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

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