Express Scribe

Just a quick blog post to say that I recently discovered an interesting piece of software that might help in the data collection process. It is called Express Scribe and I find it greatly speeds up the transcription process. Essentially it is a piece of software through which you play the audio recording that is to be transcribed. You can then turn certain keys on your keyboard into hot keys or use a foot pedal so that you don’t have to move away from the word processing programme in order to pause and rewind the recording. I’m sure the pro version has many other features but I find the free version does everything I need it to.

On a related note, I’m very pleased I had the Echo Smart Pen with me today when conducting an interview as the battery of my digital audio recorder ran out. It turns out two bars just isn’t enough to get through an interview. I will need to make sure it is fully charged in future. Fortunately I was also recording the audio on my Smart Pen and although the audio isn’t as good as the Olympus digital recorder it is still perfectly audible.

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

This post was written by Philip Bremner on May 8, 2013

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Data Storage: DropBox, Wuala and USB Pen Drives

A combination of the recent Open Access Week and some technical difficulties I’ve been having lately (more on that later) has led me to write a blog entry on the way in which we store our data. I tend to divide my time between working on my Mac laptop at home and the desktop PC in my office. When I first began my Ph.D., the way I decided to ensure that I was always working on the latest version of my data was to store it on a pen drive and to work primarily from that USB pen drive. However, I soon realised that that wasn’t the best idea when some of my data started to become corrupted. Then I was introduced to Dropbox and thought that this would solve all my problems. I must say that I’ve found dropbox very useful in syncing data between the two computers – that is until the other week when my University computing account became locked out. This was especially problematic because my dropbox folder was located on the University servers (U Drive). This meant until I could get my university account unlocked I was unable to access my data and did not have another copy of it. As it turned out the issue with my university account was that an incorrect password was stored on my Mac which was continually locking me out of my account. However it took about a week to resolve this problem during which time I only had intermittent access to my files and my emails. As a result of this, I decided to back up the files that were in my dropbox onto a pen drive which I carry around with me so that if I do get locked out of my account in future I can still access my data. I guess the moral of this story is to always have another backup of your data!

Another issue with dropbox, however, is that it isn’t a secure way to store confidential information. Fortunately another service exists called Wuala, which is essentially an encrypted version of dropbox. I am currently working on a user guide for this service as part of the project, so hopefully more information will be available soon for people who want to make use of it. I am currently using Wuala to sync my confidential interview data between my Mac and University PC and it is proving to be very effective. In effect what Wuala does is it encrypts the data before it is transmitted across the Internet. Therefore if the data were to be intercepted no one would be able to decrypt it without the original password. An additional benefit of having both Wuala and Dropbox is that I can make use of both of the generous free allowances which is particularly useful because my Dropbox was rapidly filling up.

Whilst I’m discussing the secure storage and backup of data, I thought it might be worth mentioning the USB pen drive that I purchased recently. It’s the SanDisk Cruzer Contour which is recommended by the University IT department. The reason I purchased this is because it securely encrypts all the data that is stored on it and was significantly cheaper than the other USB pen drive recommended by the IT department. The other pen drive was the Kingston Data Traveller Vault Privacy and now that I’ve got the SanDisk pen drive I wish I had spent the extra money to get the Kingston one. The main reason for this is that the SanDisk pen drive, once encrypted, can only be accessed on a PC and not a Mac. As you can imagine this is proving quite inconvenient for me because I work across both platforms.

That’s all my grumbles for now. Thanks for reading!

Posted under Data management tools

This post was written by Philip Dennis Bremner on November 7, 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

DMPonline

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