Monthly Archives: March 2013

Achievements, Challenges, Recommendations workshop: RDM support & guidance (1B)

Here at the JiscMRD Achievements, Challenges and Recommendations workshop, Joy Davidson (HATII and the DCC) chaired session 1B on research data management support and guidance.  Jez Cope (Research360 at Bath), Rachel Proudfoot (RoaDMaP at Leeds), Hannah Lloyd-Jones of Open Exeter and Anne Spalding (stepping into Leigh Garrett’s shoes for the KAPTUR project at UCA) all shared their experiences of developing tailored advice and guidance for their host institutions and / or target disciplines.

Jez described very clearly how the Research360 project went about the formulation and production of their resource, finding very similar challenges and solutions to those noted by e.g. the Incremental project in MRD01, including the usefulness of some fundamental but often overlooked details such as placing the resource as high in the university website architecture as possible (theirs is at which helps to ensure the resource is not seen as partisan to one discipline or service over others; and listing in website A-Z directories under something meaningful and findable to users (in their case ‘R’ for ‘research’ and ‘D’ for ‘data’ as opposed to their project acronym).

Usability also extends into the layout on the homepage, where content can be accessed via a menu of RDM topics (for those with a bit of RDM knowledge) or by project phase for those with less RDM knowledge.

Jez noted that much of his role has been to work as a translator between technical and non-technical people.  Rachel Proudfoot is also bringing together different staff groups: RoaDMaP work draws on a working group containing key contacts from varied services and areas of the university including the university training service, IT services, the library and faculties.  Rachel’s experience is that this approach not only provides an essential mix of expertise to inform your outputs, but also gives you access to new channels for administration and promotion of training events and awareness-raising efforts.  Rachel was pragmatic about re-purposing existing training resources already created at Leeds, e.g. made for one discipline and re-used for another.  Whilst Jez was clear that getting material from other people at the institution always takes longer than even the most generous estimate, in Rachel’s experience reusing one’s own materials can be tricky too.

The Open Exeter project has been remarkable for their use of a group of PGR students from varied disciplines as active participants in project work where, for a fee (and an iPad!) they have functioned as the face of the project at university events and across their peer group.  The group members have also supplied responses and feedback to various project outputs and so helped to make sure guidance and events are relevant and meaningful to this group of researchers, and produced a ‘survival guide’ for distribution at induction which helps to make the case for RDM to newly-arrived PGRs.  In this way, they have made the work of the project a lot more visible through peer-to-peer and student-to-supervisor (!) education about RDM at Exeter.  They also contributed better understanding of the needs of active researchers in a way that was more practical in terms of time and cost than trying to work with more senior researchers. The students in turn have new knowledge of and skills in RDM, have received specialised help from the university and external experts and have a new element to add to their academic CV. This fruitful relationship has contributed much to Open Exeter’s online guidance resources: due to the varied disciplines represented by the PGRs, their case studies and other contributions are truly central to the webpage at

Another fruitful relationship was described by Anne Spalding in the last presentation in the session, a description of the KAPTUR project.  KAPTUR has a fairly unusual challenge of involving four creative arts-focused academic institutions on a common quest to understand and manage research data in the visual arts.  Anne noted that this is a discipline-area with particular challenges around the definition of what constitutes research data – an ongoing area of work for the project.  She also noted that project work, as with other projects such as Open Exeter’s DAF survey, was built upon the findings of surveys of researchers to understand current data-related practice.  As with the other projects of this group, a range of areas of the institution were involved; in this case libraries, training services and others were asked to feed into policy formation and UCA had their data policy passed by senior management in February 2013.  Anne was clear that this policy will operate as a framework for further RDM infrastructure development work.

When discussing areas for future work, Joy and Rachel both agreed on the need for us to now consider how we extend capacity for RDM training in the institution.  There are relatively few with the skills and the confidence to train others in RDM: we need to train more trainers and extend the network of expertise at the institution, particularly in cases where the Jisc MRD project is not assured of continuation funding from their host HEI.  A useful idea at Leeds was inviting the DCC to attend – not to provide a training session but to critique the session presented by the project: this is an effective way to instil confidence and skill in RDM training at the institution, and can be extended by thoughtful deployment of the openly-available training and guidance resources already produced by the MRD programme.

Here are some of my thoughts from this session:

– The more you can find out about your audience beforehand, the better tailored (= more meaningful = more effective) your training can be, so get those pre-event questionnaires out and completed!

– Re-use of existing resources is possible and can be successful but may still need some effort and time to do well.  So whilst it’s worth while using the expertise of others, and always looks good to demonstrate awareness of the relevant resources that already exist, don’t do it simply be a short cut or a time-saver.

– Training cohorts of new researchers is good and well but we now need to start planning to train more senior academics.  They are the ones that allow RAs, postdocs and students to go off to training (or not); they are providing training recommendations to the students they supervise; they are the ones sitting on funder selection boards and ethics panels.  They need to be up to date on RDM, at least in their own discipline areas, and to be aware of what they don’t know.

Laura Molloy
e: laura.molloy AT

Jisc Managing Research Data Programme Workshop: Achievements, Challenges and Recommendations, 25-26 March 2013, Aston Business School

The Jisc MRD Achievements, Challenges and Recommendations workshop is about recognising the achievements – both in scale and quality – of the projects of the second Jisc Managing Research Data programme (2011-13).  The programme’s large infrastructure projects will complete during spring – summer 2013 and so at this point we are starting to see real delivery from many of them.  At the same time, there is still space for sharing good practice and recommending approaches for meeting challenges as well as for areas which need additional work.

