Category Archives: Collaboration

Jisc MRD project materials: use and reuse for RDM training

The Jisc MRD programme has been working with the Digital Curation Centre throughout the life of the programme and this relationship is fruitful in several directions.  One of the most gratifying, however, is seeing the outputs of the programme being used and re-used in DCC training events.

Sarah Jones and Marieke Guy from the DCC were in Northampton this week, working alongside Miggie Pickton to offer training to librarians in research data management.  They used the excellent UK Data Archive ‘Managing and Sharing Data’ guide as well as outputs from Jisc MRD projects including ADMIRe, MANTRA, Research360, RDMRose, RoaDMaP and TraD.

Please see the training event slides here:

and the supporting workbook here:

These are of course Creative Commons-licensed to allow use and re-use as specified.

Sarah has also blogged on the DCC website about the day, with some tips for what works well, at

Have you re-used Jisc MRD project materials (even your own) or any other training materials in your own events?  What worked and what didn’t?  Let us know in the comments!

Laura Molloy

e: laura.molloy AT

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

New year, new IDCC

A very happy new year to all on the MRD programme and all ‘fellow travellers’!  2013 has started with a shot of energy provided by IDCC 2013, which took place in the deliciously-named Mövenpick hotel in Amsterdam last week (14 – 17 Jan).

A lot of the twitter stream (#IDCC13) agreed that there was a huge amount of information and opinion to download.  This frenetic pace was encouraged by the practice papers taking place in slots that allowed only ten minutes to talk!  A great opportunity to really work on honing those high-level messages, then.

It was very encouraging to see representatives of so many Jisc MRD projects there, and I hope those who were in the ‘National perspectives in research data management’ track found the talks Simon Hodson and I did on the programme as a whole and on the evidence-gathering activity to be useful.  One slight disappointment was having the “National perspectives” track running at the same time as the “Institutional research data management” track: the MRD programme connects institutional approaches and happens to work across the UK, so whilst we weren’t entirely out of place in the “National” track, we probably missed out on some relevant audience.  No matter: if you missed either talk and are interested in seeing the slides, the presentation about the MRD programme as a whole is here; and the talk on the evidence gathering activity is here.  Your feedback or questions are of course welcome.

One of the things the MRD programme has been – and I hope continues to be – very good at is making stuff available to other people.  In his IDCC preview blog post, Kevin Ashley said,

“Overall, I would like everyone to come away aware of the potential for reuse of the work that others are doing and the potential for collaboration. Whether it is software tools, training materials, methodologies or analyses, many of the talks describe things that others can use to deal with data curation issues in their own research group, institution or national setting.”

This is what we as a programme, along with other organisations and activities, do.  Various pieces of work across the MRD programme with the DCC Cardio tool have inspired other projects and areas of the programme; the same applies to those who have tailored the DCC DMPonline tool, and we encourage all such innovations to be made available to provide examples and ideas for others.  In addition, however, the MRD programme has a strand (both in MRD01 and in the current iteration of the programme) specifically involved in creating training materials for research data management, aimed at particular audiences.  These are really valuable resources and have been created to be used and re-used in an open and flexible way.

I was asked so many times throughout the event where these materials can be found, that I thought it was worth listing them here.  The links given lead directly to teaching resources; background information on the projects can be found here:

(Unfortunately the website for the DMTpsych project at University of York is no longer online.  As the project has not deposited its resources into Jorum either, I can’t supply a link.)

There are more training resources in production at the moment: you can read more about them here:

We as a programme can’t solve the issue of duplication of effort in digital curation by ourselves, but by maximising the use of these materials, and finding new applications for them, we are definitely doing our bit.

Have you used any of these resources?  Want to know more?  Let us know in the comments!

Oxford digital infrastructure to support research workshop

The University of Oxford have impressively attempted to marshal the diverse projects ranging across disparate areas of expertise in research data management at the university. I attended a DaMaRo workshop today to review the digital infrastructure required to meet the challenges of the multi disciplinary and institutional research landscape as it pertains to Oxford.

First and foremost, this is no mean feat in a university as diverse and dispersed as Oxford and Paul Jeffreys and colleagues are to be congratulated for the work to date. It’s hard enough attempting join up in a smaller, albeit research intensive university such as Leicester and the road is long and at times tortuous. Never mind potentially at odds with established university structures and careers…

I particularly liked the iterative approach taken during the workshop: so present key challenges to the various stakeholders present; provide an opportunity to reflect; then vote with your feet (ok, post-it notes in traffic light colours) on which areas should be prioritised. At the very least this is useful even if we may argue over which stakeholders are present or not. In this case the range was quite good but inevitably you don’t get so many active researchers (at least in terms of publishing research papers) at this kind of meeting.

