Author: sarah.jones

DMPonline training debrief

DMPonline training debrief


As a follow up to our DMPonline training last week, here is a summary of actions and requests for further inputs from you. Feel free to leave comments on the blog or share your views in the training Slack channel or direct to our helpdesk. We’ll prioritise work as a result. You can jump to the sections that most interest you with the links below


Conditional questions


This will be deployed to DMPonline on Wednesday 29th April between 9-11am BST. There is one small usability fix (#2476) we have included in the current release. Additions to delay email notifications (#2475) will come following the Rails v.5 upgrade. We will also add conditional questions to the template preview in that forthcoming sprint (#2487). 


We have added this to the user guide and released a video tutorial. The code also remains on the DMPonline-dev site which is our pre-production server. If you would like to trial things with colleagues there by all means do, but be aware that data is periodically overwritten and we frequently push new code there to perform User Acceptance Testing so changes will occur.


Two feature requests on conditional questions which we want to consult with you on are:


1. Adding as well as removing questions in response to a certain answers, 

The current conditional questions logic means that the most full template is loaded as standard, which may be off-putting for users. Admin users requested functionality to add a series of extra questions in response to an answer, not just remove them. If lots of additional questions are included though, users could get frustrated as they can’t see the full extent of what they will be asked and keep getting additions when they thought their DMP was nearly complete.


  • To what extent does the current functionality give you what you need? 
  • How high a priority is this feature to add, not just remove questions?

2. Adding custom email triggers depending on the departmental affiliation

Admins requested an extension to the conditional questions to adjust where email notifications are sent based on the department/school in question e.g. if a trigger is set for a large data volume, this should alert the data steward in the relevant department


  • Where should the user affiliation be derived from? The original DMP creator or person answering the question?
  • How many organisations would want to use this feature? 
  • Where does it rank in your order of priorities?

Department and School features

Two suggestions were made with respect to departments/schools which we would welcome your feedback on:


3.Allow users to have multiple departmental affiliations

Some of you were interested in users being able to have multiple affiliations. This is certainly feasible, but we would need to scope out the requirements more fully:

  • How many organisations would like multiple departmental / school affiliations 
  • Would all the contacts for every departmental affiliation be sent email notifications or requests for plan review, or would there be a primary affiliation?
  • How would these affiliations affect guidance displayed to the user?
  • What other expectations / needs do you have for this?

4. Add multiple DMP feedback email addresses, not just one generic one

Some of you were interested in being able to specify different email addresses depending on the school/department, as you have different data stewards who offer DMP feedback.The preference was for each organisation to be able to configure this themselves by School/Dept. 

  • How many organisations would like to set multiple email addresses rather than having one generic helpdesk email?
  • How and where would you like these email addresses to be displayed? On the user interface or just to be used when DMP feedback requests are emailed to admins?
  • Is this requirement covered by the planned extension of the plan review functionality?

Plan review functionality

Several aspects were also raised in regard to the DMP feedback process. We plan to extend this functionality so would like to check our current thinking with you:


5. Enhance the notifications table to support allocation and progress tracking

In the last DMPonline user group, you asked us to extend the notifications table that you see when DMPs are submitted for feedback. This will help you assign reviews across the team and track progress. We have suggested some potential columns and dropdowns but there may be other things to add e.g. date submitted, data checked by data manager. See #2365

  • To what extent do the extensions we have suggested meet your needs?
  • What dropdown status indicators are needed, if any?
  • How should the assignment work? All admins self-assign or have an ability to assign to others and notify by email?
  • Does the process of assigning DMP reviewers work (we would list all users with this privilege) or do you want separate email addresses and notifications based on the users’ school/dept affiliation?

6. Add an ‘export comments’ option on the DMP download page

As part of your plan review workflows, you sometimes want to see all the comments with the plan. It was proposed to add an option to let users download the DMP with comments, just as you can choose to include a cover page or not.

  • Is this a feature you would find useful?
  • Given that comments are sometimes discussions between researchers not just plan reviews, are we ok to expose comments?

7. Make some comments ‘sticky’ and unable to be deleted

Some comments are critical and shouldn’t be deleted. There are two aspects to this. Firstly, we think we should change the permissions so only the commenter can delete their comment. In addition we propose having a separate overall reviewer comment and set of actions that appears at a DMP-wide level, not per question. This allows you to give summary guidance and any critical actions e.g. to change the consent and data sharing plans as it breaches DPA. 

