Author: magdalena.getler

All RISE for Sussex

New job with lots to do.  We’ve all been there, perhaps none more so than a new RDM specialist in a new post based in the library tasked with putting together technical infrastructures to support RDM. Getting ’buy in’ from senior University management to secure resources and senior academics to use these new services is turning out to be the hard part.

I’d spent four months immersing myself in the RDM field and the current status of it at Sussex. Several initiatives have gone before me –  a policy, Library advocacy and training, my new post, a survey of researcher needs for their research data – Arkivum storage and a business case made to pilot Figshare. But there had not been a single governance structure responsible for creating an integrated service. Different departments have done their own thing and come together to collaborate when necessary. I quickly realised that I wouldn’t be able to do my job if there was no permanent structured advocacy of RDM from the top down.

I needed a process that allowed me to assess the current RDM situation at the University and to demonstrate a deficit and its worth. I needed something that would break down things that needed to get done into work packages. This would then enable me to talk about a single work package with relevant stakeholders while retaining the contextual link to overall strategy.

It was timely that the DCC were in the process of developing a tool that would help. I decided to take part in a DCC workshop to assess a product they were developing called RISE (Research Infrastructure Self-Evaluation). RISE breaks down the different aspects of RDM into 10 different sections and enables you to score your institution against core levels of proficiency.

I carried out the RISE assessment mostly on my own with some help from my manager who pointed me in the direction of many things that the university was doing in RDM. I also had help from a colleague in academic services who advised me of all the training and advocacy work her team were doing. We scored relatively low in a lot of areas which was really a blessing because it showed me that I had a lot of work to do and that there was a lot of justification in having my post in the first place!

It was timely that my manager had recently asked me to write a roadmap after completing RISE and I knew that I could base the structure of the roadmap on the RISE areas of competency.  We were both aware of other roadmaps out there which had largely been written in response to EPSRC expectations. We had missed the boat with these expectations, but they acted as a motivator to create a roadmap that would be meaningful to senior management at the university.

The RISE levels of competency helped me create aims and specific activities that needed to be carried out to meet those aims. It also helped me highlight what the university had already done in each area in the context of an overarching strategy and how these achievements could be built on. For example, the policy which we had in place for a couple of years was a big achievement, but it allowed me to highlight a need to raise awareness of it among the academic population in order to be compliant with EPSRC expectations.

Once the roadmap was finished we had a document to engage stakeholders by asking them to review relevant bits of the document. We set up a task and finish group consisting of senior staff from ITS and Research and Enterprise and research data interested academics who were invited to comment and revise sections relevant to them. We then had a final draft that we sent to the PVC for research who could see that we compiled it in collaboration and it wasn’t just the library shouting in the wilderness. He commissioned a new task and finish group to put together a business case for developing a cohesive RDM strategy with the goal of establishing an RDM steering group composed of stakeholders from all schools and relevant professional services that would report to the University’s Research and Knowledge Exchange Committee.

This whole process has taught me to not be precious about what I’ve written, people with more knowledge about a specific area will always amend or completely rewrite what you’ve said. I also learned not to be too harsh about judging where you are as this can offend people and cut off any engagement before you start. Keep things in draft for as long as possible so people are aware that what you are sending them isn’t a done deal. Getting support from key academics is really important because they highlight areas of the University that are better or worse than what anyone in professional services think.

We are in the middle of compiling the business case, so I can’t let you know how it all works out in the end. I’m very hopeful and confident that it will be a happy one. I’m not here to say that you need to use RISE, it may not be relevant to your institution or situation.  But it certainly helped me to engage with relevant senior stakeholders and to have a conversation with the right people about what we needed to do.

Open Data Panel at #IDCC16

The 11th International Digital Curation Conference is just around the corner and we are anticipating great discussions in Amsterdam in couple of weeks.

In the first of our series of preview posts, members of the Open Data Panel at IDCC – Fiona Nielsen, Marta Hoffman-Sommer, Phil Archer, Thomas Ingraham and Jeroen Rombouts – briefly explain why open data is important, what are the benefits as well as challenges to sharing research data.

