On metrics

Research Data Leeds is now being tracked by altmetric.com and by IRUSdata-UK which means we can begin to actively contribute to Jisc’s R&D Project – Research data metrics for usage.

Currently any social dissemination from RDL can euphemistically be described as “extremely limited” with the only activity so far having been posted by yours truly:

We needn’t be too disheartened however given that the emphasis thus far, at Leeds and elsewhere, has been on developing infrastructure and policy, identifying and promoting best practice.

It’s also perhaps not that common for researchers to disseminate their datasets independently from their papers (or to cite others’ data?) and we should take the lead in dissemination, promoting data as a primary research output in its own right:


Research data by its nature is esoteric, and tribology (the science and technology of interacting surfaces in relative motion) is unlikely to be of wide general interest. Nevertheless there is a great deal we can do to increase the chance of discovery by specialists, by building and interacting with appropriate networks for example (a search for #tribology on twitter indicates there’s a potential networked audience) and by optimising repositories and their metadata.

One aspect to this is another Jisc project, the UK Data Discovery Service (UKDDS) which Leeds has contributed to and which is now in phase 3, during which Jisc plan to add additional research data collections into UKDSS from UK HEIs and Data Centres and also get everyone involved with the Research Data Metrics for Usage project (see recent post from Jisc’s Chris Brown).

As of yesterday we are now one of 20 repositories that have installed a plugin which pings the IRUS server with a defined OpenURL string every time an item is downloaded from the repository, and which complies with the COUNTER code of practice (thanks to Paul Needham at Cranfield for his help with this.)

Participants are listed here along with a link to the respective repositories and break down in terms of software as follows:

Platform No. of repositories No. of items Downloads to Dec 2016 Downloads in Jan so far Total downloads
DSpace 4 489 6,909 736 7,645
EPrints 11 1,668 40.667 3,705 44,370
Fedora 1 194 7,839 853 8,692
Figshare 4 149 4,806 609 5,415

It will be a little while before I can get any meaningful download stats for Research Data Leeds and in the meantime I’ll explore data for other repositories; it will also be interesting to run doi’s against the altmetric api to see if there are any high scores among them (using the method described here http://ukcorr.org/2015/06/12/ranking-altmetrics-diy/).

Research and the Romany Collections

Discover more about the research potential of our Romany Collections in our Cultural Institute Workshop in February

Work continues on the National Archives funded cataloguing project, “Collectors and Activists,” to catalogue what have become known as the Romany Collections.  Made up of collections deposited by four different owners – Dorothy Una Ratcliffe, Sir Angus Fraser, Jenny Smith and Diana Allen – the collections offer different viewpoints.  What is also becoming apparent is how they cover diverse subjects and in turn offer an excitingly broad range of research potential.  This will be explored at a Cultural Institute Workshop on 21 February.

It would be fair to say that Dorothy Una Ratcliffe’s collections primarily capture the more romanticised view of life for Gypsies and Travellers in the UK and Europe from the 18th to mid twentieth century. There are however two sides emerging to her collections; that of a non Gypsy Traveller’s celebration of Gypsy Traveller culture and traditions captured in the historic mainstream e.g. art, language, literature, music and dance.  This is very much reflective of the aims of the Gypsy Lore Society of which Dorothy Una Ratcliffe was a member, benefactor and advocate.

In contrast her collections also capture important documentary evidence of the emerging realities of life for many Gypsies and Travellers during the period 1930-1960s through the press cuttings and papers relating to Evangelism within these communities in the mid twentieth century.  The handmade flowers in the image below are from Ratcliffe’s collections.

Jenny Smith’s Collection on the other hand couldn’t be more different. Working for Shelter (Homelessness charity) and a Labour Councillor in the Bristol area over the last 30 years she has championed the rights of Gypsies and Travellers, both in her area and more widely in the UK as part of her role on the Labour Campaign for Traveller’s Rights which was founded in the 1980s.

Smith’s collection captures a very different perspective and possibly an experience that is specific to the UK in its coverage of New (Age) Travellers and the laws and policies that affected these and other communities of the Gypsies and Travellers in the UK, especially the Criminal Justice Act 1994.  It also highlights the sometimes radical protest movements that surrounded these communities.

Individually these collections provide an example of the diversity of themes.  While collectively they also reflect a multi-faceted view of both the varied and common experiences of some Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities and a chronology of change particularly in the last 100 years.

Cataloguing of these and the other collections continues but what we are starting to glimpse is the multiple stories and themes contained both within and across them.  These offer not just a rich resource to historians but also to others within the University, including people studying languages, linguistics, law, art, social sciences, politics, planning and education, for example, and external researchers. Recent interest in the collection has also demonstrated the potential opportunities to engage and inspire artists and communities for change.

For those interested in finding out more about these collections and their potential there is a Cultural Institute Workshop on the Romany Collections on 21 Feb 2017.


Exploring the work and world of György Gordon

There is only one month left to enjoy ‘György Gordon (1924-2005) A retrospective’. Find out more about the exhibition, and exciting upcoming events in this blog.

