Bibliographic software

Further to Rebecca’s post yesterday I would like to provide a link to the blog of another one of our PGR students.

As part of the second workshop with our PGR students which was held a couple of weeks ago I led a discussion on the role of reference managers and what type of training should be given (or is needed) in this area. Endnote is the most common tool used at Exeter although our online survey has shown that it is by no means the only one. Consequently, I gave a, very, brief introduction to Mendeley and what it could do etc. This wasn’t a nuts and bolts session on how to use Mendeley but I used it as an introduction to uncover what our students would want from a reference manager.

Stuart has followed this up with a comparison of Endnote and Mendeley and how they can actually be used in conjunction with each other to improve the management of secondary literature (although of course they are not limited to this). He also lists a few of the pros and cons of each piece of software.

Posted under Follow the Data

This post was written by Gareth Cole on March 16, 2012

Three months in…

As one of the PGR students in this project I’ve learnt a lot about data management since joining Open Exeter.  The first workshop was only three months ago, yet being more aware of how I create and use my data has already helped my project.  I wasn’t given any advice about data management when I started my PhD and the number of files on my computer increased very quickly to become a mass of random folders and strange file names.  I would like to have known more about file naming and organisation before things got out of hand; reorganising everything is now a rather daunting and time consuming prospect, but I’ve learnt about different methods of organisation and file naming conventions that will help.

Talking to the project team and other students has also made me aware of software available to aid data management: dropbox, email filtering, remote desktop access and alternate referencing software.  We have also practised writing data management plans for our projects which raised the issues of confidentiality, back-up, storage and archiving.

Although, as researchers, our work is based on using and creating data, I have rarely taken the time to consider my daily data output.  I think this is something which should be considered at the very being of a piece of work so file organisation, naming, access rights, back-up procedures, methods of sharing, storage and archiving procedures are decided before you begin to generate any data.  A workshop which covered these areas for students at the start of their PhDs would be very useful.  Over the next 3-4 years this could be complemented by other relevant training or open drop-in sessions for students to raise their particular data issues.

Overall, I’m really enjoying being involved in the project.  Not only because of the benefits to my data management skills but also the chance to interact with students from various disciplines and discuss the many types of data we produce.  Before the first workshop I would never have believed the simple question ‘What is data?’ could have been so interesting, but it’s made me view my work in a whole different light.

Posted under Follow the Data

This post was written by Rebecca Claire Hunter on March 15, 2012

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Research Data Policy – Should it be aspirational?

I’ve come back from the JISC MRD Projects Workshop on Developing Institutional Research Data Management Policies with lots to think about, especially as we will have our first Policy Review meeting on the 26th March. One of the themes that arose during the event was that of whether it was useful for an institutional research data policy to be aspirational. As we followed the Chatham House Rule during the Workshop, I will not state the identity or affiliation of those whose opinions/ideas/experiences are discussed below.

Most universities that are developing a research data policy at the moment consider the University of Edinburgh’s aspirational policy to be a key point of reference. It is clear, succinct and acknowledges that implementation will take some time. The nitty-gritty of who does what and how is not covered although certain responsibilities for both the University and for Principal Investigators are clarified. One of the reasons why an aspirational policy is deemed to be a good approach to take is because the practical implications of such a policy are likely to change frequently and no-one wants to go through the long process of ratification again every time there’s a change in somebody’s role, for example. This can also mean that the procedural level documentation can be specialised – different Colleges, Departments or research groups have the freedom to create their own “working policies” according to their specific structure, discipline or main funders, looking to the institutional policy for guidance.

However, some universities have either been forced to look at the infrastructure that the implementation of an Edinburgh-style policy would require or have decided to take the practicalities of good practice in RDM seriously at an institutional level before developing a policy. One worry is that, it’s all well and good to have a research data policy (and I think that most people would agree that it’s better to have something than nothing), but we can’t ask researchers (and other staff) to take on responsibilities when they don’t have the training/awareness/repository/procedures to do so. Another issue is that once the institutional policy box is ticked, the implementation (and possible investment into the implementation) of this policy is forgotten, which at the end of the day, is the aim of having a policy.

