I am very pleased to announce that our Research Data Management policy, which was one of the main objectives of the Orbital project, has been approved by the university’s Research Committee. The process of drafting the policy began in April 2012 as a collaborative effort between Orbital team members from the Centre for Educational Research and Development, The Library and the Research and Enterprise Office. Comments were then solicited from the Director of ICT, the Director of Research and Enterprise and the University Librarian. The draft was then presented to the Research Committee, which requested that the policy be discussed with the Senior Management Team due to its resourcing implications. This meeting took place in October 2012 and as a result, SMT requested that the College Research Directors were consulted on the Policy and agreed that a Business Case for Research Data Management (to effectively ‘underwrite’ the policy) should be put together. The Business Case was presented to SMT and accepted in January 2013. Following discussion with the Research Directors and further re-drafting, the policy was approved today.
This completes the formal objectives of the Orbital project and places us in a position where we have a Business Case, Policy and a new ‘Research Information Services’ team that is being formed to meet the expectations and aspirations of our researcher community and our funders.
I’ve been quiet—too quiet—about the Orbital project recently. While I’ve not been blogging, Joss, Nick and Harry have overseen several fairly important developments:
As Orbital-the-product (coherent set of products, really) develops, my own focus between now and the end of the project (March 2013) will be on Orbital-the-service: training, support, documentation, and implementation of RDM policy at the University of Lincoln. I’ll work closely with the Research & Enterprise department on these aspects.
As part of this strand of the project (which cuts across workpackages 7, 11, and 12), I want to consider the following:
- The current usability of ownCloud, CKAN, EPrints, etc. – what ‘sticking plaster’ help materials do we need to provide right now (if any?).
- How the production of documentation fits in to the software development release cycle (“change management“?) – particularly so in an agile/iterative environment, and how we ensure we meet our responsibility to ‘leave no feature undocumented’ as well as provide adequate contextual information on RDM. Related: I’m thinking about a four-level hierarchy of documentation (see right): how do the different levels relate to each other (how do we ensure internal consistency?), and how do we ensure all four levels are covered?
- [How] should we contribute to an (OKFN-co-ordinated) open research [data] handbook initiative (c.f. the Open Data Handbook; Data Journalism Handbook) instead of—or as well as—writing our own operational help guides? Contributing to and re-consuming community-written RDM materials will be more efficient than writing our own guidebook from scratch, but we need to make sure our local documentation is relevant to Lincoln.
- I’ve already started collated a list of other peoples’ RDM help materials (Joss has collected many more) – I’ll publish the list to this blog soon. I’ll be looking to see what we can re-use. There are some very good, openly-licensed training materials available, but I don’t want us to use them uncritically.
- How do we use our (still not-yet-accepted) RDM policy as a jumping-off point for training events?
- What did we learn from our recent(ish) Data Asset Framework exercise? How can we use researchers’ priorities as identified in the DAF to inform training? Should we re-run the exercise and/or follow it up with more detailed discussions?
- It possible/likely that we will shortly have a new member of staff to work with the Lincoln Repository and the University’s REF submission. What responsibility might that person have for RDM training and support?
Next I need to organise a meeting with the Research & Enterprise department to plan our ‘version 0.1’ training programme, possibly consisting of (i) a discussion of the issues raised in our DAF survey and people’s current RDM practice, (ii) a discussion of the RDM policy, and (iii) presentation of the various VRE tools available (CKAN, ownCloud, EPrints, DataCite, DMPOnline). We’ll probably pilot this on a group of willing PhD students in the School of Engineering.
The Orbital project team met today (24 May 2012) and agreed the following:
- User documentation will focus on the “why”s of Research Data Management, rather than being a point-and-click guide to the Orbital UI (which should not require detailed explanations).
- JW will create a changelog (human readable text file) for each major release of Orbital, so that documentation for each feature is review if that feature is updated.
