Author: sarah.jones

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: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/delivering-research-data-management-services
 
* 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
 

Let the ideas flow…

Colleagues ask me what an unconference is. I say it’s playing it by ear. You come along without an agenda and see what sparks everyone’s interest on the day. I’m really excited that we’re trialling an unconference at IDCC, particularly on the last day. People are always so buzzing with ideas and inspired by Cliff Lynch’s insightful synopsis, that it’s often hard to get them out the door! This year you can bring all that enthusiasm back and focus on the key ideas to emerge.

There are lots of different types of interactive sessions that can take place:

  • Group discussions
  • Learn about / how to
  • Fishbowl dialogues
  • Show and tell
  • Knowledge café

Whether you have a task you want to work on with others, a fresh idea or solution you want to demo, or topics you want to discuss to learn from others’ experience, the unconference provides a space for you to achieve all of this. Just pitch an idea, gather like-minded souls and get cracking.

Three of us have thrown our hat in the ring to act as compares for the day: me, Peter Neish of Melbourne Uni and Adam Bell of AARNet. We don’t have a grand plan and certainly don’t have all the ideas and answers. We’re just there to help steer things along. All of you fresh recruits are what will make this happen.

As it stands there is very little structure for the day. We’ll begin standing in the plenary room – don’t get comfortable and start checking email… You need to listen up, divide into groups and start interacting! We’ll invite some pitches from people who volunteer ideas and then all vote with our feet. We’ve scheduled three parallel slots but can have more or less as the mood takes us. There are no rules.

The day will be very free-form. Tea/coffee and light bites will be available all day long. There are nominal slots for breaks and lunch but you can pause when suits. We’ll periodically pitch new ideas in the plenary room but these will also be recorded online so you can join any group at any point.

Ideas for the unconference can be put forward at any time. You can respond to this blog with a comment, add details on the inspiration boards that will be available during IDCC, or pitch ideas in the etherpad

I’m interested in comparing findings from all the new FAIR reports. There have been several studies in recent years that either investigate practice in different disciplines, make recommendations on what needs to change, or release statement of commitment to change the status quo.

  • How similar are the findings and recommendations across these studies?
  • Are there significant differences in practice/needs across disciplines & countries?
  • What can we learn from the advancements that different groups have made?
  • What are the biggest challenges that need international collaboration?

The Australasian digital preservation community are keen to explore how communities of practice can support the sharing of digital preservation knowledge and skills. Lessons could perhaps be learned from the excellent Data Curation Network in the USA or the Community of Practice which is emerging from a set of European projects and the Research Data Alliance skills group.

Undoubtedly you will also have pet projects that you want to collaborate on, cool tools to show, or things you want to teach others. Get your thinking caps on and bring what you need to the unconference. We look forward to seeing you there!

Image CC-BY: Unconference by JD Lasica

Work together, not alone: doing things the Batswana way

Botswana University Campus Appeal statue. CC-BY by Heritage Adventures

International Data Week in Botswana was unlike any conference I’ve been to before. It brought together over 820 participants from 66 countries. Botswana was represented by over 250 participants and the engagement from the wider African continent was marked and added a different dimension and richness of conversation that isn’t always present at RDA plenaries.

The conference was opened by the President of Botswana, His Excellency Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, who gave an impassioned and informed address which showed his genuine understanding and concern about data issues. Dr Masisi spoke on the importance of a knowledge-based economy and the potential for Open Data and Open Science platforms to foster regional and continental integration through collaboration. Speaking on the data marketplace, he demonstrated a commitment to actively engage in this agenda in a way that benefits the community and improves the lives of the people he serves. During the opening session we were also treated to a first-rate marimba band, an operatic rendition of the national anthem, and an infectious 20+ strong traditional dance troupe that had many of us dancing in our seats (you know who you are!). This was the first indication that we were going to be taught how to do things by the Africans.

A small group of us were lucky enough to do some sightseeing before the conference. During a city tour with Andy of Heritage Adventures we learned about the history of Botswana’s independence and the importance of peacefulness and collaboration which shone through at the conference. Botswana gained independence in June 1966, since when it has been one of the world’s fastest growing economies, averaging about 5% per annum over the past decade. There is a strong sense of community and collective action. The development of the University of Botswana campus in Gaborone is a case in point. Andy explained about the Botswana University Campus Appeal (BUCA) or “One Man, One Beast” campaign in which the people of Botswana made donations of cattle, chicken, eggs and grain to raise funds to establish a University. Launched by the President in March 1976 with an ambitious target of one million Rand, by mid-October the same year, over R800,000 had been raised and 2,700 cattle had been donated or pledged. This is commemorated on campus with a statue of a farmer driving an Ox. Limited resources need not limit achievement.

Attending the CODATA General Assembly as the UK delegate was also an eye-opening experience. I learned more about the CODATA membership model there and that it is evolving these categories and planning a recruitment drive to grow membership and ensure sustainability. Having spent the last six months considering similar issues for the Research Data Alliance to help formulate its RDA Regions proposal, I think closer collaboration is necessary. Barend Mons was elected as the new CODATA President in Gaborone. Although he will now step down from GO FAIR activities to focus on the new role, his position will inevitably raise the profile of GO FAIR in such discussions. Government investment in the Netherlands, Germany and France has led to the establishment of the GO FAIR International Support & Coordination Office (GFISCO), with each of the founding countries having its own international office to guide new and existing Implementation Networks. National budgets and investment in data is always tight and countries will undoubtedly question what value they derive from each membership. Closer cooperation and collaboration between RDA, CODATA and GO FAIR is needed to avoid competing for the same funds and pursuing overlapping agendas. It is important to define the role of each initiative and how they complement one another. We should learn from the collaborative approach of the Botswanans here.

The Botswanan flag is representative of its national values. The blue represents water, and the white-black-white bands depict the racial harmony of the people. Botswana is the continent’s longest continuous multi-party democracy, has a good human rights record and is ranked as the least corrupt country in Africa. On the journey to the CODATA General Assembly during my last day in Botswana, Joseph Wafula from Kenya spoke about how he admired the decision-making approach in the country. Leaders cannot just pass new legislation. Proposals need to be taken to the people and debated in ordinary households. This may slow down the process, but it leads to more robust and implementable policy, and as he observed, politicians shouldn’t be scared of having their ideas debated – if they are strong ideas they will be passed. It made me ashamed to think of the diversionary news tactics that are often implemented in more ‘developed’ countries to pass new legislation by the back door when people are preoccupied with other issues.

What continues to impress me about RDA is the ground-up approach to its work. This does lead to some duplication and certain groups using the forum as a publicity platform, but the equity of voice that allows any member to bring forward ideas and convene groups is an important ideal to protect. Developing solutions in an international forum not only strengthens the outputs as they are enriched by multiple perspectives, but the ideas gain validity and have increased adoption. It also helps to challenge the ‘not-invented-here’ mentality which can often lead to reinvention of wheels and misuse of public funds. Genuine collaboration, inclusivity and diversity is hard work and can be intensely frustrating, but in most cases those cross-culture and cross-domain activities are a lot of fun, enrich your own understanding, and are ultimately worth it in the end.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”   African proverb