainer”.
  9. Repository records created from CKAN don’t have a link back to the CKAN dataset (should go in the EPrints “Official URL” field) – this will be required to provide access to the data.
  10. After deposit, users see the error message “Validation errors: [doi] is a required string” – the University does not currently have access to the live DataCite DOI service, which would secure a DOI for each dataset record deposited from CKAN.

Introduction

The Orbital Implementation Plan (WP6) is intended to be a synthesis of our initial user requirements gathering (WP5), an assessment of Engineering research data (WP9), an evaluation of standards and technologies (WP10), informed by a literature review of previous work relevant to the Research Data Management (RDM) domain as it relates the discipline of Engineering (WP4).

Therefore, appended to this Implementation Plan is: i) a Technical Specification based on user requirements; ii) a Literature Review; iii) a summary of an institution-wide survey based on the Data Asset Framework; iv) and a draft Research Data Management Policy for the University of Lincoln (WP7), which is currently under-going internal review.

The Implementation Plan has been written at exactly a third of the way into the Orbital project (six months), allowing for a further year of development based on the work brought together in this document. It is worth repeating the objectives of the project, as stated in the Project Plan:

We intend to build on our previous work around the deposit, management and access to university research as well as further existing work in which we are building a platform for data-driven services at the university.

Throughout this undertaking, we aim to improve our understanding of the issues around research data management; develop the requisite skills among the university community to better manage research data; re-use and develop some of the underlying tools we have built to provide an institution-wide service for the ingest, description, preservation and dissemination of research data; improve the way we work on such projects, refining our use of agile methods; build capacity for the local development of academic technologies at the university; develop and implement appropriate institutional policy for the deposit, management and sharing of research data; and develop a Business Plan for the university for the long-term sustainability of our research data.

Our work to-date has pursued many of these objectives closely, reflecting continued effort over the last six months, both inside and outside the project, to build on previous work by using institutional data to drive application development; to improve our methods of access and identity management; and develop an environment that fosters and supports in-house innovation.

This planning document is primarily intended to support the technical implementation of the Orbital application to manage research data at the University of Lincoln. What it does not address is the training to support the use of the application (WP11), nor the Business Case for sustaining the pilot service (WP13), which we are implementing. However, some preliminary work is underway to consider appropriate business models for sustaining Orbital as open source software and we believe that the technical decisions laid out in this Implementation Plan will support the development of a sustainable Business Case for Orbital. This area of work continues and the outcomes are due to be delivered towards the end of the project.

What follows is a brief summary of the appended Technical Specification and Literature Review. I would like to thank Nick Jackson and Paul Stainthorp for their work on these documents, which have brought clarity to the Orbital project and contributed to a much better understanding of RDM at the University of Lincoln.

Joss Winn, Orbital Project Manager, 2nd April 2012.

Literature Review

The management of research data is recognised as one of the most pressing challenges facing the higher education and research sectors. Research data generated by publicly-funded research is seen as a public good and should be available for verification and re-use. In recognition of this principle, all UK Research Councils require their grant holders to manage and retain their research data for re-use, unless there are specific and valid reasons not to do so. (JISC Managing Research Data Programme 2011-13).

To gain a clearer understanding of the more complex and unfamiliar concepts in the emerging discipline of Research Data Management, the Orbital project conducted a review of published literature on the subject (mainly web sites, project reports and guidance documents), with particular reference to RDM in the discipline of engineering.

An online Research Data Management bibliography is being maintained at: http://lncn.eu/bcf6

The project team identified the following nine themes in the literature – for each theme, a recommendation is made which will support the development of RDM infrastructure at the University of Lincoln.

1. Fundamentals of research data and RDM

Researchers are not a homogeneous group, and their data needs are changing as the research landscape becomes more complex. Recommendation: the Orbital project continue its work to assess the storage and other requirements of Lincoln researchers using surveys and interviews.

2. Particular requirements of the discipline of engineering

The ERIM (Engineering Research Information Management) project at the University of Bath has specified the first ever set of RDM principles and terminology designed specifically for engineers. Recommendation: the Orbital continue to work with the Bath team on implementing ERIM’s findings.

