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

Jul 092013

We are not the first institute to produce a website of advice for our researchers, and we wont be the last.  We already have in place the UH public website and two intranet resources; studynet, where students and staff communicate about courses and where information about research is available, and staffnet, which gives information on policies and research services such as the intellectual property and contracts office (IPACS) and the research grants office.  It struck us that while much of the information related to good RDM is available on these sites, only one site is openly available and the information relating to remote access for example is only available on a internal site.

We therefore decided that our advice and guidance would be best placed on the UH public website.  This does limit the look of the RDM site as we have no control over colour schemes or formats, and we have limited choices for the layout of case studies and the advice.  Hopefully, future iterations of the UH website will include more flexibility for its micro sites and we will be able to include dynamic content.

We chose to include as much information and advice as possible so that if people are not available for one-to-one assistance beyond this project, sufficient advice would be on the site.  We currently have 50 pages covering 18 RDM topics as well as additional pages on governance, training, and examples.  There are 6 main sections, covering the RDM life cycle; planning, starting, working, and finishing, as well as training and legal issues.  These section were chosen to cover an equal number of topics and as sensible splits in the life cycle.  The training materials are also divided into the four RDM life cycle sections.

The site is written in a relaxed tone with language which is not overcomplicated so that it is useful to researchers, research students, and support staff. We are now concentrating on open images to illustrate the site and supporting guides for the tools, whilst getting feedback on the content of the site from our stakeholders and all of the contacts that we have made during our project.  This includes collecting more case studies and getting authorisation to publish those that we have already written up.  We are now hoping to publish the site by the end of July at the same time as publishing our UH DMP Template.

Apr 082013

Four delegates reporting on two projects, using three posters, three presentations and two demonstrations. And we still had time to come away with more useful collaborations to pursue!

The roundup workshop was a great way to see how far we have all come in 18 months, reflect that this is still just the beginning for Research Data Management as a professional discipline, and that JISCMRD has given all of us involved a head start, not to mention new opportunity.

Here are our presentations, posters and related posts:

Research Data Management Training in Physics and Astronomy Presentation  (PDF, 1.7 Mbyte )

Research Data Management Training in Physics and Astronomy Poster  (PDF, 440 Kbyte, commended in the poster competition )

Research Data ToolKit (@herts) Document Management Poster  (PDF, 2.5 Mbyte )

Research Data ToolKit (@herts) Adventures in storage: towards the ideal Hybrid Cloud  (PDF, 1 Mbyte )

Research Data ToolKit (@herts) Agent of Change: interventions and momentum  (PDF, 2.9 Mbyte )

Research Data ToolKit (@herts) Poster (PDF, 1.1 Mbyte )

for JISCMRD toolkit:

Research Project File Plan

Comparison of ‘open’ licenses

ZendTo file exchange: a hybrid cloud implementation


Oct 222012

One year in! Time flies when you are having fun, or trying to pin the tail on a donkey which at times is how it feels to be a JISCMRD project manager. This isn’t a complaint, it is a stimulating and worthwhile endeavour, and I think programme is working well at UH. The Research Data ToolKit, even before it is properly manifest, is acting as an agent of change, and gaining momentum as the RDM team expands from 1 person, to 3, now 6, soon to be 9.

Most of JISCMRD 2011-2013 convened at NCSL in Nottingham Wed 24-Thu 25 October.  I was taken by the increased confidence and authority of my fellow travellers, compared to the prevailing feeling a year ago. In some senses, the horizon is no closer, indeed it may have receded further in the light of the knowledge we have all acquired; the difference is, perhaps, that the benefit of experience gives us conviction. The RDM problem won’t be fixed by JISCMRD, but those of us involved will be well placed to carry the effort forward beyond the life of the programme.

The progress workshop was packed with interesting sessions, touching all parts of the life cycle of research data. The only disappointment  I had was that I couldn’t divide myself in three to attend parallel sessions.

In my first presentation A view over Cloud StorageI sought to explore the circumstances under which cloud storage can and can’t be utilised.  Part of the intent was to stimulate discussion, and in this it was successful, as I seemed to touch a nerve by naming the elephants in the room: Dropbox, Skydrive, Googledrive (D, S & G). The issues around using these  applications seemed to resonate throughout both days of the workshop. Before I become identified as an advocate for Dropbox I would like, in the manner of a minister redressing a half baked policy, to ‘clarify’. It is not a specific incarnation of any of these cloud storage App’s that I am advocating; it is their feature set.  Unless you work with more than a few gigabytes of data, the ease of use of these the public cloud services make them irresistable to researchers. The implications of the terms and conditions of use, which fall foul of pretty much any institutional policy that you could find, have little impact: usability wins over regulation. During the workshop MariekeGuy tweeted a list of alternatives applications, and we discussed some of these, but no one could wholeheartedly endorse any of the candidates for a robust, reliable service. D, S & G simply work better than our own networked storage offerings in many, many RDM scenarios. Like it or not, this is the case.

