Open Access Week Day 2

Some really interesting presentations yesterday including a talk from Exeter’s Michael Wykes (Policy, Impact and Performance Manager, Research & Knowledge Transfer) on Open Access and the REF. This was followed by Brian Kelly with a presentation on Open Practices for the Connected Researcher. I personally learnt quite a lot from both of these sessions and judging from feedback, so did others who attended. I now know much more about sharing materials in muliple formats and a variety of places, e.g., SlideShare, which we will definitely be using to share our presentations, and Topsy which analyses your tweets. Much, much more but have to prepare for day 3 and a talk by me at 9.30.

Do follow the day,s events at #oaex and try to come along to our sessions today – Alma Swan at 12, Research Speed Updating at 2pm and Cameron Neylon at 3.30 followed by our Happy Hour (alcohol will be available!).

Posted under Open Access, Training

This post was written by Jill Evans on October 24, 2012

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Open Access Week underway!

Day one of our Open Access Week schedule went as planned, kicked off by the Open Access Cafe and competition announcement.  Sessions have so far had really good feedback.  Mark Hahnel and Mark Thorley were our star speakers yesterday – both sessions have been recorded and will be put online asap.

In addition to sessions throughout the day we have a stall in the new Forum area where there are lots of freebies and promotional materials available. Our friendly PGRs are there all day to help with queries.

Have to dash to set up first session but we will be blogging and tweeting news and updates as much as possible this week.

Posted under Advocacy and Governance, Open Access, Training

This post was written by Jill Evans on October 23, 2012

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JISCMRD Programme poster

At the JISCMRD Programme meeting in Nottingham on Wednesday 24th and Thursday 25th, the Open Exeter Project (along with all the other projects funded under the Programme) will be presenting a poster on project progress. Due to our full Open Access Week timetable I will be the only member of the team who is able to come to the meeting. As such, I thought it might be helpful for interested parties to have a sneek preview of what the poster will look like.

As you can see, we have tried to show that Open Exeter, working with Exeter IT, the Library, Academic Colleges, Research and Knowledge Transfer and the research community has made substantial progress in numerous areas. Feel free to leave comments on the blog or see me at Nottingham if you have any questions.

Posted under Reports, Research

This post was written by Gareth Cole on October 19, 2012

Big data submission tool demo at the 2012 IDCC in Amsterdam

Open Exeter hopes to demonstrate its submission prototype at the International Digital Curation Conference in Amsterdam in January 2012:


Managing Research Data

Submitting BIG data to a DSpace repository

Open Exeter project, University of Exeter, UK

DSpace comes readily equipped with its own ‘out of the box’ submission tool which works well with small files and small numbers of files but how do researchers upload their precious large datasets?

The UK JISC funded Open Exeter project set out to understand how researchers at the University of Exeter manage their data.

As part of the project, researchers were surveyed about the amount of data they stored and how they stored it particularly once a project was finished. It was found that some research projects produced huge numbers of files with some massive file sizes and that these were often archived on local hard disks and external drives. To submit these datasets to our DSpace based institutional repository is not practical using the out of the box DSpace submission tool since it limits the user to one file at a time for upload over HTTP whilst the user waits.  In addition transferring large files via such methods can be slow and prone to failure. DSpace does also support command line batch import of files providing they can be successfully transferred via some other means. SWORD provides a standardised way of interfacing with repositories including DSpace but also currently remains limited in its ability to transfer large files reliably.

To overcome these limitations, Open Exeter is developing its own submission tool using elements of the SWORD protocol combined with the leading research data transfer service Globus. SWORD allows us to query the repository to determine which collection the user is allowed to submit to and what sort of metadata is needed. The tool then gathers the metadata and data locations from the user before scheduling transfer of this to the repository. This method works irrespective of the volume of data and its location whilst remaining secure, fast and resilient since if a transfer fails it can be restarted automatically from the point of failure.  Globus provides a unique reference number to track progress and determine completion allowing subsequent submission via batch import to the repository.

Using these technologies, Open Exeter is working toward a solution that will allow researchers to upload their data quickly and securely and will be giving a demonstration of its prototype.

Posted under Technical development

This post was written by Ian Wellaway on October 19, 2012

Dropbox offer

Readers of our blog may be interested in a new offer that Dropbox is currently running. They are calling it The Great Dropbox Space Race and are offering extra storage space (get it…!) to those who register. The added incentive is that the more members who register from a particular institution then the more space the members of that institution get.

Of course, researchers should still use cloud storage solutions with caution and they should not be used for sensitive or confidential data.

