Monthly Archives: December 2015

Time to act together?

On 9-10 November 2015 Marta Teperek attended the fourteenth Research Data Management Forum (RDMF#14) in York organised by the Digital Curation Centre. Research Data Management Fora are organised twice yearly to bring together the community of people supporting research data management across different institutions in the UK. This was the second RDMF meeting Marta has attended and these meetings offer an excellent opportunity for the community to get together and think strategically about how to best support research data management needs of our researchers. Below are Marta’s impressions from the meeting.

Battling inertia

While the title of the meeting was ‘Research Data (and) Systems’, a more appropriate title could have been ‘Time to wake up and act’.  Imperial College London’s  Torsten Reimer had a message in his keynote speech: that the community should be grateful to the EPSRC for creating their policy on research data.

According to Torsten the introduction of this policy is a consequence of our inertia – the community had the opportunity to address research data management needs before the EPSRC policy was introduced. The lack of initiative from the academic community, the passiveness on our side despite a clear need to develop guidelines on good practice in research data management, prompted the funders to tackle the problems for us.

Now both institutions and academics are complaining that the EPSRC policy is not realistic and that many issues remain unsolved. However, what right do we have to complain if we did not take action when there was the time?

Time to wake up and act

While we have not shown historic initiative it is still not too late to be pro-active.

First, Torsten called out to the community to lead the process of interpreting the funders’ policies. Funders created their policies to help researchers to manage and share their data. Now, and in-line with word’s from Michael Ball from the BBSRC, it is up to institutions and researchers themselves to find the best discipline-specific solutions for data management and sharing.

If institutions (and researchers) do not come up together with solutions to address discipline-specific data management needs, the funders will again need to take the lead and perhaps develop detailed guidelines for particular situations. But is this something which we really need? Would it not be better to have guidelines and policies developed by the community and endorsed by the community?

Second, Torsten called upon the community to act together to develop joint minimal metadata standards to be adopted by all data repositories. There are numerous repositories all over the world which can be used by researchers to deposit and share their research data. The challenge is that there are no common metadata standards used by all these repositories.

This leads to problems. For example – how can institutions know about research data created by their researchers if there is no institutional affiliation associated with the submission of their data? How can funders know about outcomes resulting from their funding if researchers do not indicate who funded their research when submitting data to the repository? Torsten suggested that if we jointly decide on what are the minimal metadata standards, we would jointly have the chance to get these standards implemented. As someone who manages the deposit of data sets,  I personally could not agree more with this suggestion.

Shared RDM services

The biggest discussion during the meeting fitted extremely well in the topic of joint ventures – it was around the development of shared RDM services. John Kaye from Jisc spoke about the plans to develop shared RDM infrastructure and called for six to eight  institutions to take part in the pilot.

There are numerous benefits of developing joint services. At the moment most of the institutions have their own data repositories, meaning that across the UK there are hundreds of repositories and even more repository managers and repository developers. Every institutional repository needs to be integrated with other institutional systems, requiring even more skilled technical workforce needed at every institution. In addition, who is providing the data storage capabilities? On what conditions? And who is doing all the negotiations with service providers?

These are all resource-hungry processes at an institutional level. Shared services could inevitably be more cost-efficient and result in taxpayers money better spent.

But this idea does open up many questions:

  • Given most institutions have already invested substantial resources to create their own local solutions is it too late to develop shared RDM services?
  • Would institutions need to abandon their existing processes and contribute to the shared development?
  • What would happen to the research data already stored locally?
  • How sustainable are the shared solutions? Would funders support them?
  • What is the business model behind shared solutions?
  • And what would happen if the pilot failed?

There is a further problem in that even if the pilot succeeded, the solutions will not be available until 2017. This means piloting institutions will have to co-develop the shared solutions (investing time and resources), while continuing to support their own local solutions before the shared ones become available.

It is a difficult decision to make whether to join the pilot project or not. Cambridge debated this for a while, but in the end we decided that long-term benefits and efficiency of the joint approach should substantially outweigh the short term increase of the resources needed for both maintaining the local solutions and developing the joint services. As Torsten suggested, at Cambridge we believe that acting together, collaboratively, is the way forward. Lonely silos are inefficient and in the time when funding and other resources are limited, we need to ensure that we invest them wisely, thinking of long-term benefits.

Suggestion for future RDM foras

Summarising, I would like to thank the Digital Curation Centre for bringing the whole community of research data managers together. RDM foras are always an excellent opportunity to exchange practice, views and to share suggestions with colleagues at other institutions.

It was extremely useful that during RDMF#14 all presenters introduced their institutions – their size, the type of research done, the size of the RDM support team. What it made us realise that irrespective of these differences we all share similar high-level needs and we all need similar high-levels actions.

