Follow the Data – end of project feedback from Philip Bremner

I have found working on the JISC-funded Open Exeter project an invaluable experience. It has greatly enhanced my understanding of the need for and methods of rigorous research data management. It has encouraged me to consider issues such as: what constitutes research data? What is the value of making research data openly available? Who is responsible for research data management issues and long-term archiving? Speaking personally, participation in the project has contributed to my personal development as a researcher. In the future I will feel more confident about discussing research data management procedures in the form of a research data management plan, which is required by the research councils when applying for research funding.

In addition to this I felt that the project team valued my contribution to the project, along with that of the other PGRs. As PGRs, we participated in a number of useful workshops, reports of which can be seen on the project blog:, along with many other interesting articles about the progress of the project. Various topics were discussed at these workshops such as data protection, reference management, the creation of an institutional repository etc. We also ran an event where PGRs took the lead in facilitating discussion of research management issues more generally amongst postgraduate researchers in the University. A number of other events have been organised under the auspices of the project, such as the very successful University-wide Open Access Week, which ran as part of international Open Access Week. Within my own College, the project team participated in the PGR induction programme where we tried to raise awareness of research data management issues amongst new PhD students.

The Open Exeter project has produced a number of very useful outputs, which we PGRs have been involved with in one way or another. Principally, of course, is the creation of a robust institutional repository to make research data available on open access. We were fortunate enough to be able to test drive the repository (and thereby gain a sneak preview of it). I have to admit, it seemed able to handle all the different shapes and sizes of research data that we could think of throwing at it. Another significant output is the data management policies for researchers at the University, which we had input on. As a result of these policies, PhD students (and other researchers) will be required to submit their research data for long-term archiving in the institutional repository thereby making the data available for other researchers to use. This is in line with the requirements of many of the research councils, which now make data archiving compulsory.

Looking back at the report I wrote following the initial project workshop, I wrote: ‘research data management is not something I had given much thought to…’ I can safely say that I have now given the matter some considerable thought and feel that it is one that is relevant to most researchers in the University. I feel that the Open Exeter project has been instrumental in raising awareness of research data management issues amongst researchers at the University and the project’s Advocacy and Governance Officer deserves special thanks in that regard. What is more, the project has produced some excellent training materials, which are already being delivered as part of the researcher development programme.

Looking to the future, I feel that there is still work to be done in relation to promoting open access to research data in terms of advocacy, training and data curation. My concern is that the excellent work achieved by the project will not continue beyond the conclusion of the project if sufficient funding is not in place. In my view, it is essential to ensure that there are dedicated personnel within the University whose main concern is dealing within research data management issues. The data repository, although a fantastic achievement, cannot be considered as a static system. It requires proper curation by specially trained staff who are willing and able to deal with any concerns or queries that are raised in relation to its operation.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to participate in this project and would like to thank the project team for their enthusiasm and support.

Posted under Follow the Data, PGR students

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

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