The pitfalls of using copyrighted materials in theses

Some of you may be interested in a short case study written by one of our PGRs, Duncan Wright of Archaeology, on trying to deal retrospectively with the issue of obtaining permission to use copyrighted visual material in his thesis:

Like many PhD students, Duncan only be came aware of copyright restrictions on reuse of materials towards the end of his research and now has the problem of trying to negotiate permission with multiple copyright holders for content that has become an integral part of his thesis.

He has the option of removing the offending material and submitting a redacted version to our repository (thesis deposit is mandatory) but clearly this will have an impact on how the intellectual value of the study is perceived and is therefore not ideal.

It’s short enough to give to new or 2nd year PGRs as a warning, so please feel free to reuse!

Posted under Case studies, Copyright, Research

This post was written by Jill Evans on August 13, 2012

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Why RDM is important to me

As I wrote in my previous blog entry I still conduct historical research in my spare time and I have spent the last few days in Whitehaven in Cumbria filming a small segment for next year’s series of Coast on the BBC.

Now I have got that vanity exercise out of the way, I can say why good RDM was important for this filming…! I completed my PhD back in 2008 and although my book only came out earlier this year, most of the research for it was undertaken during my post-graduate days. As a result, when Coast came calling I needed to find information, some of which I hadn’t looked at for over four years. In my previous post I stated that I had started to create an Access database of the letters I photographed in the National Archives. This has proved invaluable over the last week. Without it, I would have had to trawl through 100s (if not 1000s) of images; with it, I could do a keyword search and find the results I was after. In addition, the fact that I ordered my files by the catalogue system in the National Archives made finding the individual photos much easier.

What this exercise brought home to me is that good research data management is essential, not only whilst working on the most recent or current project, but also if the data (or sources or documents) are needed in the future. Thankfully, I had created the very basic (and admittedly incomplete) database.

It also raised another issue for me. Having to go back through my own data made me aware of just how much data I had collected that I didn’t really need to (but don’t tell my supervisor!!). With the increase in digital technology it is now so easy to collect much more data than will ever be needed for projects or even have time to go through. I am sure that I haven’t looked at some of the images  since I photographed them over five years ago! Research data management must begin before data collection starts. From my point of view, I allowed technology to overtake good research skills. Back when I completed my BA and MA I used to go into the archives with pencil and paper and come out with reams of notes and the odd photocopy. However many notes I took, they were all relevant to my research projects. During my PhD I came out with GBs of images, some of which had no relevance to my research project and some only of limited relevance.

I would photograph a complete letter book or ship’s log and tell myself I would go through it when I got home and draw out all that was relevant. In reality, my next research trip or research trawl would come along before I had completed the previous one and although I am sitting on a goldmine of data if I ever have the chance to fully go through them, I still don’t know if I’ve missed evidence that would have supported (or indeed contradicted) my thesis and book argument.

Does this make me a bad researcher? Of course I don’t think so – no one can ever look at all the evidence(!!), but I did get overtaken by events and overly excited by the possibilities of “new” technologies and at times allowed myself to forget basic research techniques. It is essential that research data management really does look at the whole research life-cycle and not only once data collection has started – it could be too late by then!

Posted under Research, Training

This post was written by Gareth Cole on June 21, 2012

Open Exeter and Marine Renewable Energy Group Policy Case Study

The Open Exeter project will be working together with marine renewable energy researchers to develop a research group-level policy on research data management.

Marine Renewable Energy research on the Tremough campus is led by Dr Lars Johanning and involves approximately 20 staff, including collaborators in biosciences and the ESI. Current research interests include hydrodynamics and marine operations, resource assessment, marine policy, offshore reliability and environmental impacts of offshore renewable energy.

The Group has decided to develop a group-level research data management policy to ensure that the data it uses are secure, will be reusable in the future and can be shared easily amongst collaborators. This work is supported through the Bridging the Gaps initiative.

The Open Exeter team has set up a Task and Finish Group which is currently working on the draft version of an institutional-level research data management and Open Access policy. The Task and Finish group will make recommendations on how this high-level policy can be tailored for more specific disciplines and research groups and as well as how the policy can be implemented on a procedural-level.

The outputs of the collaboration between Open Exeter and the Marine Renewable Energy Group will include a written case study which will document the process of developing a research group-level policy on research data management.

Members of the Group will be writing about the process of policy-creation on the Open Exeter blog so check back regularly for more information about the case study.

Posted under Advocacy and Governance, Case studies, News, Research

This post was written by Hannah Lloyd-Jones on June 6, 2012

Discuss Debate Disseminate

The Open Exeter project is pleased to invite all UoE researchers to Discuss Debate Disseminate: A discussion of the issues around the management of your research materials and data and an opportunity to network with other researchers. PhD students and early career researchers from all disciplines welcome.

The event will take place on 22nd June 09:00 – 12:30 in the Upper Lounge of Reed Hall on the Streatham campus.


09:00 – 09:15: Arrival coffee/tea

09:15 – 09:30: Welcome

09:30 – 10:30: Session 1: Delete, Keep or Share?: Each researcher brings one example of research material or data (this could be, for example, in electronic or paper format).  In groups you will describe your research material or data briefly before discussing whether you would delete it, keep it, or share it, and why.

10:30-10:45: Coffee/tea break

10:45-11:30: Session 2: “Speed data dating”: Meet and get to know other researchers and the issues that they face with their research materials. Are there any common problems or solutions?

11:30-12:15: Session 3: PhD student panel session: Open Exeter PhD student answer your research materials management questions.

12:15-12:30: Feedback and Close

Please register for the event via email to 

For event details see:

Posted under Advocacy and Governance, Follow the Data, News, Research, Training

This post was written by Hannah Lloyd-Jones on May 15, 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