Follow the Data – end of project feedback from Annie Blanchette

Collaborating on the Open Exeter project served first and foremost as a great opportunity to reflect on and develop my research data management process according to some of the best practices and solutions out there.

As a foreign student, I had never heard of the Data Protection Act until the Open Exeter project leaders invited Caroline Dominey to present the DPA and Freedom of Access policy in a workshop. This awoke me to some of these requirements and prompted me to ensure my data process was adequate. Given the sensitive nature of my data  – dealing with real life subjects that can be recognised – I met with Ms Dominey in order to review my intended process. This has been very helpful too for the approval of my ethical research protocol. I have also learned about Open Access policies, some of the benefits of sharing, as well as measures to control diffusion in order to suit the sensitive nature of my data.

Through discussions with the project leaders and other fellow students involved in Open Exeter, I have learned a lot about data management processes and tools. For instance, I have found tools for encryption and synching, storing data with a good level of security online and managing efficiently research references. I have learned about sites to build a Data Management Plan (such as DMP online). Undertaking such a process proved very helpful in my ongoing data management, and facilitated my approval by the ethical committee as it allowed me to document potential ethical issues at every step of the process and measures envisioned to minimise the latter. The creation of the survival guide for new students was also a great opportunity to reflect on and share, as well as learn about best practices from others. Learning about good practices in terms of folder structures, versioning and naming conventions was very helpful too, although I wish we had covered this before so that I could have implemented this system earlier. While my submission delay does not allow me to adjust all my files at the moment, the system seems very promising and easy to implement, so I am hopeful it will work well for my future projects. The project was also an opportunity to learn to work with the iPad as a research tool, while benefiting from other’s exploration of this tool.

What worked:

Although I am still struggling to do the actual writing up of my thesis with the iPad, it has been playing a crucial role at every step of my data collection (managing field appointments, recording interviews and field notes, conducting photo reviews with participants and accessing/sharing my data for the purpose of interpretation).

Monitoring my data management throughout the project was also a great help because it pushed me to reflect on the nature of the data, as well as proper ways of handling it. Although reporting on a weekly basis was at time difficult given the diverse nature of my data, it also helped me create a much more detailed account for my thesis, which increased its credibility.

What didn’t work as well:

I was able to put together a process of synching and encryption, however, I am still struggling a bit with overwriting issues (especially with dropbox). I believe this will get resolved once I implement an appropriate versioning system.

Other suggestions:

I think offering the opportunity to students to take part in research data management groups (with data monitoring activities, group discussions and workshops) would be potentially of great benefits to some interested postgrad researchers. Perhaps I would have liked having a little bit more group interactions because I found it was great to interact with a team of people committed to data management reflection.  This and the one to one meetings often helped me fix some issues that would have otherwise blocked me for much longer. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to participate!

Posted under Follow the Data, PGR students

This post was written by Jill Evans on January 21, 2013

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