In the final workshop session, John Milner gave an account of the major cloud and data centre framework agreement already concluded  and the negotiations that the JANET Brokerage is planning to undertake  with Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Dropbox. An agreement with Microsoft on Office 365 has been reached and it is hoped that favourable terms with Amazon for, for example, EC2 and Glacier and Microsoft Azure can be achieved in co-operation with Internet2 in the USA. Talks with Dropbox and Google have recently been initiated. John indicated that a ‘negotiation’ typically takes at least three to six months to see through. It was encouraging that John indicated, that despite their strong market positions, these companies are willing to discuss HE needs and it is likely that education and research will attract favourable prices and terms and conditions of service, the latter of which (I suggest) is the higher hurdle to adoption. So perhaps JANET may yet resolve an answer to the search for an easy to use cloud storage application, that can be brought within the constraints of our governance, use our authentication and work with our infrastructure, they are certainly working on it and keen to hear requirements from the sector!

I am seeing an App’ like  D, S or G; sitting over hybrid storage; in our own datacentres or within the European Economic Area public cloud; accessed using our own passwords; and, governed by our own T and Cs.  Maybe for Christmas?   Unlikely, but worth the thought.

RDTK’s presentations are available below:

RDTK A view over Cloud Storage, in Parallel Session 1B: Managing Active Data: storage, access, academic ‘dropbox’ services, JISCMRD progress workshop, Nottingham, 2012 (PDF, 0.6 MB)

RDTK DataStage to DSpace, progress on a workflow for data deposit, in Parallel Session 2B: Data Repositories and Storage: options for repository service solutions, JISCMRD progress workshop, Nottingham, 2012 (PDF, 1.5 MB)

RDMTPA Research Data Management Training for Physics and Astronomy, in Parallel Session 3A: Training and Guidance, JISCMRD progress workshop, Nottingham, 2012  (PDF, 1.8 MB)

RDTK Poster, Service Oriented Toolkit for Research Data Management, in Poster Session, JISCMRD progress workshop, Nottingham, 2012, Poster (PDF, 1.9 MB)

Other recent blogs:


Oct 192012

Attached to the University of Hertfordshire’s Data Policy is a handy DOs and DON’Ts guide to handling Personal and Confidential Information (PCI). Research data often falls under the definition of PCI, because it is ethically sensitive or has commercial value to the University or a sponsor.  It probably won’t be a surprise to anyone engaged in JISCMRD that we find that practice that is given as ‘unacceptable’ by the guide, is actually common in the research community. Saving PCI on a non-University computer; use of portable media devices to store or backup PCI; regular transfer or unencrypted transfer of PCI via portable media – all these happen…often. Continue reading »

Aug 142012

The University of Hertfordshire’s Research Data Management activity is being extended after a successful bid to Strand E (Research Data Management Training) of  JISC Managing Research Data Programme 2011-13.

In a one year project, Research Data Management Training for the whole project lifecycle in Physics & Astronomy research (RDMTPA), the University will develop Research Data Management (RDM) training materials directed at Post-Graduate and early career researchers in the physical sciences. The project will collaborate with the University’s Centre for Astrophysics Research and the Centre for Atmospheric Instrumentation Research to produce a short course in RDM. It will leverage the outputs of existing JISCMRD work, within and without the University. The short course will adopt a whole project lifecycle approach, from data management planning, through good data safekeeping, to curation options and arrangements for data re-use. The course will be designed to integrate with, and extend, the Generic Training for Researchers programme at University of Hertfordshire. Although the primary market will be early career researchers, we expect the materials to be useful to information professionals such as discipline liaison librarians and research liaison officers.

We are pleased to welcome Dr Jo Goodger to the University’s RDM team to work on this exciting new work. Jo is an active Astrophysics researcher in the field of Radio-Loud Active Galaxies and also has extensive experience in science outreach, including the development of the Luggage Lab.

The short course will be made available via a variety of channels including the University’s StudyNet VLE, the JORUM repository of teaching and learning resources, and the here on the Research Data ToolKit website. RDMTPA will also share project management and governance with the Research Data ToolKit.

See http://research-data-toolkit.herts.ac.uk/category/training/