The exhibition explores the life and work of Hungarian-born painter György Gordon. Gordon settled in Wakefield after escaping as a refugee from Hungary during the autumn of 1956. The exhibition includes paintings and drawings spanning the 1950s-1990s reflecting on Gordon’s life and artistic journey, from his experience as a refugee to later work exploring isolation, alienation, and old age.

We have two exciting talks coming up to give even further context to the exhibition before it closes. On the 15th February Dr James Hamilton, author of the catalogue essay, is joining us to give a free lecture that will explore Gordon’s Hungarian roots, and touch on the influences he received in Hungary, and in Britain from some of his fellow Hungarians who were also forced to flee their country.

Peter Murray at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. (Background) Jonathan Borofsky, Molecule Man 1+1+1, 1990. Private Collection courtesy YSP © Marc Atkins. Image courtesy Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Photo © Jonty Wilde’

The second special talk we have in February is from Peter Murray CBE, founding and Executive Director of Yorkshire Sculpture Park. On 20th February Peter Murray will talk about his friend and collaborator György Gordon and the evolution of culture in Wakefield and across West Yorkshire. This event will also include a Q&A session where audience questions are welcomed.

The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery has been awarded HEFCE funding

The Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery has been awarded a £50,000 share of HEFCE funding for HE museums and galleries which make a significant contribution to research and scholarship.


The HEFCE funding was agreed following an independent review by experts from the museum and higher education sectors, chaired by Diane Lees CBE, Director-General of the Imperial War Museums.

The application process was highly competitive, and the panel noted the outstanding quality and compelling evidence provided in the submissions.

Diane Lees said: “As a panel, we found a truly inspiring array of case studies which demonstrated the range of research that university museums, galleries and collections carry out. The total funding requested exceeded the total funding available, and the quality of the submissions did not make this an easy process.”

University Librarian Stella Butler said: “We are delighted to be receiving HEFCE funding. This support will enable us to share our wonderful collections with communities and individuals beyond the campus. Academic colleagues work with us to prepare our exhibitions and events enriching the cultural landscape of Leeds and West Yorkshire.”

The Gallery, which is open to the public, hosts both the University’s exceptional art collection and innovative temporary exhibitions. Past exhibitions have included a major retrospective of Maurice de Sauzmarez’s work, opened by his former student Sir James Dyson, and a yearly exhibition that showcases the work of the top students from the University’s School of Design and School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies.

The Gallery also cares for the University’s successful Public Art programme, which includes the recent loan of Barbara Hepworth’s ‘Dual Form’ and the re-instatement of Hubert Dalwood’s ‘Untitled Bas-Relief’.

The events programme takes inspiration from the art collection and exhibition on display, previous events have included guest lectures, artist workshops and regional and national events such as Light Night and Museums at Night.

(Almost) a year of Treasures

There are only two weeks to go until the Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery celebrates its first birthday!

Since we opened our doors on 1 February 2016 we have welcomed nearly 20,000 visitors to the Treasures Gallery to see highlights from Leeds University Library’s Special Collections. We have received some wonderful feedback on our displays of rare books and manuscripts, and hope that we can continue to inspire and engage audiences with stories from the collections.

During the first week of February this year we will be de-installing our Shakespeare exhibition and getting ready to showcase another of our Designated Collections, the Leeds Russian Archive. At the moment we are putting the finishing touches to our next special exhibition, Caught in the Russian Revolution: the British Community in Petrograd, 1917-1918. This exhibition will draw on eyewitness accounts in the form of diaries, letters and photographs to explore a pivotal moment in world history.

There will also be objects from the Leeds Russian Archive, including textiles and jewellery, on display in the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery from 11 February – 10 June 2017. These will be on show alongside a new exhibition called Future Legacies: Collections, Collecting and Artists’ Books. A selection of works will explore thematic, visual and other formal relationships between books produced centuries ago and contemporary artists’ books. These juxtapositions will illustrate how artists and writers over the years have employed the book in their quest to record and present their experiences, connecting subject areas through format, image and text.

These exhibitions display a tiny sample from the extraordinary books and archives looked after by Special Collections at Leeds.

Data Management Planning

Only weeks into January and like an inveterate smoker, I’m struggling to honour my New Year’s resolution and falling behind in my MOOC. Largely due to already scrabbling up the learning curve of a new role. When I do get round to it I find it very useful and naturally complementary to everything I am learning on the job.

We’re now approaching the end of week 3…but I only completed the assignment for week 2 yesterday, focused on the humble Data Management Plan, or DMP to its friends.

The practical assignment presented us with a scenario to use as the basis for a DMP, suggesting a couple of tools, DMPTool from the University of California and DMPOnline from the Digital Curation Centre as well as the framework provided by the DCC Checklist for a Data Management Plan, v4.0. From a UK perspective it might be more typical to use DMPOnline but I’ve already had a play with that so in honor (sic) of today’s Presedential inauguration and the Special Relationship I chose to try DMPTool which also includes a template from NSF-SBE as cited in the scenario.