Posted under Data management tools

This post was written by Gareth Cole on October 18, 2012

Open Access Week 22-26 October


We are delighted to announce our full programme of events to celebrate International Open Access Week from 22nd to 26th October 2012 which will take place on Streatham, St Luke’s and Tremough campuses. Open Access to research publications and data has the potential to transform the way research is conducted and Open Access Week is a key opportunity for all members of the community to better understand and become more involved in this international movement.

We have organised an exciting week of activities which include our keynote speakers, Cameron Neylon, Advocacy Director at Public Library of Science, who will talk on How I learnt to stop worrying and love the RCUK policy, and Alma Swan, Director of European Advocacy for SPARC, who will present on Open Access and You – A relationship with promise. Other events include a UKDA webinar on Managing Research Data for the Social Sciences, Brian Kelly’s presentation on Open Practices for the Connected Researcher, Mark Hahnel’s talk on the Disruptive Dissemination of Research Outputs, a special Open Access edition of Research Speed Updating and a workshop on Data Protection, Data Storage and Sharing.

Come along to our Open Access Café, where are Open Access Week competition will be announced, and chat to others about Open Access issues over a glass of wine at our Open Access Happy Hour.

The full timetable of events is available here – we do hope you can make it to some of the activities or pop by and see us at our stall on the mezzanine level of the Forum from Monday 22nd October!

Posted under Advocacy and Governance, Exeter Data Archive, News, Open Access, PGR students, Research, Training

This post was written by Hannah Lloyd-Jones on October 16, 2012

Research Data Backup with CrashPlan

We  started an evaluation/trial of CrashPlan Enterprise as a backup solution for research data earlier in the year.

This trial finished a few months back but I just wanted to document some key results from this work.

  • CrashPlan is a solution for personal data backup across a range of platforms – Mac, Linux and Windows. It consists of a Java based client and for the Enterprise version a Java based server product.
  • During the evaluation I believe CrashPlan performed very well in terms of installation simplicity, configurability and on-going administration. CrashPlan allows for devolution of responsibility for backups to each college with a fully developed administrative role model.
  • The trial enabled us to fully evaluate it as a potential research data backup solution for use with our EMC Atmos. In our trial, CrashPlan server software was installed on all the Atmos IFS servers with a management GUI installed on a seperate server. The Atmos IFS servers mount the Atmos object space as a file system and this allowed us to offer Atmos space to CrashPlan as a normal file system.
  • Initial results were good, backups occurred at a reasonable speed. However after a period, backup failure would start to occur. It became apparent that this is because of the requirement that a CrashPlan server must maintain its backup files periodically and that during this time a backup cannot take place. The characteristic of this maintenance is many small multiple I/O operations on the backup files which because they are actually stored on Atmos as objects, make the maintenance operation too slow to sustain a reliable backup service. The CrashPlan backup files were remaining in maintenance mode for extremely long periods (days/weeks).
  • There is no work around to this fundamental characteristic of high start-up latency for Atmos I/O.
  • Consequently I cannot recommend CrashPlan as a solution, with Atmos as the back end, for research data backup.
  • I would however highly recommend CrashPlan as a very good solution for general research data backup if we could provide a central backup storage file system with low latency I/O.



Posted under Technical development

This post was written by Peter Leggett on October 10, 2012

Writing up your research with Scrivener

As I was looking for an application that would allow me to use my Ipad as a writing device, I randomly came across this fantastic software called “Scrivener” by Literature and Latte. While there is no Ipad application available yet, my first experience with Scrivener was so convincing that I dropped google.doc and word (PC and iPad versions) to write my thesis directly in the software.

Here is a description taken directly from the Literature and Latte website:

Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft.

For years, my writing process has been as follows: I would normally use a mind mapping software to plan my project outline and subsections. I would then create a distinct document for each chapter or relevant subsection (either in Word, or more recently Google.doc/Google Drive for remote access, collaboration, and automatic backup). While my structure was very clean and organised at first, my system did not handle structural changes very well such as moving, adding or removing content. Unless I would constantly manually update my mindmap plan, it would soon become obsolete and I would tend to lose track of the “big picture”. Furthermore, when I wanted to retrieve snippets of work that needed relocation, I often had to switch between documents and search within the text manually or with the “find” function.

With Scrivener, all my texts are in the same project “binder”, broken down in navigable and malleable folders and subfolders. These are also found listed in a ubiquitous left panel table of content. This sort of “dashboard”, allows me to find my bearings in the ever-evolving/transfigured thesis structure, as well as to keep a conducting thread while writing.

