Apr 042013

In WorkPackage3 – Document Management Pilot we have scanned and loaded legacy documents into an electronic Trial Master File (eTMF) for clinical work carried out by the Centre for Lifespan and Chronic Illness Research (CLiCIR). This has been a very successful piece in terms of the engagement it has promoted throughout our health related research community, and has also led to the development of a reusable template folder structure (or File Plan).  Despite a natural tendency for researchers to want free form arrangements there are a lot of cases when a consistent structure is desirable. Examples of this might be where there is a requirement to keep a ‘copy of record’ of the conduct of an entire project; or, more generally where version control and checkin/checkout in a multi user file space is required.

The file plan is appropriate for researchers, finance managers and administrators to use for all project documents, including research data, where this is kept in desktop application files and other free standing forms, as is often the case in small research endeavours outside the big Science and Technology areas.

The Research Project File Plan can be downloaded from http://research-data-toolkit.herts.ac.uk/document/research-project-file-plan/ (PDF, 400kB)

First developed by identifying the record types and activities from an existing paper Trial Master File, the file plan was then aligned to the JISC Business Classification Scheme and extended to be appropriate for any research project. Consultation with various research groups across the University allowed consensus of terminology to be formed, and confidence gained that the structure would in fact be widely applicable.

The File Plan has several advantages, not least that it allows researchers to more easily find information not only on their own project, but when working across projects. Structures for managing data and supporting documents typically grow organically and make finding information difficult over time, or for parties who are not the primary contributors of content. Having a predefined methodology for classification also means that preservation and retention policies can be aligned (or even applied) to sets of documents and files and those files can be migrated to other systems more easily for publishing.

Researchers are now being offered the use of the University’s corporate Document Management system (LiveLink from OpenText), in which we can deploy the File Plan as a default template for each research project. To date, four active research projects have started to use this facility, in addition to the original eTMF, with a further eight engagements under way.