OR2012

Good news for Open Exeter – we heard that our paper on archiving PGR data has been accepted for OR2012 in Edinburgh. We are all planning on attending so hope to catch up with other MRD02 projects in July.

Posted under News

This post was written by Jill Evans on April 30, 2012

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Thing 1: What is/are data?

The first task (or “Thing 1”)  for our Holistic Librarian Afzal was to investigate what is/what are data.

His initial reply was:

To my mind, these are raw bits or bricks that are found deliberately or serendipitously or both – then collated in order to be constructed into information that is then used to advance human civilisation.

He then investigated further and his second answer to the question was this:

Data-nt cordiale: the End of Data

‘End’ meaning ‘Goal’, of course.

Data – the  ‘thing given’ – yet often the facts are never a given thing.. they are wrestled via a plethora of sources and methods. Given  the march commercialisation and globalisation, data is -like it or not – commodified, to use a marxist term. This entails knowing and valuing it and owning it.

An excellent and lucid definition of what  Research Data is/are all about – or should be about is given by the Australian National Data Service:

Research data means data in the form of facts, observations, images, computer program results, recordings, measurements or experiences on which an argument, theory, test or hypothesis, or another research output is based. Data may be numerical, descriptive, visual or tactile. It may be raw, cleaned or processed, and may be held in any format or media.

And the wherefore of this/these data:

Data that are: to Structured Collections that are:
Unmanaged        —> Managed
Disconnected      —> Connected
Invisible              —> Findable
Single-use          —> Reusable

Once Data becomes more communal – I think the word Data will take on much more of a human nuance than it does now. Data to the people!

Posted under Holistic Librarian

This post was written by Afzal Hasan on April 27, 2012

Some Thoughts on Research

As some readers of this blog may know, I am an active (well, semi-active!) historian as well as working on the Open Exeter Project. A rather shameless plug, but if you happen to be interested in the Royal Navy or military logistics my book on the subject was published earlier this year…!! More seriously, it does mean that I may have a different perspective on the research data management issues that researchers face as I am also facing the same issues. 

Last Thursday I had a day off from the day job and decided to spend it at The National Archives at Kew. Users of Kew are fortunate in that they allow you to take digital images of the vast majority of their archives. Increasingly other record offices also allow photos to be taken (although some do not). This means that many humanities researchers are now faced with data management (or research management) issues that they haven’t previously dealt with. One of the major ones is storage and management of thousands of photos of letters, documents, images etc.

In my own work I have a folder called “PRO photos” (The National Archives was known as The Public Record Office when I started my research). This folder is 4.56GB in size and consists of 8302 files in 1404 folders (according to the folder properties). I also have seperate folders for other record offices. Thus, my folder for the Staffordshire Record Office and William Salt Library (in Stafford) is 3.29GB, and has 834 files in 115 folders. In addition, the folder I created from Thursday’s work consists of 454 files in 8 folders (and is 1.8GB in size). Once I have tidied this folder up, the contents will be added to the “PRO photos folder”. I could go on…

How I organise, store and analyse these images has a massive impact on my research.

  • Organisation: Put simply, I organise my files in the same manner that they are organised in the archive where I took the photos. Thus, for The National Archives I have a folder called ADM (Admiralty papers) and within that I have sub-folders, i.e. ADM 1, ADM 2 etc., and within those I have more folders i.e. ADM 1 393, ADM 1 4014 etc. Within each of these I put individual letters (which may take a few images) into their own folder. I do the same for WO (War office), SUPP (Ministry of Supply) etc. Other humanities researchers we have spoken to during the course of the Open Exeter project organise their files in a similar way.
  • Storage: All my files are primarily stored on my personal laptop. I also have copies on DVD and my work PC (so hopefully I shouldn’t lose all these copies in one event…). I have also started using cloud storage. However, this has raised another issue. I am registered with Micrsoft Skydrive and have the 25GB free space. However, getting the files onto this so that they can be read on my iPad and personal PC is proving problematic.  I loaded my Stafford files onto Skydrive (on my personal laptop) on Wednesday and, even though I haven’t had it on continuously since then, over half the files still need to synch. We have spoken to other researchers who don’t use cloud storage for this very reason.
  • Analysis: This initially proved problematic. I completed my MA in the analogue age i.e. I took notes using pencil and paper and the odd photocopy (my two box files of notes are also sat at home).  My photography only started with my PhD. During my PhD I started to create an Access database so I could easily discover what was in each letter. This database was searchable and each table consisted of four basic columns: PRO reference number; Date; From whom; and about (this being a brief sentence and keywords on what each letter contained). Many other researchers use spreadsheets in a similar way. Although not an Exeter researcher, see this blog post of Dr Kevin Linch at Leeds for a similar system.

