CKAN for RDM workshop

On the 18th February, we ran a workshop in London which focused on the use of CKAN for research data management. The Orbital project made the decision to use CKAN last summer and was soon followed by Bristol’s data.bris project, which is using CKAN for its discovery catalogue. Simon Price from Bristol, gave a very interesting presentation of their work with CKAN, which you can read about on their project blog.

The #CKAN4RDM workshop was fully booked with 40 delegates attending – many more than we originally anticipated. It was facilitated by Simon Hodson, the Programme Manager of JISC’s Managing Research Data programme. Following presentations from Lincoln and Bristol on our respective uses of CKAN (ours was a live demo of ‘Orbital Bridge‘), we spent the later part of the morning undertaking a requirements gathering exercise, where tables of around 8-10 people acted as different users, providing ‘stories’ (requirements) for a research data management system. The exercise was introduced in the following few slides.

This was a useful exercise regardless of the software used, but after collating all 70+ stories over lunch, we then returned to our user groups and each table worked with a CKAN expert from the Open Knowledge Foundation to discuss the existing constraints for each requirement and started to develop a gap analysis so as to identify work to be done. The output of this work can be viewed on Google docs.

Types of users
Types of users
The 'researcher' user group
The ‘researcher’ user group


There was quite a positive buzz about the day and general feedback suggested that delegates got a lot out of the event. You can read write ups from the DCC, LSE and the Datapool project at Southampton.

One of the original purposes of the workshop was research for a conference paper that I (Joss) am giving at the IASSIST conference in Cologne, in May. The abstract I submitted to the conference was as follows:

This paper offers a full and critical evaluation of the open source CKAN software <> for use as a Research Data Management (RDM) tool within a university environment. It presents a case study of CKAN’s implementation and use at the University of Lincoln, UK, and highlights its strengths and current weaknesses as an institutional Research Data Management tool. The author draws on his prior experience of implementing a mixed media Digital Asset Management system (DAM), Institutional Repository (IR) and institutional Web Content Management System (CMS), to offer an outline proposal for how CKAN can be used effectively for data analysis, storage and publishing in academia. This will be of interest to researchers, data librarians, and developers, who are responsible for the implementation of institutional RDM infrastructure. This paper is presented as part of the dissemination activities of the JISC-funded Orbital project <>.

As well as using last week’s outputs of the CKAN4RDM workshop, I’ll also be working closely with OKF staff to ensure that the evaluation is as thorough, accurate and up-to-date as possible by the time of the conference. It will focus on version 2.0 of CKAN, which is due for release soon.

I’d also like to appeal to other JISC MRD projects to send me any existing requirements documents you have produced during the course of your project. I will use the anonymised data to enrich the requirements we gathered last week. If you have such documents, please email me.

Finally, we have set up a CKAN4RDM mailing list, which anyone is welcome to join to discuss the use of CKAN within academia. One thing is clear to me: the academic community cannot expect OKF and existing CKAN developers to meet all of our requirements for research data management. We need to contribute developer time and other resource and effort to the overall CKAN open source project, just as other public sector organisations are doing.


Research Data Management Planning workshop

The following workshop is taking place tomorrow. Here’s the ‘All staff message’ inviting researchers to attend.

Staff from the Digital Curation Centre will be leading a workshop this Thursday, focused on ‘data management planning’ which is increasingly required by funding bodies. Researchers and research students are welcome to attend.

Funding bodies increasingly require grant-holders to develop and implement Data Management and Sharing Plans (DMPs). Plans typically state what data will be created and how, and outline the plans for sharing and preservation, noting what is appropriate given the nature of the data and any restrictions that may need to be applied.

This workshop will provide an overview of research data management and the role of data management planning. There are a small number of places available for researchers to attend.

Please contact Joss Winn if you wish to attend.

Workshop details:

Library UL102. Thursday 28th February.

13:00 – 13:05  Welcome and introductions
13:05 – 13:25  Research Data Management – an overview
13:25 – 13:40  An introduction to DMP Online
13:40 – 14:15  Practical exercise to identify and map research workflows using DMP template (part one)
14:15 – 14:30  Feedback
14:30 – 14:45  Coffee break
14:45 – 15:15  Practical exercise to identify and map research support services using DMP template (part two)
15:15 – 15:30  Feedback, wrap-up

Orbital at the Open Knowledge Festival #okfest

Harry and I attended the Open Knowledge Festival in Helsinki last week. Harry attended the CKAN sessions, while I was invited to be on a panel discussing ‘Immediate Access to Raw Data from Experiments’, which was part of the Open Research and Education stream of events. None of the panel members gave presentations as such, but you can read my notes and the session was recorded, too. Here’s all 46 minutes of it for your viewing pleasure.

The festival/conference was probably the best conference I’ve ever been to. It was completely sold out with 800 delegates and about 1000 participants in total. It was very international with many participants from outside the EU. It seemed like a genuine effort had been made to ensure that people from Africa, Asia and South America could attend, with some bursaries available. The conference programme, over five days, was largely crowdsourced in the run up to the event, and this made the programme very diverse, reflecting the diversity of interests people have in ‘openness’. It was also reassuring to find that despite the huge enthusiasm for openness in many aspects of public and civil society, people are also keenly aware of the challenges and issues that this raises, too, and ultimately the political ramifications of this endeavour.

The conference also seemed very well funded/sponsored, with support from the  Finish government, among many partners. The event was held at the fantastic Arabia Campus of the Aalto University, School of Art, Design and Architecture. When I visited Helsinki in 2008 for a conference about the design of learning spaces, delegates were bused up to the Arabia campus simply to see what a great place it is!

As well as participating in the above panel, I also got involved in the drafting of the ‘Open Research Data Handbook‘, which is a collaborative exercise in writing a handbook aimed at researchers who work with data. It’s my intention that the Orbital project commits some time to this and ultimately produces a Handbook useful for all researchers and possibly a variant for Lincoln researchers, too. I ensured that the authors of the Handbook are all aware of the DCC’s work as well as the various JISC-funded projects to produce training and guidance for researchers and I suspect that the Handbook will largely be a synthesis of sources which are already available.

Finally, I learned about the Panton Fellowships that the Open Knowledge Foundation have awarded this year, and both Fellows presented on their work. I think this is an excellent initiative from the OKFN to create a strong and direct tie with academia and support further research and action in our community. You can see both presentations from the Panton Fellows here and here.