Category: DCC News

The DCC and its services

The DCC has undergone continuous change since it was established as a consortium in 2004 jointly funded by JISC and the UK E-Science programme. Periodically it’s important for us to clarify what these changes are and what implications they do – or don’t – have for the services you expect from us. The last six years have been marked by a deliberate diversification of the DCC’s income streams, an intensification of its international role and a corresponding reduction in its dependence on a core funding stream from Jisc which was under increasing pressure as that organisation went through a transition process following the Wilson review. Over the years, we’ve moved some activities to a cost recovery basis, increased project funding from other sources such as the European Commission and grown a healthy income stream from online services and consultancy. This trend continues as the core funding stream from Jisc came to an end in July 2016.

What does this mean for UK universities and researchers? In many ways, very little – in others, potentially a lot. Our existence is secure and our finances are healthy. We have a business plan for the next 5 years that anticipates growth and is grounded in reality. That’s been enough for our lead host, the University of Edinburgh, to give us the backing we need for continuity of services and staff. The University recognises the importance of having an impartial, national service and values the international recognition and prestige that hosting the DCC brings.

The main service we want to provide assurances on is DMPonline. We will continue to provide this as a UK national and international service and can guarantee ongoing support for a minimum of 2 years with a promise of at least 2 years notice should we need to make changes to that provision. We already have overseas customers for DMPonlne to whom we have made long-term commitments. The service is also a key component of a number of European e-infrastructure projects.  We’re engaging in discussions with key UK representative organisations to find the right business model for long-term UK provision and we welcome your views on that. The DCC has pioneered work in this area with funding support from BIS, Jisc, the European Commission and the University of Edinburgh’s Information Services Innovation Fund amongst other sources. We’re grateful to all of them for their support, past and present. We continue to commit significant resources, and in collaboration with our partners at the California Digital Library, are co-creating a single DMP platform that we’re confident is the world’s best. Current international initiatives on DMPs require collaboration and coordination of the key players and the DCC will continue to push that agenda through the Research Data Alliance and other appropriate bodies.  We are committed to ensuring that the rich expertise held by our staff remains accessible to the community. DMPonline will remain free to use to researchers. We continue to be able to provide support for institutional branding and customisation on a service contract or consultancy basis.

Our events such as RDMF and IDCC have been covering their costs now for some years, and we will continue to operate them as long as demand exists, and initiate new events where we see a requirement that is unlikely to be met by another agency. Identifying issues of common concern and providing fora to bring communities together to address them has always been part of our remit.  Our training has also been running on a cost-recovery basis for some time, and has expanded as a result. We continue to run courses that are open to all as well as in-house custom events for organisations in the UK and elsewhere.

We’ll also continue to produce publications and guidance of the quality you have come to expect from us alone or in collaboration with others, including The International Journal of Digital Curation (IJDC). We will also continue to engage with international bodies such as the Research Data Alliance, of which we are a founding organisational member. We’ll report back to you on what is happening and provide a channel for your concerns and ideas and/or foster participation by you and your colleagues.

Many of you will know that we continue to be involved in a number of European projects building and exploiting research infrastructures such as EUDAT, OpenAIRE and the European Open Science Cloud Pilot, and are doing an increasing amount of consultancy, which now provides over 20% of our income.  Our clients include universities, funders and a variety of international bodies.

We’ve spoken with many of our contacts about these changes but we realise that they may be a surprise to some. We’re sorry if that’s the case; be assured that our mission remains unchanged – to increase the capability and capacity of organisations worldwide to engage in data curation which fosters data use and reuse.  If you would like to know more about any aspect of our work, explore a collaboration or offer input on anything covered by this post, contact the DCC information desk at info@dcc.ac.uk or, if you prefer, contact me directly – director@dcc.ac.uk.

RDA in the UK: what role do you see?