I have only given a very brief summary here but it has been interesting uncovering as part of the Open Exeter project that many researchers use similar ways to organise their research data totally independently of each other. This of course has implications for future training sessions and materials. We can use examples from peers to demonstrate how research material can be organised to aid the research process.

Of course, other subjects have far larger files and differing file types which cause their own issues. However, we can still take the principle of using peer examples to show best practice. This should aid engagement and help to make training sessions feel relevant to the participants.

Posted under Research, Training

This post was written by Gareth Cole on April 27, 2012

Open Exeter presents “How to Write a Data Management Plan”

The Open Exeter team will present “How to Write a Data Management Plan: A Short Guide”, followed by coffee and cakes at the Cornwall campus next week. All researchers and PhD students are welcome to attend this event, which aims to help researchers who increasingly will need to write data management plans as part of their funding applications.

The talk will take place on 23rd April, from 12:00 – 12:30 in Lecture Theatre 1, Peter Lanyon Building, Cornwall campus.

You can register for the event via our Facebook event page or by sending an email to h.lloyd-jones@exeter.ac.uk, although you don’t have to register to come along!

Posted under Advocacy and Governance, Training

This post was written by Hannah Lloyd-Jones on April 20, 2012

Survey questions

Following on from Sian’s comment on my previous blog I have shared the survey questions we asked in our survey. We used Bristol Online Surveys to create it.

Although we did proof read it numerous times (and asked our PGR students to have a look) a couple of typos slipped through the net so apologies for this!

As before, any comments gratefully received. We tried to make the survey so that it wouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes to complete… This meant that compromises had to be made and we weren’t able to ask all the questions we would have liked to. In retrospect, one question we should have asked was “Do you use a PC or a MAC?”.

Posted under Online survey, Useful links

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

The Holistic Librarian – Open for Business!

We have started piloting research data management training with Afzal Hasan, the Subject Librarian for Arabic and Islamic Studies and Politics at the University. The training will take the form of “23 Things for Research Data Management” (see, for example, the 23 Things Cambridge blog). It will be a self-directed course designed to help our Subject Librarians become familiar with the concepts and practicalities of research data management. The pilot training will take place over a period of several months. Once each Thing has been completed, Afzal will report back on the task via this blog and help us to refine the training so that it meets the needs of Subject Librarians in this area.

In this video, Afzal talks about why he has agreed to take part in this pilot training and what he hopes to get out of the experience.

Afzal is already working on “Thing 1” so check the blog soon to hear his thoughts and opinions on the task.

Posted under Holistic Librarian, Training

This post was written by Hannah Lloyd-Jones on April 11, 2012

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Online survey closed

As we have blogged previously we launched an online survey as part of our research into how research data is managed at Exeter. This has now closed and we are delighted with the number of respondents: 284 in total.

Encouragingly we have had a large number of responses from all of the academic colleges at Exeter so this will enable our conclusions to be as inclusive as possible. Additionally, only 45% of our respondents were PGR students and nearly 10% were professors. Covering the full spectrum of researchers will also enable us to focus our outputs.

Very initial analysis of the survey has thrown up a number of headline results which will affect how we progress on the project:

  1. Over half the respondents stated that they used sensitive or confidential data. 64% of these were under legal obligations to keep it secure.
  2. Almost a third of respondents are not currently working on an externally funded project.
  3. Over 60% of respondents had non-electronic research data (lab-books, article notes etc.).
  4. 135 respondents backed up to an External Hard Drive (although more analysis needs to take place to see how many only back up to one device).
  5. 64% shared research data.
  6. 8% had completed a data management plan.
  7. 11% were aware of any requirements of their funder to make their research data available via Open Access.
  8. Nearly 50% said that they would be willing to be contacted for a follow up interview.

These interviews are now taking place. We have already interviewed around 30 researchers and have more in our calendars. These are proving very useful and the engagement of the research community has been encouraging. We could not have accomplished what we have done without their help and support.

I would hope to have a draft of the written report completed by the end of the month so will be able to blog some more in-depth findings then. If anyone has any comments on these initial findings I would be interested to hear them. Are they similar to what other projects are finding?

Posted under Follow the Data, Online survey

This post was written by Gareth Cole on April 2, 2012