  • Is it correct to only allow users to delete their own comment?
  • Would an overall review comment field and ability to set actions be useful?
  • Could this feature remove the need to download comments? Or perhaps this review comment could be downloaded rather than all comments per question?
  • If a more formal review process and official institutional approval is needed, should this be tied to plan versioning (e.g. v.2 was reviewed and approved by the uni)

Other requests

There were several other comments which we have raised as actions:

  • We have raised a ticket to make the one-click plan creation link stable so it can be used elsewhere on your RDM support webpages (#2489)
  • We’ll add the plan ID to the coversheet on DMP download. This is a persistent URL within DMPonline so can be used as a stable reference in other systems (#2478)
  • We will update the progress bar so it doesn’t show anything when no questions have been completed ( #2480)
  • We will cache your csv download preference (comma- tab- or hash-separated) from the usage dashboard page and apply this to all downloads of users and plans (#2490)
  • We will fix the bug on sorting users by dept/school (#2491)
  • We’ll prioritise the XML download so you can make better use of DMP content (#2237)
  • Magdalena, Diana and Sarah will update funder templates. We’ll specifically look at Cancer Research UK, different calls for Swedish Research Council and the Future Leaders Fellows call. If there are others you want us to review, please let us know

Machine actionable DMP features

Our colleagues at the California Digital Library have been progressing some new features in our machine-actionable DMP work. The latest updates are available for trial on DMPonline-test. The test site does not have any of the custom, tenant branding. It’s where we trial new functionality for ongoing DMPRoadmap development and sign-off on it before we create a release and eventually deploy to DMPonline.


We encourage you to view and comment on the forthcoming features. They include:

  • An integration with the Research Organisation Registry so we are using persistent identifiers for organisations (#2339)
  • Adding project start and end dates to ‘Project details’ to conform with the RDA Common Standard for DMPs (#2409)
  • Adding a contributor tab so we can list and give credit for the different roles using the CRediT taxonomy (#2349)
  • An update to the API (#2390)

We anticipate changing some of the layouts and interface design around these features as you will see in the ticket comments. Your feedback will help us to define priorities on progressing this work and when we schedule deployment to DMPonline.


Future DMPonline training 

We were really pleased with how the training went and plan to do more. The length of the session was a little intense for us – and probably you too! As a result we plan to do shorter one-hour sessions focusing on a single feature. If there are topics you are particularly keen to see covered in this lockdown lessons series, please let us know.


Many of you had wanted to know more about the API so we’ll begin in late May with an introductory, walk-through demo where we go at a slow pace so we can all follow along in real time. We will also keep the DMPonline training slack channel open and use this for training events and possibly user groups so we can troubleshoot and talk through as you try out features.

IDCC20 unconference – get involved!

We’ll be running an unconference at IDCC again this year and have over 75 people registered for the event. Some of you have definitely been to an unconference before, but for others it is bound to be a new experience. This blog post provides an introduction on what to expect and how to get the most out of it.

What is an unconference?

An unconference is an unstructured event which is scheduled on the fly depending on the needs and interests of people on the day. The idea is to allow the attendees greater flexibility to shape the programme so they get something useful from the event. You can run group discussions, work together on creating common resources, provide tutorials and share the issues you are facing in a safe space to get advice and support from peers.

Attendees have found the unconferences we run really rewarding. It can be scary as you don’t know what will happen, but I’ve found that bringing people together and helping to facilitate discussions is enough. There is so much knowledge in the community at large that just having time and space to share questions and concerns and get insights and reassurance from others is incredibly valuable.

How do this work on the day?

On the day we will begin with pitches to create a programme. You can see some photos of how we did this in Melbourne. The audience will collectively decide which ideas to go with and when to schedule them to best suit most people’s interests.

Session will either be run by the proposer or another volunteer if the person who had the idea is uncomfortable leading. DCC and DRI staff will also be on hand to help. We’ll ensure up-to-date information is provided online once the programme is set and assist people to find the relevant breakout rooms. You decide what structure and format to adopt. These could be:

  • Group discussions
  • Knowledge café style dialogues
  • Tutorials or mini workshops to teach something
  • Demonstrations or show and tell
  • Writing sprints to develop resources
  • Rants, raves, self-help counselling sessions….