In assessing the potential research services it was pointed out where a charging model was required, if not funded by the institution or externally. Turns out here at Oxford the most popular choice was the proposed DataFinder service (hence no weblink yet!) to act as a registry of data resources in the university which could be linked to wider external search. I remember during the UK Research Data Service pathfinder project that there was a clearly identified need for a service of this kind. Jean Sykes of LSE, who helped steer the UKRDS through choppy waters, was present and told me she is about to retire in a couple of months. Well done Jean and I note that UKRDS launched many an interesting and varied flower now blossoming in the bright lights of ‘data as a public good’ – an itch was more than scratched.

I also note in passing that it was one of the clear achievements of the e-science International Virtual Observatory Alliance movement, developed for astronomical research between 2000-2010, that it became possible to search datasets, tools and resources in general via use of community agreed metadata standards. Takes medium to long term investment but it can be done. Don’t try it at home and don’t try and measure it by short term research impact measures alone…even the  Hubble Space Telescope required a decade plus before it was possible to clearly demonstrate that the number of journal papers resulting from secondary reuse of data overtook the originally proposed work. Watch it climb ever upwards after that though…

Back to the workshop: we identified key challenges around Helpdesk type functionality to support research data services and who and how to charge when – in the absence of institutional funding. I should highlight some of the initiatives gaining traction here at Oxford but it was also pointed out that in house services must always be designed to work with appropriate external services. Whether in-house or external, such tools must be interoperable with research information management systems where possible.

Neil Jefferies described the DataBank service for archiving, available from Spring 2013, which provides an open ended commitment to preservation. The archiving is immutable (can’t be altered once deposited) but versioned so that it is possible to step back to an earlier version. Meanwhile Sally Rumsey described a proposed Databank Archiving & Manuscript Submission Combined DAMASC model for linking data & publications. Interestingly there is a serious attempt to work with a university spin off company providing the web 2.0 Colwiz collaboration platform which should link to appropriate Oxford services where applicable. It was noted that to be attractive to researchers a friendly user interface is always welcome. Launch date September 2012 and the service will be free to anyone by the way, in or out of Oxford.

Meanwhile, for research work in progress the DataStage project offers secure storage at the research group level while allowing the addition of simple metadata as the data is stored, making that step up to reusability all the easier down the line. It’s about building good research data management practice into normal research workflows and, of course, making data reusable.

Andrew Richards described the family of supercomputing services at Oxford. Large volumes of at risk storage are available for use on-the-fly but not backed up. You’d soon run into major issues trying to store large amounts of this kind of dataset longer term. There is also very little emphasis on metadata in the supercomputing context other than where supplied voluntarily by researchers. I raised the issue of sustainability of the software & associated parameters in this context where a researcher may need to be able to regenerate the data if required.

James Wilson of OUCS described the Oxford Research Database Service ORDS which will launch around November 2012 and again be run on a cost recovery basis. The service is targeted at hosting smaller sized databases used by the vast majority of researchers who don’t have in-house support or appropriate disciplinary services available to them. It has been designed to be hosted in a cloud environment over the JANET network in the same way as biomedical research database specific applications will be provided by Leicester’s BRISSkit project.

Last but not least, Sian Dodd showed the Oxford Research Data Management website which includes contact points for a range of research data lifecycle queries. It is so important to the often isolated researcher that there is a single place to go and find out more information and point to the tools needed for the job at hand.  Institutions in turn need to be able to link data management planning tools to in-house resources & costing information. To that end, the joint Oxford and Cambridge X5 project (named after the bus between the two) will go live in February 2013 and provide a tool to enable research costing, pricing & approval.

Digital curation tools: what works for you?

I’m undertaking a piece of work with Monica Duke and Magdalena Getler of the DCC, and we need your help!  We’re looking at which DCC-developed digital curation tools are used by the MRD02 projects.  This is a happy case of our interests overlapping in a Venn diagram-type way: I’m interested in which digital curation tools, DCC or not, are used (or considered but rejected) by the projects.  Monica and Magda are interested in the use of DCC tools by the MRD02 projects as well as by other people.

There is a list of the DCC tools developed to date at, and there is a freshly-revised catalogue of digital curation tools developed by people other than the DCC at (although please note this latter link is currently still in development – it should be finalised by the week commencing 30 April 2012).

We plan to look at the project plans, blogs and so on to see where digital curation tools are mentioned.  After this initial perusal, the plan is currently for DCC to send out a brief survey to projects where we don’t already have a full picture from their blogging (and this may also be a way of helping to get the new RDMTrain02 projects involved), asking for information on their use of DCC tools.

If you’re on one of the projects and keen to contribute, it would be immensely helpful to me if you could let me know which tools for digital curation (DCC-developed or not) you have considered using.  If you’re going ahead with use of them, please let me know what you think of them, and if you’ve decided against use of a particular tool, please let me know why.  I welcome this feedback by email to laura.molloy AT, or in the comments below.  Thanks!