The event programme is available at, and we’ll be posting summaries of sessions and highlights here on the EG blog.

Goportis Conference 2013: Non-Textual Information: Strategy and Innovation Beyond Text

The Goportis Conference 2013 on ‘Non-Textual Information: Strategy and Innovation Beyond Text’ took place on 18-19 March 2013 in Hannover.  A programme with abstracts and speaker biographies is available at  This gives an idea of the number and variety of speakers: some of my highlights are outlined here, and you can get more narrative on Twitter by searching for the event’s tag, #goportis13.

The event began with a keynote by Martin Hofmann-Apitius of the Fraunhofer Institute for Algorithms and Scientific Computing (SCAI), who passionately argued for better access to scientific data for the good of science, particularly for public health.  This need is demonstrated by the rapidly-increasing occurence of Alzheimer’s disease in the west – to tackle such huge challenges, we urgently need to be able to undertake text mining and data mining to produce useful, computable chemical information for science to advance.  He particularly identified the current publishing model in research as ‘problematic’, describing the existing business model of many publishers as something that ‘interferes with the advancement of science’.  Martin is convinced that the days of the static publication are numbered, and in the future scientific communication will be done by knowledge models and other non-static means.

Jan Brase, Datacite then gave an overview of the Datacite work in promoting citability of data.  Jan believes that libraries should open their catalogues to any kind of information. The catalogue has classically been a window onto the holdings, but now the library doesn’t have to hold all the records they present.  In the future, Brase predicted, libraries will function more as a portal in a net of trusted providers, drawing on their long heritage in bringing scientific information to the public, their track record of persisting longer than projects and other departments of the institution, and their reputation as very trustworthy organisations.  Yet more love for the libraries!  Now all we need to do is fund them to take on these new responsibilities and acquire the concomitant skills…

Todd Carpenter, American National Information Standard Organisation (NISO) stirred up some debate by suggesting that perhaps we need to be more discriminating in selecting different metadata structures for different things.  He referred to the use of DOIs ‘for just about everything: books, articles, data, content negotiation and licensing.  We don’t apply an ISBN to people.  We don’t use taxpayer numbers for addresses.  Are we pushing the DOI beyond its limits?  Should we call what Datacite is doing with DOIs something different than, for example, what the CrossRef community is doing?’

Todd also outlined a project undertaken by NISO and the National Federation of Abstracting and Information Services (NFAIS) which looks at the current publication of supplementary materials and how publishers are dealing with these.  What is critical / supplemental / ancillary to understanding?  Todd made a straightforward but fundamental point that the form of content does not designate whether something integral to understanding, e.g. just because one part of the research publication is a paper and one is a video, that doesn’t necesarily mean that the paper should be regarded as the main publication and the video as supplementary material – it could quite easily be the other way around, and this chimed with one of the trends of today’s event, namely that publishing needs to change from the static paper to more flexible, interactive and repurposable models.

Jill Cousins, Europeana Foundation / The European Library moved focus slightly more onto humanities and arts research with her update on work at Europeana, the access provided to 27m resources (which are not held by Europeana itself; rather, they provide the metadata to enhance findability) and the challenges of getting the metadata for 27m objects across Europe to be available under CC0 licensing!  Jill was also keen to discuss new initiative Europeana Research which will soon be available at

Creative Commons licensing is important to the work of the Jisc MRD projects, particularly those making training resources for use and re-use.  It was useful to hear Puneet Kishor of Creative Commons reporting on the new license suite, 4.0, and the differences between this and the previous suite of licences including licensing of European sui generis database rights (SGDR).  The new 4.0 licences are to be launched in the second quarter of 2013 – right now, though, you can contribute your thoughts at -and Puneet particularly wants to hear from scientists.

Brian McMahon of the International Union of Crystallography is, I think, quite chuffed that crystallographers are generally considered to be really, really good at research data managementnot least by Richard Kidd of the Royal Society of Chemistry – but feels it is still important for those in the field to keep their skills current and contributing to the advancement of science.  This was another talk presenting ways to extend the functionality and interactivity of the scientific publication, as Brian outlined the publishing work by IUCR and ways of modelling crystal structures as non-textual information in publications.

I had the last talk of the event, presenting the work of the Jisc Managing Research Data programme.  It’s a real challenge trying to communicate the mass and the variety of the activities that the JiscMRD projects are tackling, and to delineate the difference between the programme-level work and that of the individual projects, but I did my best.  I described the landscape and drivers which stimulate programme activity, the structure of the programme, some lessons learned from phase 1 which have been applied to phase 2, and the fearlessness of projects in tackling tricky aims such as improving institution-specific awareness, devising and delivering discipline-specific training, analysing and enhancing current RDM infrastructure provision, implementing or extending data repository provision, attempting to cost data loss, and generally sorting out the world.  I also described various key resources provided by MRD projects and the Digital Curation Centre.  I then had the pleasure of Goportis’s Klaus Tochtermann describing UK RDM activity as ‘the most advanced in Europe’ – so I think we’re doing something right!

You’ll see from the Twitter feed (#goportis13) that there were many more talks which discussed particular applications of non-textual information in a range of disciplines – far more information than can sit comfortably in a blog post, so please have a look.  The slide decks will be available from the conference website in the near future – I’ll tweet when I’m aware of this having happened.

Do you agree we need new publishing paradigms?  How could your discipline benefit from non-textual research communication?  Want to know more about any of the projects mentioned above?  Let us know in the comments!


E: laura.molloy AT