So my suggestion for the future foras is to better leverage the fact that the whole community is gathered in one place and focus more on the actions. If we are to jointly decide on what our needs are, or what do we think the minimal metadata standards should be, why do not we do it at the meeting while we are convened together? Perhaps we could actually produce some deliverables during breakout sessions?

Published 16 December 2015
Written by Dr Marta Teperek
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Research Support Ambassadors – an insider’s view

In 2015 the Office of Scholarly Communication (OSC) started two related programmes. The Supporting Researchers in the 21st century programme is an ongoing series of talks, events and training sessions for the library staff in Cambridge. Some of these we have blogged to share the insights with the wider community – see: Openness, integrity & supporting researchersTips for preparing and presenting online learningEvolution of Library Ethnography Studies – notes from talkLibraries of the future – insights from a talk by Lorcan DempseySoftware Licensing and Open AccessOpen Data – moving science forward or a waste of money & time as a few examples.

The second programme is the Research Support Ambassadors. This began as an idea for people, gathered from across the diverse community in over 200 libraries in Cambridge, to be trained up and develop resources for our research community. As with all nebulous ideas what we began with and where we are now are different, but the programme is taking good shape and after consolidation in Lent Term 2016 will be launched across the University.

This blog is an insider’s view of the Ambassador programme from Claire Sewell, a  member of the first group to sign up to the programme. Claire has recently taken on a new role in the OSC as Research Skills Coordinator and will have responsibility for driving the future direction of the Ambassador Programme.

An insider’s view

Joining the rapidly moving world of Scholarly Communication can be daunting for even the most qualified information professional. Library staff must absorb a wealth of information at the same time as trying to educate users on the latest developments and it can be difficult to know where to start. The Research Ambassador Programme at Cambridge University provides one approach by upskilling library staff at the same time as creating experienced trainers.

Who are the Research Ambassadors?

The Programme was launched over the summer with a view to implementation during theSerious Group photo Michaelmas term. Ambassadors would be given training and support to develop and deliver a range of training products in areas covering the Scholarly Communications remit. Staff from a range of backgrounds across Cambridge were quick to sign up and the first cohort began its preparations. For me the Programme came along at exactly the right time and fulfilled a number of needs as I was able to improve both my subject knowledge and more practical aspects such as teaching skills. The Programme also gave me a chance to work with colleagues I might not ordinarily get a chance to interact with which helped to broaden my perceptions.

Library staff at all levels were encouraged to get involved in a variety of roles from administrative duties to content delivery. This inclusive approach has been one of the key strengths of the Programme as it helps to encourage those who may not normally sign up. There is no pressure to take on a particular task so participants are able to stay within their comfort zone. I knew from the start that there were areas I could work on easily and areas where I would challenge myself and decided to focus on the latter as for me that is what makes a learning experience.

Getting started

The first stage of the Programme involved observing an existing teaching session delivered by colleagues in the Office of Scholarly Communication. I found the observation sessions really interesting as they gave me a chance to reflect on the different ways people approached similar tasks. Our observations were guided using a prompt sheet which covered everything from setting up the room upon arrival to how well the content was explained by the presenter. Watching a session with a critical eye like this is a great way to improve your own practice as a trainer and something I will be looking to do more of in the future.

It was then time to turn our attention to our own training needs by attending two intensive training sessions. The first session looked at knowing your audience, how to deliver a presentation on a practical level and how to avoid basic mistakes. Next we looked at the actual content of the session we would be delivering in more depth. The biggest decision to make was which aspects of such a huge area as Scholarly Communications we would cover in our final information products.

Topic selection

With the needs of our users and ourselves in mind we selected the following areas:

  • the research lifecycle
  • research support services across the University
  • managing your online presence
  • Open Access to theses

We felt this was a good mixture of the topics we felt confident teaching and those we wanted to know more about. We divided into groups looking at individual areas and I chose to go with something I was less familiar with (research support services across the University) in order to broaden by knowledge. As the Programme progresses there will be a chance to explore working in other groups.

The groups then got together to discuss what sort of product they would produce. The results ranged from formal presentations to interactive websites and the variety of products showcased the diverse range of talents participating in the Programme. At the end of this process we presented our ideas to the wider library community and received some valuable feedback which we can use to adapt and improve our products before releasing them into the wild. See ‘Research Support Ambassadors – a Project Update‘  for a discussion of the presentation.

Where do we go from here?

Overall the Programme has been a real professional highlight of 2015 for me. As well as developing new skills, meeting new people and learning about a developing area of librarianship I gained a new role when I became Research Skills Coordinator with the Office of Scholarly Communication! As part of this role I will be helping to lead the Research Ambassadors Programme forward to its next stage and possible future runs. I am very much looking forward to seeing where it can take us!

