Jul 092013

One of the results of the DAF at UH showed that researchers were open to training materials as long as they’re not long-winded or too generic.  However, the results of my interviews in Science and Technology, and interviews in the other research institutes by our champions, show that the best practice for looking after working data, including the storage and sharing of sensitive data, is universal.  This means that although training based on this best practice is largely generic, advertising it as such will not attract researchers.

I have tested an ‘Introduction to RDM’ course as an hour-long session aimed at new research students in the centre for astrophysical research (CAR).  As only first years are required to attend, there were only six students at this session last November.  As an introduction, the session included why RDM is important and a summary of the DMP topics, with a basic DMP handed out during the session for the students to complete.

The feedback was positive and all of these students appear to have benefited from a better understanding of back-up policies and the storage solutions available to them.

This was encouraging and we continued to plan a RDM session in our ‘Generic Training for Researchers’ (GTR) program.  Here in lies our biggest issue with training sessions.  As the RDM introduction session is both broad and generic, its relevance is not immediately clear to researchers.  They are also very busy and cannot justify spending an hour in a session that may not give them enough information to make it useful.

Making the session longer would allow us to give more details, but it is still generic training.  We have also had little interest from researcher students as it is not compulsory beyond the first year.  We’re now considering a different name for the session, perhaps “planning and managing your data”, or something that can be identified as relating to the DMPs that researchers will recognise.

So our strategy to train researchers is to run staff development courses on the tools, attach topics to existing training sessions, and run a poster campaign to advertise the website so researchers can get the answers and examples themselves quickly and easily.  This resolves the issue of a ‘time consuming training session’, but will get our best practice advice across in other sessions.

For research students, we plan to include RDM twice annually in the GTR program and in the department training programs. Even if only first year students are reached, we hope that it will spread by word-of-mouth to their peers and within 3 years, all of the researcher students will have had the training.  The change in student’s RDM behaviour will hopefully be noticed by their support team, who will then also benefit from their students’ training; a secondary method of getting best practice advice to our researchers.

Finally, we will be rolling out training to the service and technical staff so that they can all support the tools and the researchers when it comes to RDM.

So that we can re-use the materials for all audiences and so that future trainers can also target their RDM sessions, I have split our training into 18 topics and produced a table to help trainers choose which slides to combine for their session.   The slides for finishing projects are not ready yet as the guidance for preservation is still inconclusive, but the table below shows the scope of what the training will include.  The training will also include packages of examples for the research groups which will make the training relevant when delivered in the departmental programs.  These topic  presentations will be recorded using Camtasia this autumn so that they can be watched by researchers online if they want a refresher; this may be preferred training to reading a  how-to guide.

This table should help you select which slide packages to use for training different audiences

This table should help you select which slide packages to use for training different audiences