RDM event – White Rose Perspectives – 24th May 2012 – Post 2

GUEST POST: Library perspective, Pat Spoor, Health Faculty Team Leader

The workshop provided a good balance of thought provoking presentations, discussions and networking opportunities. It gave participants the chance to think about and discuss the benefits and challenges of research data management and to explore the roles each professional group could and should play in supporting RDM within their institution.

The main points I took away from the day were:

  • Funding bodies like RCUK are increasingly making data management planning a prerequisite for successful grant applications
  • RCUK have developed common principles on data policy RCUK Common Principles on Data Policy
  • Funders see data management planning as an institutional responsibility and universities need to develop institutional data management policies to comply with the requirements of the funding bodies
  • EPSRC Policy Framework on Research Data puts the onus firmly on institutions to ensure that by May 2012 they provide an RDM roadmap and that they are fully compliant with the ESPRC’s expectations by 2015
  • The Digital Curation Centre, University of Edinburgh provide tools that can help with creating data management plans http://www.dcc.ac.uk/resources/data-management-plans
  • The University of Edinburgh’s RDM policy has become a model for many other institutions who are adopting its aspirational approach and acknowledging that putting complex, comprehensive systems into place isn’t something that will happen overnight
  • A JISC funded initiative being run by Sheffield iSchool is developing RDM training materials for librarians. These will be tested with librarians at Sheffield, York and Leeds
  • No one group of professionals is likely to have all the resources, skills and experience required to implement an effective institutional RDM policy so collaboration by a wide range of staff including researchers, research support staff, librarians, IT staff, data managers would be beneficial. With so many people involved in the process, communication will be key to implementing a successful institutional RDM policy
  • The roles different groups will play in the process will depend to some extent on organization structures and environment. For me, one of the most useful aspects of the workshop was that it provided an opportunity to meet with staff in my own organization who support RDM. It would be useful to build on the links made at the workshop by having institution based follow up meetings
  • More work needs to be done to map RDM issues and the support available at an institutional level before we can be clear what our role in the process might be. Is there a gap that needs to be filled?
  • Specialised data management posts already exist in some organisations and maybe this is the way to go?
  • There may be opportunities for White Rose collaborations around staff training in RDM, resource sharing, IT infrastructure
  • Institutional Data Management Plans need to be pragmatic and flexible or researchers will not implement them

There was no clear consensus amongst the participants about the division of roles, even within a professional group. For example, some librarians felt they had skills and experience that would enable them to make a major contribution to RDM whilst others felt strongly that it wasn’t core business for the library. There was some debate about how important subject knowledge and experience of the research process was for librarians supporting RDM and whether they would need to be embedded in a research group or school to provide effective support. Personally I think I’d be comfortable with providing RDM training for PhD students, supervisors and early career researchers and signposting resources. I can envisage other library colleagues being involved in metadata creation or advising on IP and copyright, standard and storage but I find it difficult to estimate how large the demand for these types of services would be at Leeds University.

Academic liaison librarians from Leeds, Sheffield and York are meeting in July to discuss the future of their role. One topic we’re likely to discuss is whether we should be expanding our research support activities, including RDM. If we decide that we have a role in RDM how does this fit with our current activities and workload? If the discussion at the RDM workshop was anything to go by, we should be in for a lively debate!

Discussions about the need for coherent institutional policies for RDM seem to have been ongoing for a long time without much to show for it. Having attended a couple of RDM events over the last four or five years I was already familiar, in a theoretical way at least, with many of the issues and challenges around managing research data. One thing I hoped for from this event was evidence of progress.

So, did the event deliver? For me -as a librarian with a keen interest in, and responsibility for, research support – on the whole, yes. I got to speak to people for whom RDM is their bread and butter – IT staff, faculty or school based data managers and others who are tangling with RDM issues on a daily basis. I got the impression that, after years of talking about developing institutional RDM policies, the stance now being adopted by the RCUK, and the EPSRC in particular, means that it’s actually happening and that tools like those developed by the DCC are there to help.

My understanding of what an institutional data management policy might look like and how it might be developed and implemented is growing. I’m still not entirely sure how RDM will impact on my day to day role, but at least I’ve made links with people in my own organization and across the White Rose consortium with whom I can continue to have the discussions.