3. The behaviour of researchers

What motivates researchers to invest in RDM is not the same as what motivates their institutions. Recommendation: Orbital to use surveys and interviews to understand researchers’ requirements and develop appropriate advocacy materials.

4. RDM policies and legal aspects

All UK Research Councils are introducing mandates for data curation, and in some cases data publication. Recommendation: the Orbital team to support the University’s response to the imminently required EPSRC data policy roadmap and to help develop institutional policies.

5. Data sharing

Research data are at their most useful when they are interoperable with other data. Sharing data leads to a range of real and measurable benefits, and researchers’ interests are protected by a principle of ‘proprietary period’ of privileged access. Recommendation: Orbital work with Research & Enterprise to formulate clear policies on data sharing and licensing.

6. Costs and benefits

The most significant RDM costs for the institution occur at the data acquisition/ingest stage. Institutions that invest in RDM can expect significant benefits including new, unforeseen research activities made possible through the re-use and aggregation of data. Recommendation: Orbital provide guidance to researchers on ensuring RDM is costed into future research funding bids.

7. Curation standards, metadata and citation

Without a system for assigning citations to research data, further curation and sharing is impossible. Recommendation: Orbital incorporate the functionality of DataCite to allow Lincoln researchers to secure a DOI (Digital Object Identifier) for their data objects.

8. Technical considerations

The range of file formats involved in engineering research is a significant area of complexity. Recommendation: Orbital continue to work with Siemens, the School of Engineering, the University of Bath and the DCC to develop expertise in handling engineering data formats.

9. Tools, support and training

A range of immediately re-purposable RDM training kits and planning tools already exists. Recommendation: Orbital review the available material, and use them to design a RDM training programme for the University of Lincoln – also incorporate Data Management Planning (DMP) tools within the Orbital application.

In light of this, the initial objectives of the Orbital project were on the mark, but indicate a broad area of institutional responsibility that goes beyond scholarly communication to affect strategic areas such as recruitment and training, business intelligence and continuity, IP and income generation, as well as future curriculum design and our corresponding investment in infrastructure and estate. No small task.

Technical Approach

Our Project Plan outlined the technical approach that we originally anticipated and six months later this has not fundamentally changed. As detailed in the Technical Specification, we remain convinced of the benefits of pursuing a data-driven, API-centric model of development, using storage and access control methods that support the creation of a modular and scaleable web application that is attractive to both Users and Developers.

As we have learned from our requirements gathering and literature review, Research practices both within and across subject disciplines are varied, suggesting that over the next 12 months, the Orbital project should concentrate on developing an application that remains open and attractive to further development, rather than seeking to design a single workflow for all users’ needs – an impossible task.

We believe this approach best supports the sustained development of Orbital beyond the life of the pilot project, allowing both Researchers and software Developers to create applications for Orbital to suit the requirements of specific research disciplines at a given point in time. Likewise, an API-centric approach will also ensure that our existing and related applications, such as institutional repository software and research information systems can equally be treated as ‘users’ (producers and consumers) of Orbital.

As we outlined in our Project Plan, this approach allows us to benefit from work which continues outside the Orbital project such as that around Access and Identity Management and academic profiles, and the development of data.lincoln.ac.uk. It is also a suitable approach for the development of Orbital as open source software, which should remain simple to develop for specific user’s needs if it is to receive interest and contributions from developers outside the university.

The Technical Specification contains five core functional requirements: Projects, Workspace, Archives, Working Dataset, and Publication. A Project may result in a specific Publication(s), while the Workspace, Archives and Working Dataset allow for three non-sequential methods of data storage, manipulation and analysis. These requirements are loosely coupled to one another, but do not represent a publication workflow. Orbital is not simply intended to be a data repository, but the basis of a flexible collaborative environment for working Researchers.

Each Project acts as a conceptual container for all data and represents the ‘space’ in which administrative, descriptive and contextual metadata is captured and stored, as well as the datasets themselves. It is at the level of a Project that Orbital will interface with other systems, such as an institutional repository or research information system by storing, exchanging and publishing information according to recognised standards, such as CERIF, SWORD2, DOI, etc.

