RDMF19 – Costing Data Management


We can all agree that the focused management of research data can have significant benefits, not only for researchers but also for institutions and wider society. However, when it comes to the nitty gritty of how to cost this, things get a bit more tricky. How can we be sure that all the necessary steps for effective RDM have been accounted for, and how can we know what funders will and will not cover? These were the questions that framed the reprisal of the DCC’s Research Data Management Forum (RDMF), held at The British Library in London this September.

The day-long event - open to all comers from the data community - was divided into three. The first morning session focused on funders, with speakers from bodies both inside and outside the UK in attendance. Presentations from the Health Research Board Ireland, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, and the Research Council of Norway described the approaches these organisations take in determining how data management procedures can be factored into funding costs. Of particular interest was comparing the aspects of RDM that each organisation does and doesn’t generally cover, and the stages at which they expect completed data management plans to be produced by funded researchers. There were some key insights into how funding bodies are seeking to incorporate the principles of open science into their  policies in an effort to change the culture, encouraging researchers and institutions to consider RDM costings at all stages of the research lifecycle.

A quick turnaround after coffee saw the institutional representatives take centre stage; five speakers from the University of Manchester, Utrecht University, University of Helsinki, TU Delft, and the UK Data Service presented. Broadly, each outlined the practical steps their institutions have taken, both to help their researchers incorporate data management planning into their projects, and to put in place structures to support them in the curation of their research data. A presentation on the RDM costing tool developed by TU Delft and a case study from the University of Helsinki’s Mari Elisa Kuusniemi on the sometimes excessive expectations put on data stewards were particular highlights.

After lunch, a series of breakout groups were formed, each tackling a different topic. In-depth discussions revolved around changing the culture when it comes to factoring in RDM costs, the practicalities of covering costs, including how funders plan to support institutional research data manager units to monitor DMPs, and how to talk to finance professionals about RDM costing. This unconference-style session helped us get a good mix of funders, institutional representatives and other data practitioners around the metaphorical table to address some of the recurring issues from earlier presentations. Unconferences like this provide a nice shift in the normal dynamics of conference events and are something we will definitely be looking to refine and use again at future RDMFs!

All documentation from the day - speaker slides, minutes, and group notes - are available on the DCC website. On the subject of future RDMFs, keep an eye out for news updates, with the next event pencilled in for spring 2020, its theme covering RDM in arts and humanities disciplines. We hope to see you there!