First objective of the JISC-supported Sonex initiative was to identify and analyse deposit opportunities (use cases) for ingest of research papers (and potentially other scholarly work) into repositories. Later on, the project scope widened to include identification and dissemination of various projects being developed at institutions in relation to the deposit usecases previously analyzed. Finally, Sonex was recently asked to extend its analysis of deposit opportunities to research data.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Democratizing research data management

"A bit of competition would certainly do no harm to institutionally-driven RDM projects"
(JISC MRD Project representative along a conversation on LabArchives)

  A press release was published last week by BioMed Central announcing its partnership with LabArchives in order to provide access to an enhanced version of this Electronic Lab Notebook to all BMC journal authors. This enhanced version of LabArchives with a default 100 MB storage will allow researchers to assign DOIs to every dataset submitted as supplementary material to any BMC title. Labarchives is howewer not specifically aimed for supplementary data management: on the one hand the platform has a publisher-oriented side for supplementary dataset submission; on the other hand however, LabArchives could also be used as a standard tool for general-purpose research data management. This feature offers researchers the opportunity to use a RDM tool regardless of their institutional affiliation, scientific discipline or country they are working in.

Since the press release was published on Apr 4th, ie just before the Easter holidays arrived, there hasn't been much of a discussion (yet) on its potential implications to research data management. Howewer, this commercial software may provide an additional means to do RDM to all research groups in the UK currently not covered by a JISC MRD project or a specific institutional data policy. Besides this, in those countries where no particular emphasis is being made on the need for RDM initiatives, this tool might mean a very useful way to promote RDM directly among researchers removing the need for institutional data policies, funder mandates on data deposit and even support from data librarians. If we consider the double bottleneck currently preventing RDM activities to succeed in many countries -a top-down one created by the lack of official committement to RDM and a bottom-up one at understaffed institutional repository management teams- this BMC-LabArchives partnership could mean something close to a revolution in research data management if properly disseminated to authors, research groups and institutions.

There are of course other RDM platforms around as of today, such as figshare, Dryad or the growing data repository network, but LabArchives offering researchers the opportunity to publish the data they decide to share (including DOI assignment), a new way has in fact been opened for performing RDM at big and small HEIs. 100 MB -or even the 100 GB storage offered by the LabArchives susbcription-based professional version- may not seem much storage for certain disciplines but it will certainly serve the needs of many other ones and LabArchives may also be installed locally for those centres with larger storage requirements.

While some institutional approaches to RDM infrastructure creation include the development of in-house built RDM platforms, many others couldn't possibly afford the cost of such a task. In this sense, LabArchives means the opportunity to democratize the management of research data. The main requirement for LabArchives to succeed as a fully functional alternative RDM tool is now to ensure its interoperability with other well-known data management platforms such as Dryad or the institutional data repository network. Once it achieves that, it may become a formidable competitor to the JANET-brokered UMF cloud-based infrastructure for data management - and indeed a very useful complement to it.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Northwest England DCC roadshow at the University of Salford: a report

  Although not directly related to current Sonex work on analysing requirements for dataset transfer via Sword, the international workgroup was interested in attending a DCC roadshow for gathering a view on -and providing its own input to- RDM-related training initiatives that complement direct institutional experience in RDM acquired through JISC MRD projects. So when a chance showed up to attend the Northwest England DCC roadshow at the University of Salford, we were happy to engage with the UK Digital Curation Centre for being there at the University Library on March 20th and 21th.

Training initiatives regarding research data management were also thoroughly discussed at the 'Research Data Management: Activities and Challenges' workshop organised by the Knowledge Exchange Primary Data Workgroup in Bonn last November, which Sonex also attended (and provided a report for), so there were opportunities in Salford for identifying synergies between national and international RDM initiatives in this regard. This was also the right occasion for highlighting an example of best practice in RDM-related training activities based on local network building and promoting extensive debate on where to start and how to carry on with the work, while disseminating the appropriate tools to do it along the way.

The DCC roadshow proved to be a very effective complement indeed to JISC MRD programme and other RDM-related initiatives for reaching the 'common university' - i.e. those ones where preliminary efforts -be it at researcher survey level- are taking place to build some kind of RDM infrastructure but with no particular 'official' support outside -sometimes even inside- their institutions. The event in Salford gathered representatives from many NW universities -Salford, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds- and debates along the roadshow were very much enriched by the mixture of institutional profiles attending it, from librarians to research office managers to researchers to ethics committee members. The experienced DCC roadshow team -Martin Donnelly, Andrew McHugh and Patrick McCann- were also very efficient in promoting dialogue and passing on guidelines and expertise along the event.