Finally, a core requirement from Orbital is that data should be stored, accessed and transported securely. Being a native web application, we have opted to implement the OAuth 2 protocol to provide secured access to all API functions over HTTPS. As such, all user applications will be treated equally and will be required to access the core Orbital APIs via this popular and mature standard for application authentication on the web. OAuth is increasingly being deployed at the University of Lincoln and work continues outside of the Orbital project to implement it as part of an institution-wide Single Sign On (SSO) architecture.

Related project blog posts

Chosen Methodology

Jenkins, build my software

Pivoting Around

Project Planning: Quality Assurance

Understanding and participating in open source culture

The Toolchain: First Pass

Tracking progress

Literature Review

An Orbital project reading list

Initial User Requirements

Meeting our users, the Engineers

Assessment of Data Sources

Research Data vs Research Data

Let’s Look At Data

Data, Data Everywhere

Gluing people together

Evaluation of standards and technologies

How the National Archives use MongoDB

Forecast: Cloudy

Piloting the cloud

Why Orbital is all about the API

Servers, Servers Everywhere

Eating your own dog food: Building a repository with API-driven development

Hello? Is it me you’re looking for?

Orbital and the OAIS reference model

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.)

(more…)

Attending: Nick Jackson, Annalisa Jones, Bev Jones, Chris Leach, Paul Stainthorp, Joss Winn

Apologies: Lee Mitchell, David Young

Agenda

  1. Review Project Plan and Workpackages
  2. Status updates: Literature Review, User Requirements Analysis, Technology/Standards evaluation
  3. Forthcoming meetings and conferences (Agile method, Open Source policy, ERIM, Engineers, OR12, DCC, Start-up)
  4. Poster, papers, website
  5. Staffing and accommodation
  6. AOB

Notes

Joss Winn (JW) reported in detail:

  • JW reported on the work done to date (mostly relating to workpackage WP1), and reported back on:
    • The successful first meeting with users from the School of Engineering
    • The first Steering Group meeting on 3 November
    • The submission of the project plan
    • The appointment of NJ as lead developer
    • The relocation of NJ and PS (part-time) to CERD’s offices to work on Orbital
  • JW ran through the project outputs and workpackages in detail, identifying deadlines – most notably the Implementation Plan, which must be submitted by February 2012, with the following four pieces of work completed by then:
    • Data sources (NJ/CL)
    • User requirements (NJ)
    • Literature review (PS/BJ/CL)
    • Technical review (NJ/JW)
  • The group discussed the further user-engagement work to be completed in workpackages WP5, including Nick Jackson’s work with the School of Engineering to assess their requirements (through workshops, questionnaires, observation, and use of the Data Asset Framework – DAF), and on a planned round-table meeting about ERIM in late January
  • ACTION (NJ): dates needs to be set for user requirements exercises.
  • ACTION (PS): Date in late January needs to be set for ERIM workshop with Engineers.
  • PS reported on the work that he and NJ have begun to benchmark against the EPrints deposit workflow (WP8). NJ will work closely with BJ on this.
  • The group discussed WP9—the planned assessment of data sources—and CL’s role as library user. There are three obvious areas where Orbital crosses over with the Library’s priorities:
    • Integration with the Library’s Discovery selection & implementation project (CL)
    • Integration with the Repository (BJ)
    • Authentication (CL)
  • The Research & Enterprise office (i.e. AJ) will lead on WP11 – developing training materials & workshops.
  • JW will carry on the work with the University’s IP manager, James Murray on the correct approach to Open Sourcing code from Orbital – WP13.
  • ACTION: JW to follow up contacts with EPrints Services and OSSWatch.
  • Dissemination (WP14):
    • PS has been invited to speak at two events in January/February. The group will aim to have a publishable conference paper ready by Summer 2012. Submit abstract to OR12 by ?.
    • NJ, PS and JW are attending the project startup meeting in Nottingham on 1-2 December; presenting a poster. Also attending the DCC roadshow in Cardiff in mid-December.
  • Any other business:
    • JW is convening a meeting (8th December) about agile software and project development methods.
  • ACTION: as many people as possible from Orbital to attend ‘agile’ meeting.