Coffee will be available all day and you are encouraged to approach the event casually. Obviously, you will get the most from contributing to breakouts, but if you’ve had enough or discover a different topic of interest which you want to discuss, by all means drop out of sessions and do your own thing.

Where can I contribute?

You can start to share ideas now if there are particular topics you want to discuss or see covered. We will also have a board at IDCC so ideas can be shared during the conference. Don’t worry if you can’t think of anything ahead of the unconference but have an idea on the day. Pitches can be made during the event too so there will always be an opportunity to contribute your ideas.

What are the rules?

There are no major rules and this can make people uncomfortable. It’s for you to determine what should be discussed, when and how. All we ask is that you are respectful to colleagues and provide a constructive and creative space for collaboration. Some tips are provided below:

  • If you have an idea you would like to discuss, propose it in advance or on the day
  • Talk to others during the conference to explain your idea. This can help you to develop the concept and get others interested. This can be particularly helpful if you have a topic you want to discuss but don’t feel you have the answers or don’t want to lead the session
  • Share your views by voting on ideas so we can define a programme that suits everyone
  • Provide a friendly space which makes it easy for others to contribute, but please don’t compel anyone to speak. Some people are shy and prefer to contribute in other ways.
  • Be creative and use the whiteboard, sticky notes and materials provided. Try to make the session interactive where possible and facilitate different styles of contribution.
  • Be understanding if others aren’t interested in your idea and it doesn’t get picked.
  • Don’t be offended if someone leaves your session early. They may have expected something else or have conflicting appointments.
  • Remember there are googledocs for the notes. People may want to leave email addresses to follow on the conversation later or to capture key links and messages.
  • Tweet / record a soundbite from the session. We will come around to record feedback from the session. 

2019: a DMP year in review

2019 was a pivotal year for DMPonline. Having introduced a new subscription model in November 2018 to sustain the DCC-led service, the last 12 months saw us develop a solid user base. This uptake has allowed us to grow the team and increase our engagem…

Different hosting options – which way forward?

The Meeting of the Waters where the Amazon river starts. The darker Rio Negro waters and the sandy Solimões take 6km to fully merge due to different temperatures & pH levels.
Over the past few months we’ve been reconsidering DMPonline hosting – should we move to Amazon Web Services or remain with the University of Edinburgh. Brexit and ensuring we can meet our Service Level Agreements were two major concerns in this decision-making process. After investigating options, we have decided to remain with University of Edinburgh hosting. This blog post outlines our thoughts.
Keeping data within Europe
With all the uncertainties surrounding Brexit and a likely no-deal crash out, Amazon hosting was part of our contingency planning. Ironically it was after a week-long conference on the Amazon river that I sat in Sao Paolo airport and debated the issues with Edinburgh Legal. It transpired that hosting on Amazon Web Services wouldn’t solve any concerns. In contrast, the DCC would be considered as an external processor and any work we do via remote access would be deemed a data transfer. In the case of a no-deal-Brexit, the University has some model clauses which we will sign with overseas clients. These uphold us to European regulations such as GDPR to ensure the same protections are granted.
Controlling hosting
Another concern we had was ensuring the DCC team has full control over deployments. Over the past few years we have been contracting out technical support to EDINA, but with the growth of the developer team, we’re moving everything in-house. If the servers go down or any technical issues occur, we want to be able to liaise on fixes directly. Since we are containerising the application, it gives us more flexibility on deployment strategy. We’ve been investigating two main hosting routes – using Edinburgh University Information Services infrastructure and
Amazon Web Services
Investigating Edinburgh infrastructure and AWS
Ray and Sam met with the Edinburgh infrastructure team to understand what options are available for local hosting. There are several routes, varying the level of central and local control. We have opted for a centrally managed virtual machine to ensure all security updates are managed by the University and we can focus on maintaining the application. The University also has a forthcoming Docker Container service which may prove useful once out of test, as we use a dockerised setup.
As part of our planning process, we also took time to deploy a basic instance of the application to AWS. This helped us understand the technical options and anticipate workloads. AWS provides a large number of services which can be put together in a variety of ways. The options are changing rapidly, which adds to the complexity. We may end up needing to commit significant developer resource to continually monitor and maintain the deployment. Customers also raised several concerns about the implications of a move to AWS in terms of data access and permissions. Both the technical deployment and the legalities seem a bit of a rabbit warren which we’d rather avoid.
Permissions for AWS
Thanks to all the subscribers who gave permission for us to host on Amazon Web Services. The contract conditions required that we obtain explicit consent, hence initiating that process so we could keep all options open. While we are not going with AWS at the moment we will keep that in reserve as part of our disaster recovery planning. 
As noted earlier, our final decision is to retain hosting at the University of Edinburgh but to redeploy on to IS infrastructure rather than work through EDINA. In the event of a no-deal-Brexit, the University has some model clauses which we will sign with overseas clients to uphold us to European regulations. We intend to change our local hosting arrangement in late 2019 / early 2020. There will be a small amount of downtime which we will announce in advance. Users will not notice any differences to the service.