This week saw the first RDA UK workshop hosted by Jisc in Birmingham. The Research Data Alliance is a community-driven organisation aiming to build the social and technical infrastructure to enable open sharing of data. Members come together throu…

Finding our Roadmap rhythm

In keeping with our monthly updates about the merged Roadmap platform, here’s the short and the long of what we’ve been up to lately courtesy of Stephanie Simms of the DMPTool:

Short update

Long(er) update

This month our main focus has been on getting into a steady 2-week sprint groove that you can track on our GitHub Projects board. DCC/DMPonline is keen to migrate to the new codebase so in preparation we’re revising the database schema and optimizing the code. This clean-up work not only makes things easier for our core development team, but will facilitate community development efforts down the line. It also addresses some scalability issues that we encountered during a week of heavy use on the hosted instance of the Finnish DMPTuuli (thanks for the lessons learned, Finland!). We’ve also been evaluating dependencies and fixing all the bugs introduced by the recent Rails and Bootstrap migrations.

Once things are in good working order, DMPonline will complete their migration and we’ll shift focus to adding new features from the MVP roadmap. DMPTool won’t migrate to the new system until we’ve added everything on the list and conducted testing with our institutional partners from the steering committee. The CDL UX team is also helping us redesign some things, with particular attention to internationalization and improving accessibility for users with disabilities.

The rest of our activities revolve around gathering requirements and refining some use cases for machine-actionable DMPs. This runs the gamut from big-picture brainstorming to targeted work on features that we’ll implement in the new platform. The first step to achieving the latter involves a collaboration with Substance.io to implement a new text editor (Substance Forms). The new editor offers increased functionality, a framework for future work on machine-actionability, and delivers a better user experience throughout the platform. In addition, we’re refining the DMPonline themes (details here)—we’re still collecting feedback and are grateful to all those who have weighed in so far. Sarah and I will consolidate community input and share the new set of themes during the first meeting of a DDI working group to create a DMP vocabulary. We plan to coordinate our work on the themes with this parallel effort—more details as things get moving on that front in Nov.

Future brainstorming events include PIDapalooza—come to Iceland and share your ideas about persistent identifiers in DMPs!—and the International Digital Curation Conference (IDCC) 2017 for which registration is now open. We’ll present a Roadmap update at IDCC along with a demo of the new system. In addition, we’re hosting an interactive workshop for developers et al. to help us envision (and plan for) a perfect DMP world with tools and services that support FAIR, machine-actionable DMPs (more details forthcoming).

Two final, related bits of info: 1) we’re still seeking funding to speed up progress toward building machine-actionable DMP infrastructure; we weren’t successful with our Open Science Prize application but are hoping for better news on an IMLS preliminary proposal (both available here). 2) We’re also continuing to promote greater openness with DMPs; one approach involves expanding the RIO Journal Collection of exemplary plans. Check out the latest plan from Ethan White that also lives on GitHub and send us your thoughts on DMP workflows, publishing and sharing DMPs.

A common set of themes for DMPs: seeking input

When the DCC revised DMPonline in 2013, we introduced the concept of themes to the tool. The themes represent the most common topics addressed in Data Management Plans (DMPs) and work like tags to associate questions and guidance. Questions within DMP …

Getting our ducks in a row

Recent activity on the Roadmap project encompasses two major themes: 1) machine-actionable data management plans and 2) kicking off co-development of the shared codebase.

Image credit: ‘Get Your Ducks in a Row‘ CC-BY-SA by Cliff Johnson

Machine-actionable DMPs

The first of these has been a hot topic of conversation among stakeholders in the data management game for some time now, although most use the phrase “machine-readable DMPs.” So what do we mean by machine-actionable DMPs? Per the Data Documentation Initiative definition, “this term refers to information that is structured in a consistent way so that machines can be programmed against the structure.” The goal of machine-actionable DMPs, then, is to better facilitate good data management and reuse practices (think FAIR: Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) by enabling:

  • Institutions to manage their data
  • Funders to mine the DMPs they receive
  • Infrastructure providers to plan their resources
  • Researchers to discover data

This term is consistent with the Research Data Alliance Active DMPs Interest Group and the FORCE11 FAIR DMPs group mission statements, and it seems to capture what we’re all thinking: i.e., we want to move beyond static text files to a dynamic inventory of digital research methods, protocols, environments, software, articles, data… One reason for the DMPonline-DMPTool merger is to develop a core infrastructure for implementing use cases that make this possible. We still need a human-readable document with a narrative, but underneath the DMP could have more thematic richness with value for all stakeholders.

