Mar 152012

Being a person of dubious recall I thought it best to reflect on the JISC MRD and DCC Workshop: Developing Institutional Research Data Management Policies as soon as possible.

I thought the use of Chatham House Rule throughout the event enabled full and franker discussions than can be the case in open forums and contributed to greater sense of ‘a problem shared’. I got one tweet out at the beginning and then became too busy following and contributing to the ebb and flow of the discussions to do any more. The twitter etiquette was hardly needed – it was all too engrossing.

It was clear that University of Hertfordshire’s top down Data Policy was received rather like a cart before the horse by some delegates. There was certainly a sizeable contingent that thought unless an institution has the infrastructure in place to meet demand generated by policy, the policy itself is toothless. I can appreciate this view but feel bound to re-iterate that we see the practices required by our policy as markers to aim for. Although the quasi-legal language focuses on regulation, we like to look through the pile of sticks to see the carrot, in the form of the potential benefit returned by compliance. Also, in the battle for hearts and minds I think it is useful to be able to spin compliance in itself as a benefit…”nicely done, tick, take an apple. etc”. (to anticipate the flames – this really is not meant to be patronising). Finally, I would argue that waiting around for a horse to pull the cart may leave some institutions at risk of failing to get to market. Enough! This merciless abuse of metaphor must stop before even the informality of a blog is brought into disrepute.

One idea my colleague Liz Nolan and I took away from the event is that the research data management (RDM) element of our main Data Policy needs to be be revised with additional emphasis toward data re-use.

Since I returned from Leeds, I have been thinking further about  sharing data with regard to our RDM project. In session three (‘How are projects and institutions planning to support the implementation of the policies?)’ I said that RDTK aims to enable the publication of all data that is associated with UH’s published work. Sometime later, Ben Ryan advocated that this should be ‘the absolute minimum’ aspiration expressed in our EPSRC roadmap. (I am sure I have heard Ben make this assertion public at other JISCMRD events, so I hope we can accept that I haven’t broken the Chatham house rule.) With this in mind I have been looking at our work-packages, and in particular at the one that deals with publication of datasets. We had planned to look into federated authentication on top of DSpace. Given that there is currently a substantial call out for work around OpenID and authentication, it might be better not to compete with this and change to work on something which is definitely going to exercise us in the context of our EPSRC roadmap. We could focus more closely on the workflows leading to data publication, and what metadata we might need, and how this fits with the Dublin-Core used by our repository and the CERIF compliant equivalent in our current research information system.

There was quite a lot of talk about what constitutes a ‘minimum metadata set’ at Leeds. I’d like to follow up on that but I am not a metadata expert. Perhaps someone out there in JISCMRD already has a spec’ that we could discuss? Datastage seems a good place to start. If anyone else is interested please leave a comment and we can start up a thread on this.

The proposed diversion above, where we may react to the thrust of funders policy, brings me to the closing discussion about the EPSRC roadmap and reminds me to thank my post-1992 colleague, who expressed a sentiment that I am sure many of the JISCMRD project managers present were feeling. As we were talking about institutional commitment and senior management buy-in, he warned against allowing complacency as result of participation in the programme. I’d like to echo this: clearly we are part of the solution; but a cog, not nearly the whole machine.

I had other matters arising from the Policy workshop to recall but I have been reminded recently that blogs are best in small doses so I will press the button and get on with other things. Thanks to Leeds University and Simon Hodson for putting on a great event.

  2 Responses to “Some reflections on the JISCMRD-DCC policy workshop”

  1. […] the others may vary (and you can read Bill Worthington’s useful account from another group here); […]

  2. […] Bill Worthington, Research Data Toolkit Hertfordshire Project: Reflections on JISCMRD-DCC Policy Workshop […]