Full steam ahead!

Photo byLee Hull on Unsplash
Following on from our user group last week, the DMPonline team met yesterday and has prioritised the feature requests you raised. Ray Carrick started work for the DCC on Monday so we have doubled developer effort…

Come learn with us!

Image: MOOC tutors. From left to right: Sarah Jones, Rene van Horik, Alexandra Delipalta, S. Venkat, Ellen Verbakel.
Just over a week in and we all continue to be overwhelmed by responses to our new MOOC* on Delivering Research Data Management Services. We have over 1400 learners from 116 countries and they have been very active in the discussion forum. Literally hundreds of comments and questions – and such insightful responses.
Ellen and Sarah moderated the first week of the MOOC and have been inspired to do more online teaching as a result. This week you have Rene, Sarah and Ellen answering your questions. In the first week we learnt about the basics of RDM services, the data lifecycle and making the case for support. Participants watched various videos and read case studies, then reflected on the priorities at their own institution. Forum comments show that participants found the inputs from people we interviewed useful:
I agree with Gavin that ‘well managed data leads to higher quality research’.
Dorothy Byatt
I liked the summary by Tanita Casci (Head of Research Policy at the University of Glasgow) of what good research is like: “Good research is research that is well-planned, well-executed, well-documented, and widely shared.” 
Philipp Conzett
Data Management Planning and data stewardship were key discussion points. Many funders and organisations worldwide are encouraging DMPs but there are concerns about ensuring requirements are realistic and support researchers’ practices. The data stewardship approach at Delft also raised a lot of discussion. People appreciated their emphasis on open science and found the model a great way to bridge between the various services available in the institutions, as well as between data services and research communities.
The discussion on the stakeholders provided us with lots of insights from the institutions you all work in. The overall conclusion was that there is often a lack of engagement from senior management. Many people wanted to raise awareness, especially amongst researchers. Services could also be unconnected across the institution so support staff wanted to join up provision to offer a coordinated set of RDM services.
We have a few learners from a research background too. Our course is aimed specifically at those delivering RDM services. Some lessons will be transferable to other contexts, but those wanting to learn how to manage and share data should check out parallel courses such as those noted below:
Our MOOC runs until 14th October and will run again later in the year or early 2020. Find out more at:
* A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course. Our MOOC is available on the FutureLearn platform and is free to all.

