Jan 062012

Progress seemed fitful in a month shortened by the MRD launch event and seasonal festivities. There was a lot of talking, and from a personal perspective it was interesting to have to curb my tendancy to want to build something, and try instead to sift through the many voices and conversations to identify profitable ways forward for #rdtk_herts.

Work package WP1 – Audit current RDM practice at University of Hertfordshire

The plan to conduct a DCC CARDIO exercise in December stalled with only half of the invitees able to attend a kick off meeting. Most of those who did commit were people who were already familiar with the project. Seasonal torpor aside, it seems the project team needs to open doors to more people with an interest in RDM. One method will we be using is to establish a Stakeholder Forum (see WP12 below)

Cathy Tong and I continued to have discussions with researchers and there was more evidence that the secure managed storage available to all University of Hertfordshire staff is under utilised, with people relying on replication of data on multiple (but insecure) storage devices in their offices and homes. Though well intentioned, these practices are not disaster proof or even particularly robust, and in regulatory terms go against the University’s data management policy.

Work package WP2 – Cloud storage pilot

Discussion continues with colleagues in the Centre for Lifespan and Chronic Illness Research (CLCIR) to progress this workpackage. Unfortunately, one of the Principal Investigators we have been working with has left the University for another position. This means some work with large SQL datasets we were planning to do will not now go ahead.

We began work on a cost and feature matrix of commercial cloud vendors so as to have something to compare with own local provison, and those of the HRC Computing Consortium (HRC3) Eduserve and other JANET framework providers, when these become known.

Gathering cost information is relatively easy and there are many good features of ‘off the street’ cloud services. However ascertaining the position with regard to the other factors which are important to researchers may be more problematic. University of Hertfordshire policy (clause 5.5.1.b ) states that ‘(Data:) must be stored in an official University data repository agreed with the Chief Information Officer (or nominee)‘. Clearly to achieve sanction to use a commercial service under this rule we must be sure the issues of sustainability, location, security and non-retention are satisfied. To this end, we have added the following questions to our evaluation:

  • what replication, backup and restore facilities are available?
  • can the physical location of data be limited to the UK or an agreed legal jurisdiction?
  • how is data protected from un-authorised access?
  • are all data and backups securely deleted when an account is closed?
  • do you have have IS02700n accreditation?
  • what other evidence of competence to hold commercially or ethically sensitive data can you provide?
  • how many clients / how much data / what was turnover for last three years?
  • have you expressed an interest in being a supplier in the UK Government’s G-cloud framework or the JISC /JANET cloud brokerage?

I can’t see a reason why most of this information shouldn’t be at the finger tips of cloud vendor sales teams. However, anecdotal experience suggests that vendors may feel that their existing client list is evidence enough. It might turn out that academia and machine driven cloud service companies are simply incompatible (hence the JANET initiative?). It would be good to hear from any other projects doing similar work or that have prior experience (please use a comment to get in touch).

Work package WP3 – Document management pilot

As reported last month we have an agreement with Karin Friedli, again of CLCIR, to maintain an electronic ‘Trial Master File’ for an impending clinical trial. We will provide advice and funds to employ extra staff resource to assist in document loading, and work toward a ‘standard’ document framework for clinical use.

WP11 – JISC Managing Research Data (MRD) programme activity

David Ford (project director) and myself took part in the Programme launch event at NCSL Nottingham. It was great to meet new colleagues and get the context of where the whole programme is at. It was not unexpected, but I was nevertheless encouraged, to find many colleagues facing the same issues and working with the same patchwork of good and bad existing RDM practice. The best thing about the conference for me was hearing the experience of phase one projects, and getting a much better grip on the UMF work and what the JANET framework will deliver. It was well that we had two people attending because there were plenty of breakout sessions to want to divide oneself in two for. I reported via blog on the Thematic session on business case and the Biomedical/Health breakout group.

WP12 – Project Management

Our first project Steering Group meeting took place on 9th December with Professor John Senior, Pro Vice -Chancellor (Research) in the chair. Papers and minutes will be published on this site in due course. The group approved the project plan and considered terms of reference and a risk register.

The main risks we have are related to staff resource and garnering sufficient engagement from our research community. In respect of the former, the recruitment for two new posts has now closed and we hope new encumbants can start soon. The group discussed strategies to promote engagement at length. It was decided to form a Stakeholder Forum to widen participation beyond those Principal Investigators already working with the project.

  2 Responses to “Progress Report Month 3, December 2011”

  1. Many thanks for this, Bill. A useful update.

    WP1: Will the CARDIO exercise now go ahead at a later date with the stakeholder forum?

    WP2: How easy will it be to find an alternative PI from the CLCIR with equivalent datasets?

    I particularly like the evaluation questions for cloud services listed here.

    WP3: Good!

    WP12: The Stakeholder Forum seems a sensible approach. Please let me know when you have start dates for the new appointees.



  2. Simon: WP1: Will the CARDIO exercise now go ahead at a later date with the stakeholder forum?
    Bill: Yes this was exactly my thought. I had intended to make this point but somehow didn’t.

    Simon: WP2: How easy will it be to find an alternative PI from the CLCIR with equivalent datasets?
    Bill: it wont be easy to find a like-for-like project but there are others to consider within and without CLCIR.

    Simon: I particularly like the evaluation questions for cloud services listed here.
    Bill: I know researchers are already using services like Dropbox so I thought it worth asking. If I get enough replies I will publish them. I suspect the answer will be a deafening silence; I don’t think commoditised services are interested or set up to deal with people who ask questions, but we shall see.