Published 14 December 2015
Written by Claire Sewell with introduction by Dr Danny Kingsley
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Research Support Ambassadors – a progress update

On Thursday 19th November the participants of the Research Support Ambassadors programme presented their work to date. This blog from Yvonne Creba, a member of the Research Data Facility team in the Office of Scholarly Communication, summarises these presentations of their progress so far.

A good start

Attending the Research Support Ambassadors programme presentation I can only say how impressed I was with the amount of time and effort contributed by the participants of each group. This is even more notable considering that the following was achieved outside of their normal working hours. Each of the groups produced an informative and interesting session on each of the topics.

What is the Ambassadors programme? It’s an opportunity for interested library staff to receive specialised training, to allow them to become the local ‘go to’ person on some scholarly communication issues. The programme is intended to develop a team of Ambassadors who feel confident and able to assist researchers with queries about publishing processes, data management, open access/open data policies and research sharing options, to name but a few.

The Ambassadors programme aims to provide ‘what the researchers want, where & when they want it’.  To start, the Ambassadors have embarked on development of training and information materials on the following four topics: Research Lifecycle, Research Support Services, Managing your Online Presence and Open Access to theses. Below are some of the highlights from their presentations.

Open Access to theses

The Ambassadors team assigned to this project – Matthais Ammon, Phillipa Grimstone, Charlotte Hoare, and Stephanie Palek – aimed to develop guidance materials on how to make PhD theses Open Access.

There is a need for a one-stop webpage for PhD students to answer basic questions about making their theses Open Access and the need for thesis submission to the institutional repository (now called Apollo) to be clarified in terms of Open Access.

The team  have already developed an impressive amount of resources and collated information about Open Access to theses and the advantages for PhD students, challenges with Open Access to theses and (traditional) publishing, copyright concerns and patenting & sensitive data. They referred to some of the material they have found in their research such as ‘Benefits of making theses available online’.

The team is now trying to answer how theses fit into the Open Access research landscape, the potential impact of making theses available online, fulfilment of funder requirements.

Managing your Online Presence

This team, consisting of Andrew Alexander, Céline Carty, Kasia Drabek, Agnieszka Drabek-Prime, Agnieszka Kurzeja and Brendan King, initially discussed and brainstormed this subject, as it is a large area and they wanted to define the scope of support to be offered.  The team’s strategy was focused on creating a potential outline for a session that the Ambassadors could run.

The group presented a demonstration on the creation of an ORCiD ID. ORCiD stands for “Open Researcher & Contributor ID” and it is a free, unique, individual, global, permanent identifier ideal for researchers and scholars to help them keep track of their research outputs. The group proposed some ideas on how to attractively present ORCiD to researchers.

The group thought that those who attend the session will be asked to bring along their laptops, so that after a short demonstration on how to create an ORCiD each participant will actually create their own. This will provide a tangible output of the session.

Research Support Services across the University

The idea for this topic was to provide clear signposts to the range of help on offer, rather than reinventing the wheel by creating something new. The group working on this topic are Colin Clarkson, Lindsay Jones, Mary Kattuman and Claire Sewell. There is a great deal of support available for researchers, both within the University and outside but there’s no one place where everything is listed in an accessible format.

The research doughnut available on the Office of Scholarly Communications (OSC) website has a nice, intuitive graphical display, hence the idea to use this format to present the services of the research lifecycle. The group hopes to make keywords within the cycle into clickable links, which will thus allow users to find related information and resources.

One of the sources that were highlighted in the directory was the LibrarySearch. Rather than just including a link to the static LibrarySearch interface, the group thought it would be a good idea to create a predefined search on various stages of the research process. That way the researcher can just click on a link and go straight to the required search results.

The group suggested promotional activities including a pop-up presentation of a maximum of ten minutes which could be included at the start or finish of other taught sessions. Something that will briefly introduce the concept of the site and showcase what it contains. This could be delivered by any Research Ambassador and would be a ‘presentation-in-a-box’ that people could just pick up and deliver.

One of the first things the group intends to do is to improve the general look and feel of the site and they intend to do some user testing with researchers to see how they use the site and get their feedback about the content.

Research Lifecycle

This is intended to be a web resource using the Research Lifecycle with links out to information about each of the points in the cycle – presented by Clemens Gresser, Jo Milton, Veronica Phillips, Meg Westbury.

This team reviewed the Research Lifecycle from the perspective of a researcher. They have looked at existing websites to see what information is already available and reviewed the graphical displays used by different universities – to look for content which is accessible in a user-friendly manner.

Ideas provided by the group on reaching the required audience were to plug into orientation sessions, advertisements by faculty librarians and plugging into sessions on managing an online presence.

The group also suggested that having a glossary of various terms related to the Research Lifecycle would be useful. The group is still reviewing what type of information to put up for the cycle and which format would be the most fit for purpose to best suit researchers in Cambridge.

Published 14 December 2015
Written by Yvonne Creba and Dr Danny Kingsley
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