I would argue, (and this is a personal view – we are yet to see how our policy work strand will develop), that it would be easier to get an aspirational policy approved, specifically because the document wouldn’t explicitly demand too much of our researchers’ limited time. Once you have a process to follow, that’s the point at which complaints are made; it’s easier to agree to an idea than to a real responsibility. The process of developing any style of policy could engage stakeholders across the University, and if you have the means of maintaining this buy-in, you can hope to ensure the roll-out of “working policies” that suit differing working practices as well as continued investment in the development and maintenance of a research data repository. This doesn’t mean that universities should delay the more practical aspects of policy implementation until a later date – many at the JISC Workshop stated that advocacy and training are essential to the success of good practice in RDM, which after all, is the main objective of our project.

Posted under Advocacy and Governance

This post was written by Hannah Lloyd-Jones on March 14, 2012

Join us on Facebook!

Open Exeter RDM now has a Facebook account, which we will be using to promote the project to various audiences including UoE PhD students, researchers and support staff. We will hope to encourage debate and conversation on research data management as well as raising awareness of project events and training sessions.

Join us at www.facebook.com/openexeterrdm.

Posted under Advocacy and Governance

This post was written by Hannah Lloyd-Jones on March 14, 2012

Archiving PGR research data?

As we finish the third week of our investigations into RDM practice around the University, we’re a little surprised by a common factor that is starting to emerge from interviews: concern about what happens to PGRs’ data when they leave the University at the end of their studies.

We had some idea from conversations with PGRs that they themselves have questions about what happens to student data when someone leaves. The most consistent comment is that since there are no policies or guidelines of any sort, data will probably sit on a hard drive or external drive in an office somewhere until either the device fails or no-one can figure out how to access the files again.

For PGRs this is a problem for two main reasons:
• Students would like to receive recognition for their work and feel it is being valued and reused to contribute to building knowledge in their academic field. If the data is more accessible, it will have greater impact and enhance their career development.
• Typically this research data is unavailable for incoming students to build on; they will be aware that the research has taken place but due to the lack of policy on recording and storing PGR data, they (and their supervisors) have no way of locating it.

For researchers, where PGR research has been incorporated into project/research group activities, continuing access to raw data is critical.

Researchers may be aware that previous research is relevant to current students supervised but again, cannot access the original data. This can lead to reduplication of effort.

Additionally, it can be useful to have access to restrictions-free raw data as a tool to teach research skills and methodologies to incoming students.

Until this point, we hadn’t really considered that there might be a role for the project in providing continuing access to PGR data. However, there is clearly a (relatively) quick win opportunity for us here: we already mandate thesis deposit to our research outputs repository, ERIC, which we are looking at integrating with our data archive; we already allow deposit of supplementary files, such as video and audio when they’re an integral part of the thesis. It’s only a comparatively small next step to then permit (or even mandate?) deposit of underlying data. It’s an aim we will certainly incorporate into our scheme of work over the next few months.

Are other projects coming across a similar situation?

Posted under Follow the Data

This post was written by Jill Evans on March 2, 2012

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A Quick Note on Survey Responses

We are pleased to be able to announce that, at the time of writing, we have had 232 completed answers to our RDM survey.

The response rate has varied across the Academic Colleges, with the highest number of completed surveys coming from researchers from the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences and the lowest from the College of Humanities. The variation in number of responses probably depends on many factors, including the different methods of publicising the survey in the Colleges, but our feeling is that the word “data” puts off many of those who work in the Humanities.

We tried varying the wording of the communications which went to the College of Humanities, but still feel that we need to engage many of these researchers with our project in a more meaningful way – any suggestions are more than welcome!

The survey is still open for UoE researchers and PGRs and can be found at www.survey.exeter.ac.uk/openexeterrdm.

Posted under Online survey

This post was written by Hannah Lloyd-Jones on March 1, 2012