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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1 Comment so far

  1. Laura Molloy March 5, 2012 18:42

    Good post Jill, neatly capturing many of the pertinent issues when it comes to PGRs. By definition, this is a group of researchers who aren’t necessarily going to be in the institution or role very long, and so there are strong arguments for encouraging – to one degree or another – deposit of data alongside theses, and definitely at the very least for making that possible at the IR. This provision, of course, goes hand-in-hand with awareness-raising in this audience and integration of RDM training into PGR training provision. If we catch them at the early stage, hopefully they’ll continue to manage their data well throughout their careers!


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