A recent Cern/RDA workshop presented the perfect opportunity to consolidate our notes and ideas. In addition to the Roadmap project members, Daniel Mietchen (NIH) and Angus Whyte (DCC) participated in the exercise. We conducted a survey of previous work on the topic (we know we didn’t capture everything so please alert us to things we missed) and began outlining concrete use cases for machine-actionable DMPs, which we plan to develop further through community engagement over the coming months. Another crucial piece of our presentation was a call to make DMPs public, open, discoverable resources. We highlighted existing efforts to promote public DMPs (e.g., the DMPTool Public DMPs list, publishing exemplary DMPs in RIO Journal) but these are just a drop in the bucket compared to what we might be able to do if all DMPs were open by default.  

You can review our slides here. And please send feedback—we want to know what you think!

Let the co-development begin!

Now for the second news item: our ducks are all in a row and work is underway on the shared Roadmap codebase.

We open with a wistful farewell to Marta Ribeiro, who is moving on to an exciting new gig at the Urban Big Data Centre. DCC has hired two new developers to join our ranks—Ray Carrick and Jimmy Angelakos—both from their sister team at EDINA. The finalized co-development team commenced weekly check-in calls and in the next week or two we’ll begin testing the draft co-development process by adding three features from the roadmap:

  1. Enhanced institutional branding
  2. Funder template export
  3. OAuth link an ORCID

In the meantime, Brian is completing the migration to Rails 4.2 and both teams are getting our development environments in place. Our intention is to iterate on the process for a few sprints, iron out the kinks, and then use it and the roadmap as the touchstones for a monthly community developer check-in call. We hope this will provide a forum for sharing use cases and plans for future work (on all instances of the tool) in order to prioritize, coordinate, and alleviate duplication of effort.

The DCC interns have also been plugging away at their respective projects. Sam Rust just finished building some APIs on creating plans and extracting guidance, and is now starting work on the statistics use case. Damodar Sójka meanwhile is completing the internationalization project, drawing from work done by the Canadian DMP Assistant team. We’ll share more details about their work once we roll it back into the main codebase.

Next month the UC Berkeley Web Services team will evaluate the current version of DMPonline to flag any accessibility issues that need to be addressed in the new system. We’ve also been consulting with Rachael Hu on UX strategy. We’re keeping track of requests for the new system and invite you to submit feedback via GitHub issues.

Stay tuned to GitHub and our blog channels for more documentation and regular progress updates.

FOSTER in Scandinavia

It was EARMA (#earmaac2016), the annual gathering of the European Association of Research Managers and Administrators in Lulea this week, and Ivo and I were there donning our FOSTER hats to speak about open science in Horizon 2020. Ivo talked about the impact open science can have on proposals, sharing reviewer feedback he’s collated to show how positively (or negatively!) things can be perceived. It shows the strength that can be added to proposals when support is provided by the institution, and echoes the positive experiences we’ve seen in the UK where universities help researchers to craft robust DMPs. 
 
 
My contribution to the conference is thanks to Vanessa Ravagni of the University of Trento. She proposed a session on Horizon 2020 to explain how open science is a key part of the daily workflow for research managers. I set the scene by explaining what is required by the European Commission in the Open Research Data pilot, and Vanessa and Niahm Brennan of Trinity College Dublin gave examples of how they have been supporting researchers at their universities. Both picked up on the need to engage with researchers to understand their concerns and Niahm gave a great list of typical questions, which resonate with what we’ve heard at DCC. The overlap between ethical approval processes and DMPs also came out in discussion and salutary lessons were shared about researchers being distraught at having to destroy really valuable data as this was written into consent agreements unwittingly. 
 
It was a fleeting visit to Lulea for the FOSTER team, but enough time for dinner and a drink with the Trinity College Dublin cohort. Working our way through the gin menu and watching the sun slowly dip was the perfect end to the day. Next year EARMA will be in Valetta in Malta. It will be a few weeks earlier on 24-26 April, so all those planning to submit papers get ready to write your abstracts soon. 

