Researchers might not start off thinking about managing their data. They have plenty of other considerations; time management, funding, and publishing deadlines can all take priority over data management.
As researchers get deeper and deeper into the process of collaboration, storage and sharing, it soon becomes apparent that they will need to manage their data too. As a result, researchers continuously have to make decisions around preserving their data, the best way to describe it, and who will have the long-term oversight.
Institutional research support managers, librarians and IT departments work together to make these processes run more smoothly. But even they are sometimes faced with issues around the interoperability of the software and tools in place, and systems may not easily provide the features needed to collate reports for funders and aid discoverability.
Our research data spring initiative
We wanted to encourage cutting-edge technical innovation in research data management. So, in 2014 we invited researchers, research support managers, librarians and developers to think about the problems they were facing and to propose solutions via a novel initiative: research data spring.
While promoting an open collaboration model, we aimed to support new technical tools, software and service solutions, which would improve researchers’ workflows and the use and management of their data. Researchers, research support managers, librarians, developers and publishers are invaluable when it comes to solving the key research data management issues.
After all, problems are best solved by those who experience them every day.
Developing new solutions
Initially, 70 ideas were submitted via an online platform, open for comments and votes. From these, and via three rounds of workshops and pitches, a total of 16 projects were supported. We ran an iterative model and, over the last six months, six project teams have been chosen to turn their projects into functioning tools.
Research data spring came to a formal conclusion on 20 October at our showcase in the University of Birmingham’s Great Hall - where final projects demonstrated prototypes and presented the benefits that were already being realised. Each team has been working to solve the problems that they were experiencing within their own institution(s), and we have been using our expertise and reach in order to help others benefit from these solutions as well.
The workshops we held were highly collaborative. Attendees happily shared their thoughts and ideas throughout the days (and there were plenty of ideas!) All in all, research data spring confirmed that if you want to solve a research data management issue, creating an environment where researchers, research support, developers, librarians, and publishers can collaborate is a good start.
We are now working on a visual synthesis of the case studies and the outputs for all the research data spring projects, which will be launched at the next Research Data Network event on 30 November at the University of St Andrews.
We will continue to work with the following projects, to integrate and align with the research data shared service:
Artivity is a tool that records the creative process of digital artists, or the lab notebook of the digital artist.
Clipper is a web app that enables easy clipping and annotation of audio and visual materials online and without having to make copies that occupy gigabytes of space.
Data2Paper simplifies the time-consuming journal submission system.
The tool has been developed specifically for researchers that are writing data papers and integrates with a range of data journals already. It has been developed by the University of Oxford, F1000, Murphy Ltd and Digital Nest Ltd.
DataVault is a web tool to help researchers free up space on their own computers by archiving their active data before this is ready to be published.
Data Management Administration (DMA) Online
Data Management Administration (DMA) Online is a dashboard for research support managers that pulls together and aggregates the numbers of datasets, data management plans, Research Councils UK (RCUK)-funded projects, all broken down by department or institute.
The tool was developed by Lancaster University.
Filling the digital preservation gap project have worked on a prototype implementation of Archivematica for the long-term preservation of research data.