Mercian Research Data Management Support Group launches

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By: 
Laurian Williamson

The Mercian RDM Support Group’s launch workshop attracted delegates and discussion, highlighting the level of regional development around the increasingly vital UK Higher Education activity of research data management.

On 24th April, the Mercian RDM Coordination committee were delighted to welcome attendees representing 11 UK HEIs from across the Mercian region to the Loughborough University’s Graduate House for the launch of the RDM (research data management) Mercian support group.  The launch event was chaired by Gareth Cole (Loughborough) who facilitated an enjoyable and engaging workshop, with presentations and discussion centring on current RDM issues academia faces.

Graduate House, Loughborough University

The event started with a warm welcome from Director of Library Services and University Librarian Emma Walton.  Emma emphasised the importance of sharing experiences, and expertise, in those areas which the library sector was exploring and delivering new and innovative services.  She outlined how a support group, such as this, could play an important role in developing capacity within a rapidly evolving area like RDM.  Emma concluded by emphasising how libraries were taking up the significant challenges around RDM, and were essentially just getting on with it!  Consequently, the sector should be proud of those libraries which had already developed and implemented RDM services and tools.  The Group thanked Emma and Loughborough, for hosting this event, along with providing a fabulous venue.

Introductions

A brief introduction by the RDM coordination committee followed, where they outlined their hopes for the RDM Support Group, highlighting with planned future activities including developing a buddy system, exploring shared training resources, and exchanging experiences.  Next they announced the creation of a closed discussion list (MERCIAN-RDM@jiscmail.ac.uk), open to all those working to deliver RDM services in the region.  Here, people could share their experiences and ask for help, advice and comments from fellow regional experts and practitioners. 

AHRC Technical Plans

The first presentation of the day on Arts & Humanities Research Council Technical plans was from Dr Simon Dixon, Archives and Special Collections Manager at the University Leicester.  Simon is also an AHRC technical reviewer, and was able to share some interesting perspectives on his own experience of reviewing data management plans (DMPs) and the AHRC technical plans, albeit without discussing specific applications due to confidentiality rules.  He outlined what a good AHRC technical plan looks like, how to support a PI with a plan when one is required with a grant application, as well as what to do with a research output once a project has finished.

The key takeaways from Simon’s talk included:

  • The value of using DMPOnline for guidance from both the AHRC and the DCC
  • How liaising with key institutional stakeholders, for example, research office and IT, is crucial
  • Why a weak technical plan can scupper an otherwise excellent research bid and the value in carefully considering file formats and standards was key
  • How any plan must be realistic in terms of access and re-use of research data, as how including a data management plan workflow, with timings, can prove especially useful
  • Contributing to reviewing DMPs is resource intensive and requests are often last minute

Simon’s talk also highlighted questions around how RDM practitioners can capture and demonstrate their impact in this arena.  For example, how can the impact arising from contributing to or reviewing a data management plan be quantifiably measured.

RDM at Loughborough

The second presentation of the day on the development of the RDM service at Loughborough was given by Dr Gareth Cole, their Research Data Manager. Gareth provided details around some of the key RDM activities and responsibilities he possesses in this role.  Notably, as many in the region look towards to this service as an exemplar, especially around the technical and support service infrastructure issues, this was a fascinating talk.  Loughborough’s data repository was officially launched in January 2016 and has 100 live research data deposits, with uptake increasing annually.  Initially the RDM service and tools development was led by compliance with EPSRC data expectations, given 70-75% of Loughborough funded research comes from the EPSRC, but now had become more concerned with increasing the visibility and discoverability of Loughborough research. 

Delegates heard about the significant training and advocacy which was delivered around data management plans, along with requests for bespoke disciplinary RDM training.  Interestingly, many of the challenges Gareth faced around service delivery and infrastructure, were common for other RDM practitioners present.  These included engaging PIs, strategic advocacy for senior management, access controls around handling sensitive or restricted data, preservation, along with embedding skills and expertise across the service – rather than a single person delivering all of the institution’s RDM service!

Gareth concluded with outlining Loughborough’s future plans, which include thinking about final year undergraduate research data, PhD research data, exploring cross-institutional opportunities and collaboration and ongoing efforts to raise the profile of both the RDM service and the research data repository.

Benchmarking

After lunch delegates participated in a benchmarking exercise with the aim of identifying the level of RDM support and infrastructure at MERCIAN libraries.  This benchmarking exercise was based on the DCC Collaborative Assessment of Research Data Infrastructure and Objectives (CARDIO) Tool, and the RDM Support Group intends to repeat this exercise annually, to hopefully demonstrate regional progress in building RDM capacity and capability.

Workshop Plenary

The event concluded with stimulating debate around specific areas of support and service delivery delegates found challenging.  This included RDM training resources, data management plans, and how to manage restricted and sensitive research data.

Further information on future events, the Mercian RDM Support and contact details for the Committee are available.

Laurian Williamson (@LaurianW)
Open Access and Research Data Manager, University of Leicester