- PS will lead on writing documentation (as HTML pages, stored in the GitHub repository), with documentation for release v0.N completed and available by the launch of v0.N+1
- PS will email colleagues from the Library and Research/Enterprise for assistance on writing documentation.
- JW will invite Melanie Bullock and David Sheppard on to the Orbital working group. He is meeting Annalisa Jones to discuss RDM training for staff.
- Orbital v0.1.1 (including bug fixes) met all of the initial ‘minimum viable product‘ requirements specified by Dr Tom Duckett, and also includes the basics of project administration.
- v0.2 will include improvements to the file upload/management, project management, and license management interfaces, as well as clearer distinction between language files and operating code.
- NJ demoed the current version of Orbital to Siemens staff. He now has access to Siemens machine data for testing within Orbital.
- The group discussed the LNCD plans for internal servers/private cloud, and about the disk space requirements and costs.
- The current version of the DMPOnline tool has been installed on a test server. The group discussed our approach to integration between external tools/software (such as DMPOnline, R, Gephi) and Orbital.
- NJ is going to email Adrian Richardson at the DCC to ask when the DMPOnline APIs will become available.
- RDM policy
- JW presented the draft policy to the University RIEC committee. The committee have been asked to send comments to Joss. (One comment at the committee meeting was that our having a policy too geared around the requirements of the Research Councils may not be appropriate for Lincoln, which generates a lot of non-RC income. However it was noted that the good practice specified by the RCs is good practice for management of all research data, whatever the funding source.)
- Conferences and meetings
- The group discussed the recent DAF survey which we conducted at the University of Lincoln.
- JW will convene a sub-group to consider the responses in detail, and plan follow-up interviews.
- Business case
- JW is currently gathering costs for long-term data storage. This will form the first strand of the Orbital business case, which will be presented to University SMT (along with the agreed RDM policy) in September 2012.
It feels like there’s been quite a lot coming together recently. Here’s what we’re working on:
- A draft RDM policy (WP7)
- Our Implementation Plan (WP6), which includes our Literature Review (WP4), initial user requirements analysis (WP5), our technical evaluation (WP10), and assessment of data sources (WP9). All of this goes to the Steering Group tomorrow and all being well, will be posted on this project blog a day or two later.
- A DAF-based survey (23 questions) of researchers’ data management practices and requirements. We’ve asked all Engineering academics to complete this via the Head of School; we’ve sent a request to all Research Directors in the university to encourage their academic colleagues to complete the survey, and have also advertised it to all staff on three occasions this week via the daily all staff alerts. So far, 28 people have completed it (about 5% of staff on academic contacts). We’ll continue to push this after the Easter break and publish a summary once we think we’ve exhausted our chances of staff filling it in on mass. Probably later in the month.
- Harry Newton joined us as a second Developer, working with Nick Jackson. Harry graduated with an MSc in Computer Science from Lincoln last year. He’s been ‘bedding in’ this week and started working on adding ‘projects’ functionality to Orbital.
- A release date for v0.1 of the Orbital software is May 1st. A couple of weeks ago, a Robotics researcher asked us if we could help him publish his datasets (20GB). We did so, offering him server space, guidance on his choice of license and a proxy URL to use for citation. It made us realise that there’s probably quite a few researchers like him that just need to get data on the web for citation purposes, so we thought we’d aim to have something permanently in place for the university by May 1st. Functionality for the v0.1 release will be: secure login, basic project creation and deletion, file upload, license picker, publish to permanent URL for citation. We think this is the bare minimum needed for a researcher to publish open research data so that it is permanently citable. From May 1st, we’ll maintain a working system on which to base discussions with users about additional functionality. For the time-being, researchers wishing to upload data will have to discuss it with us first.
- We’re on the list of testers for the new DataCite API and have registered with ORCID, too, which has a mock API for testing against.
- We’re helping organise the JISC MRD/DevCSI MRD Hackday on May 2-3rd, when we hope to be able to demo this work and talk about the implementation in detail. Fingers crossed.