Category: DCC News

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.
 

Come learn with us, part 3

In week 3 we looked at Data Management Plans (DMPs), existing services, and asked you to reflect on example DMP services and advice. 
 
“I also agree with some comments that in most (not all) projects the DMP at inception cannot be as detailed as it needs to be because there are too many unknowns.  This would mean that part of the original DMP should be a commitment to appropriate updates at intervals during the project. It might be wise to date the updates in advance”. Lesley Mostert
 
We examined ways to develop your own DMP webpages, and got lots of great input from learners! We are glad to see that many of you are inspired to engage with your institutions on implementing similar practices. 
 
“I was impressed by LSE and Utrecht website on DMP. Both are very clear on their here, now and future aspects of the data”. Lucy N. 
 
“As many have already mentioned, what I really like about the University of Wisconsin-Madison page is that it really makes getting in touch with the Research Data Services a no brainer. There’s just enough info, and many incentives to contact them”. Eve Paquette-Bigras
 
“Our organisation doesn’t have a RDM support page. I would advise our organisation to make a website, that just for RDM (like Utrecht and Bath) and not a website where other library services (such as bookservices and information literacy courses) are offered, together with RDM. Researchers are the ones most visiting your website to get information, so make sure they can find the information they need easily by infrastructure and content (Bath). You can use open information from other universities as well (CC BY) on your website. Graphical appearance should be taken into account”. Ingrid van Gorkum
 
We also looked at ways to develop your own RDM training, and asked learners to share dos and don’ts from their experiences with running training sessions. Many of you have provided excellent ideas and feedback, and we are glad to see that the resources on the MOOC are useful. 
 
“To start with thank you for these resources. I love how MANTRA is so well structured and detailed. Lots of information to find and use. I also found the NECDMC good to use, the resources in their modules section are really good and i think i would easily work with them.”  Abel M’kulama

Come learn with us, part 2

 

Image: MOOC tutors. From left to right: Sarah Jones, Rene van Horik, Alexandra Delipalta, S. Venkat, Ellen Verbakel.
 
In the second week of the Delivering Research Data Management Services we focused on “Finding the gap” in yo…

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.