As a newcomer to RDM it’s the sheer complexity of the myriad aspects and associated best practice that is so daunting which is where formal planning comes in, to impose some order on the primordial project chaos.

Using the DCC Checklist a DMP breaks down as follows:

  • What data will you collect or create?
  • What documentation and metadata accompany the data?
  • How will you manage any ethical issues?
  • How will you manage copyright and intellectual property issues?
  • How will the data be stored and backed up during research?
  • How will you manage access and security?
  • Which data should be retained, shared, and/or preserved?
  • What is the long-term preservation plan for the dataset?
  • How will you share the data?
  • Are any restrictions on data sharing required?
  • What resources do you require to implement your plan?

A DMP then serves two primary functions:

to describe the data produced in the course of a research project
outline the data management strategies that will be implemented both during the active phase of the research project and after the project ends

Research funding bodies, including the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Wellcome Trust in the UK as well as the EU Horizon 2020 programme, increasingly require a DMP as part of the application process but even if you don’t have formal funding for your research, writing a DMP can be an invaluable exercise, for PhD and other Post Graduate Researchers for example, which was the focus of a recent training session delivered by my colleagues Rachel and Graham, ‘Research Data Management Essentials for your Research Degree’ (this was delivered to a cohort of 24 PGRs with more signed up than showed up. There is a waiting list for future sessions so clearly an appetite for RDM amongst PGRs, see here for details of future sessions.)

Back to research funding bodies, who I have no doubt wish to make life easier for researchers, also require a DMP for somewhat more pragmatic purposes:

  • Transparency and openness – since many funding bodies are allocating public money, they have a responsibility to ensure research outputs are preserved and made accessible to the public
  • Return on investment – maximise potential reuse of data and if someone invents the wheel, ensure that money doesn’t need to be spent again to reinvent it

By now I do have some experience of real life DMPs, mainly based on our application stage template which is primarily to identify any potential costs but which we also use to promote best practice; for the practical exercise I tried to expand beyond the parameters of the supplied case study rather than just rewrite it in the form of a DMP.

For example, the scenario refers to computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) software where “the final, cleaned data will consist of a single SPSS file” but I googled CATI (outputs as something called Blaise data files) and tried to think through the implications of SPSS as a preservation format:

Data format and dissemination

Blaise data files are a proprietary data format and therefore not suitable for preservation and data sharing. SPSS is also proprietary software, nevertheless in widespread use within research institutions and unlikely to present access problems in the short to medium term. However the data will also be exported as .csv where possible and (anonymised) interview transcripts will be retained as plain text (.txt) to ensure accessibility without specialist software.

I found DMPtool fairly user-friendly though the NSF-SBE template arguably repeats requirements in some of the section guidelines, also commented upon by others, and could perhaps be clearer to avoid overlap.

The other aspect of data management planning that I am particularly interested in is the emphasis that it should be a ‘living’ document, revisited throughout a research project. I may be wrong but I get the sense that this rather paid lip-service and would like to explore tools and strategies to prompt a PI to proactively revisit their DMP. I was at pains to emphasise this in my own plan stating that “it will be proactively reviewed on a monthly basis and/or at suitable project milestones (TBC)”. It won’t of course, but I have the excuse that this is only pretend…

Insight from a Volunteer

Emily Gibbons, a volunteer with the Footsteps into Art programme, writes about her experiences working with The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery.


When I first signed up to volunteer with the Footsteps into Art programme I was both nervous and excited. The role was completely alien to all of my previous work experience, and it was quite a daunting prospect to be working with children and documenting the day through photography which I hadn’t done in a professional setting before. My first day volunteering with the Footsteps into Art programme was during Brudenell’s visit to the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery on the 9th December, and overall I think the day was valuable to both the students and to us as volunteers.

The primary school students were split into two groups and they rotated between the craft workshop and the workshop in the Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery. One of the main reasons I applied for the voluntary role was in order to gain experience of working within a gallery, and the 9am start definitely helped with that mindset! We had just finished preparing the workspace and materials for the textile workshop when the students arrived and they were soon making use of all the felt and double-sided tape. During the first workshop I spent much of my time talking to the children about their pieces and these conversations were much more rewarding than I was expecting, particularly one student who told me about her art project at home. What really struck me was the high level of engagement with the textiles from all of the students, and it made the workshop feel very rewarding.

My favourite thing about the second workshop was seeing the students looking at the pieces on display in the Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery, and being introduced to a local history of art which I think is so important to be exposed to. The idea of describing colours was also really interesting because personally I think there’s a strong relationship between words and images which is underexplored, and many of the students became really creative with their descriptions. It was refreshing to see their creativity unhindered by any embarrassment or self-policing many artists face. I benefited greatly from this workshop as well, as I had my first opportunity to photograph the children and their work and the limitations imposed on this were interesting to work within.

Overall, the feedback I received when talking to the primary school students was positive, with many of them saying they enjoyed the workshop and would like to return, and also asking about the university and my own art course. I think the volunteering role is incredibly beneficial to gain experience of working with children and within a gallery and I’m looking forward to the next visit!