DMP inspiration down under

I’ve had a number of inspiring DMP discussions over the last few weeks, both Australian and European based. Here in Oz, funders do not require data management plans like they do in the UK and USA. This has led to the growth of quite different tools as institutions fit the DMP to local priorities.
CSIRO, QCIF and the University of Queensland all have data management tools with a strikingly similar feature set. Research Data Planner, RedBox and UQ Research Data Manager are more akin to data management systems than DMP tools. They integrate with other institutional systems and prioritise storage allocation, metadata capture and data publishing as incentives to engage researchers. It’s heartening to see that they have learned lessons from overseas – much attention has been given to streamlining questions and providing tailored guidance or pre-filled answers. This point came up at Macquarrie University too which is currently developing a DMP tool and will provide default answers that should suit most use cases. They are focusing on sensitive data as that’s the biggest risk and institutional concern. Indeed, institutions here seem very risk adverse and defensive of IP.
This prevailing institutional competitiveness is a weakeness for the data management field in my opinion. Three teams have developed very similar DMP tools while the sector as a whole would have been much better served by a coordinated national effort. Admittedly this is easier to say than do. Parallel DMPonline and DMPTool developments ran in the UK and USA for nearly 6 years before we started the DMPRoadmap partnership to have a common open source codebase from which to run each of our services.
Australian DMP tools are very impressive and there are a lot of ideas I plan to take back to inform DMPonline developments. I really like the API plug and play approach to allow organisations to join up whatever systems they have in place. I hope to coordinate a co-located workshop during the RDA Plenary on 18-20 March 2020 in Melbourne to discuss global DMP initiatives and what opportunities there are for wider collaboration. These could be around the common standard for DMP, sharing user requirements, code, developer peer exchange, training or more. If you are involved in DMP work and want to get involved please reach out to me.
There have been interesting European DMP talks over the last few weeks too. Benjamin Faure and colleagues at DMP OPIDoR in France have made a number of useful extensions to the DMPRoadmap codebase. These include one click plan creation from the public templates page, an API extension to pull out themes, and adding a dataset component to the underlying data model. We have also continued our DMPonline outreach, running drop-ins and scheduling the next user group for 17th September in London. This will follow a full day RDMF on costing data management on 16th at the British Library – register here. We are also growing the DMPonline team and held interviews for a new developer on Monday.
I’ll be giving a DMP webinar for ARDC on lessons from Europe tomorrow. Slides are available and a video is forthcoming. 

All the fun of the FAIR: FAIR WG inaugural meeting held

Re-posted from the EOSCSecretariat website
Thursday, 4 July was the inaugural meeting of the EOSC FAIR Working Group. We have 26 members representing 20 different Member States and Associated Countries and a remit which covers FAIR practice, a …

DMPonline user group: where next?

We’ve run a couple of user group sessions over the last few weeks. Many thanks to those who attended in Amsterdam and Manchester. It was particularly helpful to hear how you are using the tool and what changes you would like. The DCC team met on Monday to process your feedback and have set the following priorities:

  1. Full text API (#2086)
    You wanted an extension of the plans API to allow authorised admin users to pull out the full text of DMPs for their organisation. Sam has already developed this but it takes a long time to run in real-time so we are going to harvest the data overnight. This requires some changes to our infrastructure but we should be able to release the API later this month.
  2. Reviewer admin permission (#2087)
    It seems that many of you have multiple reviewers of plans and would like this to be a separate role that can be assigned by the org admin. We’re in the process of adding this, and will adjust our contract so you’re not paying more for multiple plan reviewers.
  3. Adding a field for School / Division / Department (#2088)
    We plan to add one field to the edit profile page for which you can name and define a controlled value list. This will allow you to identify the sub-unit affiliation of your users. In time we could extend the functionality to allow you to pull stats on this (e.g. plans by school) and to allow customisations to be done by sub-unit level. Currently it is only the guidance that works in their vein.
  4. Conditional questions (#1772)
    This is a bigger piece of feature development, which we have scheduled for the summer months. It was top priority for you so we will add it first.
  5. Custom section on funder templates (#2072)
    Many of you have the same custom section on funder templates and want to create it once and apply across all / a selection. This will be provided as a new feature in Summer 2019.
  6. Plan versioning 
    Again, this is a bigger piece of feature development, which we have scheduled for the summer months.

There were a number of smaller items raised during discussion too. These have been added as tickets (see the ‘user group’) label and will be addressed during the coming few sprints.

Other areas of interest which represent larger feature development and are to be placed into development plans have been captured on the ‘Future enhancements’ section of the wiki for now.
Manchester’s case study on using DMPonline was really inspiring and we wanted to ask how we can support others to do some similar things. We realise not everyone has development effort in-house so we wondered whether it would help if we wrote a script to send you weekly/monthly email notifications of new users and plans so you can monitor usage and start to interact with and assist users more? Let us know what you think.
We are due to push out a new release immediately after Easter. Amongst other things, this includes:
  • bug fixes for guidance / comment display when text runs outside the box
  • adjustments to comment notification so users don’t receive multiple emails when you provide feedback
  • display of themed guidance in ‘customise template’ preview
  • table-styling fixes
  • plans by template statistics

You can see these on the test site now and in live deployment soon.

All feedback welcome!
Magdalena, Diana, Sam & Sarah