Your session will focus on open data. Are there any specific messages you would like people to take away from it?

Fiona Nielsen (founder and CEO of DNAdigest and Repositive): My take-home message would be that publicly funded research data should be made available to the research community. The earlier and the more systematically you do so, the more benefit and credit you gain as a researcher among your peers and funders. Whenever research data does not hold personally identifiable information (PII) it should be made available as soon as possible. For many types of data this means that it can be published as open data along with data descriptors, metadata and helpful advice from the authors. However, in the special case of PII the access to the data will need to be managed with a governance model that matches the consent given for its use. All data descriptors, metadata and helpful advice from the authors can and should be made available as open data to maximise discoverability, accessibility and opportunities for reuse and reproducibility of results.

Marta Hoffman-Sommer (Open Science Platform at ICM University of Warsaw): I suppose we all agree that data from publicly funded research should be shared openly. What I would like to stress is how much individual researchers stand to gain from opening data – that sharing data really can be a standard part of a successful way of doing science.

Phil Archer (W3C): I wonder whether we might try and see things from the other direction a little. I am as guilty as anyone of starting from the concept of open data and saying it’s a really cool thing to do. The alternative angle is to think about what research questions you want to answer, what prompted you to want to research that specific question – quite possibly it was someone else’s work that made you think of something. OK, so if I had access to that original data, here’s how I’d be able to use it/augment it, test a new hypothesis etc. perhaps mixed with other data that I can find that already exists. It’s important to credit other people’s work of course – that’s always the carrot.

Thomas Ingraham (Publishing Editor at Open Life Science publishing platform F1000 Research): One thing I will say is that there are many arguments in favour of open research data; most focus on the altruistic benefits to other scientists and wider society, others on the direct benefits to the submitting researcher. Best bet is to go with the former if trying to convince an organization, and the latter when trying to convince individual scientists. It helps to tailor the argument to the recipient, rather than go straight for the ‘altruistic’ arguments in all cases.

Jeroen Rombouts (Director at 3TU.Datacentrum): There are many messages for the open data public but I hope that we can make it clear that we need to share if we all want to get more value out of data, to get research on higher levels. And that the people producing and sharing the data need to be rewarded for sharing and for that we need a revolution. So start publishing and citing data and develop support and incentives!

You’ll undoubtedly have looked at the programme in preparation for IDCC. Which speakers/sessions are you most looking forward to?

Fiona Nielsen: I am looking forward to the C3 session on Data sharing and reuse. There are lots of tools and best practices for research data sharing being developed around the world, including the Dataverse project (one of the presentations in C3) and similar initiatives. I think it is crucial for the advancement of research that we learn as a community what approaches work to increase incentives for sharing and reuse, so that these approaches can be built into any and all new research data publication initiatives. 

Marta Hoffman-Sommer: What I’m especially looking forward to at the conference is to gain some new insights into the management of data in the long tail of science – mostly in the B1 session (ed. Big science and the long tail), but I expect this comes up in other sessions as well.

Phil Archer: That would be the sessions around citation and linking. I’ll be also interested to hear what Susan Halford has to say.

Thomas Ingraham: Regrettably, I can only be at the conference for the Tuesday – I am especially disappointed about missing all the interesting Wednesday sessions. Thankfully, I’ll be there for Barend Mons and Andrew Sallans, definitely looking forward to their talks!

Jeroen Rombouts: I hope to take home with me opportunities for long tail data and bright ideas on developing RDM services from B1 (ed. Big science and the long tail) and A3 (ed. Research data services).

Would you like to know more? The Open Data Panel will run on Tuesday from 11:30 to 12:30. If you haven’t registered yet for the conference, book your place now.


See you soon at #IDCC15!

Our yearly International Digital Curation Conference is fast approaching and in less than a week we will be welcoming you all in more

IDCC14 Preview: Atul Butte

The 9th International Digital Curation Conference is just around the corner and we are anticipating great discussions when our international audience gather in San Francisco in February 2014.
In the second of our series of preview posts, Atul Butte fro…