A shorter schedule was applied to this NW England roadshow, that took just two days instead of three: a first day devoted to presentations on data management initiatives taking place in the region and a second day for group discussions on research data management needs and how to use tools provided by DCC to identify them (such as DAF, Cardio or DMPOnline). The DCC Data management roadshow is also an evolving creature and there are slight variations in content among different editions thereof, this meaning that the event focus can be adapted to different levels of regional RDM implementation: emphasis can be for instance made on advanced RDM tools such as DMPOnline where RDM initiatives are well under way while mainly focusing on the Data Assessment Framework initiative in regions where RDM lies yet at a preliminary implementation stage.

Highlights from the first day included an estimulating 'Towards Open Worlds' keynote speech by Professor Martin Hall, a Vice Chancellor showing an unusually high commitment to Open Access and keen to debate related issues with the audience. An inspiring presentation of the two-stage MaDAM/MiSS JISC MRD project at U of Manchester was also delivered by Meik Poschen, providing some guiding light for preliminary initiatives in RDM currently being carried out at other institutions. Finally, Day I sessions were closed with a four expert panel discussion, in which presenters at the event were asked to stress a specific issue in RDM they considered worth deeper examination. The answers were: Cost model (Meik Poschen, UoM), Limits to researcher time availability (Rachel Kane, U Sheffield), Who shoud lead RDM tasks - is the Library able to? (Julie Berry, Salford U) and Research motivation as a decisive argument (Graham Pryor, DCC).

Along subsequent discussions Sonex became aware of three relevant points:

- Benefits can arise regarding these issues from a deeper analysis of international RDM initiatives -including ongoing and forthcoming European projects- connected to the institutional activity in the area,

- Besides disseminating specific funder mandates, finding a way for estimating the institutional costs derived from universities not managing their research data could be a potentially very effective argument for engaging universities with RDM activity.

- There is much emphasis in discussions on how to train researchers, but not so much on how to set up and train a team of dedicated data librarians - this strongly depending on Library staff figures and on whether or not librarians see themselves as fit for the task.

On the roadshow Day II the EPSRC policy framework on RDM and its implications for RDM strategy implemention at universities and research centres were discussed, and several joint RDM planning activities were carried out by different groups using DCC tools for examining aspects such as benefits to be obtained from RDM, where each institution stands in terms of RDM implementation strategy or how to deeper engage research groups and university management into RDM.

From a Sonex point of view, attending the roadshow proved very useful for identifying successful models of RDM training and dissemination, and we would humbly recommend to provide this RDM training initiative an international profile once complete so that similar efforts may be applied to a broader context. It would also be useful that participants in the DCC roadshows could provide feedback on the impact of their taking part in the initiative on their institution's work on RDM implementation a few months afterwards. Any future reporting from the DCC roadshow team on their initiative will be a very interesting read indeed and we shall be following dissemination initiatives outside the UK -such as the talk on DMPOnline at the Future Perfect 2012 Conference in Wellington this week- and hoping they'll soon arrive to continental Europe, where their work on Data Management Plans may be particularly valuable in the near future.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

SONEX work on repository interoperability to be presented at the 2nd Open Access Forum

  The communication "The SONEX Workgroup for the Analysis of Repository Interoperability Issues: a Summary of Activities" (in Spanish) presented by the JISC-funded SONEX Workgroup has been accepted for the 2nd Open Access Forum to be held Apr 16-17th along the INFO2012 conference in Havana, Cuba. The motto for this 2nd Open Access Forum is "Interoperability: the Basis for the Ecology of Open Access Repositories".

The selected list of topics for the 2nd Open Access Forum includes:

  • Standards for Open Access Repository (OAR) Interoperability

  • CRIS/OAR Interoperability

  • Value-Added Services based on Repository Interoperability (such as Repository Usage Aggregation Systems)

  • Linked Data and Enriched Digital Objects

  • Integration of Repositories and Electronic Publishing Platforms

  • Semantic Interoperability

  • Interoperability between Open Access Repositories and e-Learning Platforms

  • Distributed Repository Networks

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Report on the Knowledge Exchange Workshop on RDM released

  The report on the Workshop on Research Data Management held last November by Knowledge Exchange (KE) at the Wissenschaftszentrum Bonn has already been released. This report summarizes expert group discussions on RDM funding, training, infrastructure and organisation challenges held after the KE "A Surfboard for 'Riding the Wave'" report was presented at the Workshop.