Institutional Challenges in the Data Decade 7 Feb 2012 (Day 1)

Some key themes from the day and a few personal thoughts about regional collaboration

The DCC have run - and continue to run - a series of regional Data Management Roadshow events under the umbrella title Institutional Challenges in the Data Decade. For example, see a write up from the March 2011 event in Sheffield published in Ariadne.

Here are links to the presentations from the two day event in Loughborough (7th-8th Feb).

Day one brought together a number of projects from the region to share their RDM progress and experience to date and discuss emerging trends. Several of the projects are funded under the JISCRMD02 programme.

Key themes of the day included:

  • RDM drivers: can be internal and external. We need to understand what they are but also use them to engage researchers. More work needed to fully understand why some academic disciplines have embraced RDM whilst others have not.
  • Discoverability: what's out there, how do we find it, what do we need to do to maximise discoverability in our own datasets?
  • RDM as risk management: risk of loss, risk of fines for non-compliance, FOI requests, risks of not acting vs. risks of acting.
  • Roles and responsibilities: how can we articulate these, who should be involved, is there are role for library professionals, is there a need for a research broker / facilitator to bring together the players from multiple departments across the institution?
  • RDM policies: these are already taking different forms, from a high level aspirational - like the University of Edinburgh, to much more nitty-gritty, defining specific roles and defining research data at the University of Hertfordshire. Which approach will be most effective? Both? How do we link the different levels together and translate policy to practice and, where appropriate, practice to policy?
  • How do we know what's out there: if we don't have a handle on the size and scope of our institutional output, how can we hope to manage it? An audit, perhaps DCC's Data Asset Framework, seems essential.

Regional Collaboration

One question that occurred to me at the event is where there is a regional role in fostering a community of data management practice. I have a particular interest in this having worked for several years on the White Rose Research Online and White Rose Etheses Online repository services for the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York. The three library services work closely together to explore opportunities to work together including identifying areas of redundancy or economies of scale. The three universities work together closely in a number of ways - for example offering PhDs with joint supervision from two of the three partners - and the collaboration is promoted by dedicated staff in the White Rose University Consortium.

We have found the Collaboration Continuum model, proposed by OCLC, can be helpful in articulating the different levels at which working together to build community and services can operate. In particular, how do we move from good ideas and shared experience to the more challenging prospect of developing longer term shared services or solutions.

In the case of White Rose, the institutions have many commonalities apart from geographical proximity and it is these, as much as geographical convenience, which drive the cooperative initiatives. However, geography is a factor, whether it be bring people together in a convenient way or understanding how university's contribute to/ interact with local and regional communities - for example, local businesses. Maybe regionalism is not relevant in the research data management world - but we certainly see shared research projects across the White Rose Consortium and a regional approach does offer opportunities for exchange of experience: the question is whether this can/will/should translate into regional shared services - for example, computing and storage. Of course, the White Rose consortium is not the only collaborative configuration - for example, there is also the N8 research partnership and YHMAN.

Any thoughts welcome!

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