 
The FOSTER Scandi tour continues next week. We have a fully booked workshop on Wednesday 29th June on Open Science at the Core of Libraries. We’ll be demonstrating the FOSTER portal and doing group activity to define learning objectives and plan the content for new courses. Come prepared to work!

The 20:51 sprint (Roadmap team-building: UK edition)

This week we hosted the DMPTool team to flesh out our plans for ‘roadmap’ – the joint codebase we’re building together based on DMPonline and DMPTool. The key focus was reviewing and prioritising tasks for an initial release. &n…

DMPonline / DMPTool roadmap – reciprocal visits

Our collaboration with the DMPTool team continues. Marta was in Oakland at the end of May and we’re preparing to host the US team in Glasgow next week. We’ve been experiencing Californian weather for the past few weeks – hope it lasts long enough so they experience Scotland at its best.

Below is an update from Stephanie on Marta’s visit. We’ll post more news soon on the UK side of the trip.

Roadmap team-building exercises: US edition – reposted from the DMPTool blog

Last week we hosted Marta Ribeiro, the lead developer for DMPonline, for an intense, donut-fueled planning meeting to define our co-development process and consolidate our joint roadmap. The following is a debriefing on what we accomplished and what we identified as our next steps.

The project team is established, with Brian Riley joining as the DMPTool technical lead. Marta is busy completing the migration of DMPonline to Rails 4.2 to deposit the code into our new Github repository: DMPRoadmap. There’s nothing to see just yet—we’re in the midst of populating it with documentation about our process, roadmap, issues, etc. As soon as everything is in place, we’ll send word so that anyone who’s interested can track our progress. This will also allow us to begin sussing out how to incorporate external development efforts to benefit the larger DMP community. In addition, Marta is mentoring a pair of summer interns who are undertaking the internationalization work and building APIs. Meanwhile, Brian will finish building the servers for the Roadmap development and staging environments on AWS with another new member of the UC3 team: Jim Vanderveen (DevOps/Developer). Additional core team members include Stephanie Simms and Sarah Jones as Service/Project Managers, Marisa Strong as the Technical Manager, and the CDL UX team (many thanks to our UX Design Manager, Rachael Hu, for spending so much time with us!). UC3 and DCC will also rely on their existing user groups for testing and feedback on both sides of the pond.

Other groundlaying activities include a web accessibility evaluation for DMPonline to ensure that the new system is accessible for disabled users and exploring what we (and others) mean when we talk about “machine-readable DMPs.” Stephanie just received an RDA/US Data Share Fellowship to develop use cases for making DMPs machine readable, in consultation with the Active DMPs Interest Group and the research community at large. In line with this effort, she’ll be participating in an interdisciplinary and international workshop on active DMPs next month, co-hosted by CERN and the RDA group. We’re actively seeking and summarizing thoughts on the topic so please send us your ideas!

We conclude this edition with a draft of our project roadmap (below); it lists all of the features that we’ll be adding to the DMPonline codebase before we release the new platform. Most of the features already exist in the DMPTool and were slated for future enhancements to DMPonline. Stay tuned for our next update following a UC3 exchange visit to Glasgow/Edinburgh in mid June to prioritize the roadmap and commence co-development work.

Roadmap

  • Migration to Rails v.4.2
  • Bring DMP Assistant’s internationalization upstream for multi-lingual support
  • Adding the concept of locales so specific organizations, funders, and templates can be defined and filtered out for certain users/contexts
  • Shibboleth support through eduGain
  • OAuth link for ORCID
  • APIs to create plans, extract guidance, and generate usage statistics
  • More robust institutional branding
  • A lifecycle to indicate the status of plans and allow institutional access to plans
  • Support for reviewing plans
  • Public sharing option > Public DMPs library
  • Flag test plans (to exclude them from usage stats)
  • Email notification system
  • Admin controls for assigning admin rights to others
  • Export template with guidance
  • Copy template option for creating new templates
  • Copy plan option for creating new plans
  • Toggle switch for navigating between Plan area and Admin area