These are some of the Scrivener features I find particularly relevant to my thesis work:”:

Research Folder: I drop my important annotated articles, reading and supervision notes in there, as well as relevant web links;

A snapshot function: Allows you to “clone” the text before undertaking important  structural changes, avoiding irreparable mistake and loss of prior versions;

A synopsis feature: Can serve as an helpful reminder of the intent/aim of a section to be written;

A compilation function: Allows you to “mount” in part or in whole  your text and exports them in different formats such as doc, pdf or html;

A virtual cork board: Enables you to pin ideas to be further developed or evaluated;

I also enjoy the auto-save/automatic backup functions as well as the text tagging/labelling and text annotation features.  And the list goes on…

It is possible to try Scrivener for free (Windows or Mac OS X versions) for a 30 days period. The trial period is based on actual use – meaning you can try Scrivener for several months (and potentially get “hooked” like me) before having to purchase it. After that, the software is available for about £25 for an educational license (depending on your operating system).  If you are tempted by Scrivener, I highly recommend investing a couple of hours in undergoing the full interactive tutorial which will walk you through some of its unusual but very handy features.

I am hoping however that they will come to develop both an Ipad and a cloud-based version (so to facilitate remote access and collaboration). At the moment, I am using dropbox for remote access and sharing.

Posted under PGR students, Research, Useful links

This post was written by Annie Blanchette on October 10, 2012


As part of the Open Exeter project we are evaluating the use of DMPonline to aid Exeter’s researchers complete Data Management Plans. We asked our PGR students to look at the tool and give their feedback to us. What follows is a brief summary of their findings.

Interestingly, our PGRs stated that they believed they completed the tool differently being part way through their research project than they would have done at the start of the project. A number of our students stated that it would have been helpful to have had an Exeter template providing links to specific guidance of relevance to researchers here. This is something we are interested in exploring further and have had some initial contact with the DMPonline team.

Specific feedback from our PGRs included:

  • Asking them to complete a DMP without having the project plan felt a little removed and artificial (this is of course a problem with our methodology but it does imply that future tests need to be with “live” plans and projects where at all possible).
  • One of our PGRs thought that there was too much jargon and a “beginners guide” would have been helpful.
  • One of our PGRs asked whether examples could be provided for each section to show what was required.
  • One of the students commented that unless they were sure of the site they would struggle to trust that DMPonline did actually fit the needs of their funding body.
  • One commented that they would not have known how to fill out the form without the pop ups in each section.
  • Although the links from the various sections were seen as useful, a couple of our students commented that there were too many of them and they didn’t have the time to read all the links and complete the form.

Although not specific feedback on DMPonline, a couple of our students thought that there would have been more questions on what software they were going to use. This was useful feedback for us and will aid us in helping academics complete their Data Management Plans.

This feedback has been particularly helpful for us at Exeter in developing what is required for an Exeter branded DMPonline and hopefully adds to the corpus of material that is developing around what is a very useful tool.

Posted under Data management tools, Follow the Data, PGR students

This post was written by Gareth Cole on October 10, 2012

Gadgets for Research: Tech Review

You may remember previously that I wrote a blog post about the new Livescribe Echo Smart Pen that the Open Exeter project team has temporarily lent me. If you missed my initial post, you can read it here In that post I said I was very impressed with the Smart Pen’s ability to recognise my scrappy hand writing and gave it top marks as a research gadget.

Since then I’ve had some more experience using the Smart Pen and have found it invaluable. It is an excellent backup when conducting interviews in case the audio recording equipment fails. It was also very useful when I was asked to be a scribe at a conference recently during breakout sessions. One of the most useful applications of this handy device, I’ve found, is that it is excellent for taking notes when on the move – inside, outside, on a train or even on a plane, the pen’s portability makes it much easier to use for writing in these situations than a laptop.

The pen does have some drawbacks however. The ink cartridges don’t last very long (being less than half the size of a regular biro cartridge) and they are costly to replace. Also, in order to take advantage of the hand writing recognition you have to buy an add-on piece of software but fortunately it is quite inexpensive. Perhaps one of the most significant drawbacks is the time required to proof read the recognised text. The software is great at recognising neat handwriting and even not so neat handwriting. However the faster I write the more illegible my handwriting becomes and the pen does struggle to recognise this. It also struggles with scoring out and corrections.

All-in-all, if a computer or laptop can easily be accessed then this is probably less time consuming than using the pen. However, for those situations I’ve mentioned above where a laptop wouldn’t be feasible, I feel the Smart Pen remains an invaluable research tool. That’s all for now but check back later for a post on Dragon Dictate for Mac, the voice recognition software, that I will be test driving for the Open Exeter Project!

Posted under Follow the Data

This post was written by Philip Bremner on October 8, 2012