Delivering Research Data Management Services, week 2

MOOC tutors. From left to right: Sarah Jones, Rene van Horik, Alexandra Delipalta, S. Venkat, Ellen Verbakel.

In the second week of the Delivering Research Data Management Services we focused on “Finding the gap” in your RDM Services. One way to find the gap is by using the RISE tool. This tool can be used to define how mature the institution is on topics like research data policy and strategy, digital preservation, training, and active data management.

We asked the learners about their experiences and they found it useful reflecting on this:

“That was a good exercise, naming strengths and challenges. I am always very aware of the challenges, but it is good to reflect a moment on the strengths and realize that we have done some good work already.”
Barbara Vermaas

Many learners identified areas in which their organisations were not doing everything well. Some had a lack of money, people, resources or interest from researchers. Several learners also realised that services are in place in their institutions but very diffuse and spread across multiple units.


Learners liked the gap analysis exercise and the SPARC online tool You can see an example output from this above. In the online forum learners shared results which showed a great difference in strengths and weaknesses across organisations. Naturally, some organisations didn’t want to share the outcomes because the information can be very confidential. We encouraged them to speak with others in the organization to evaluate the assessment.

Many learners realised that they didn’t know about all the services already in place in their institution. Their first steps will be to make an inventory of what is available and see how they can align these with their own activities. Collaborating with colleagues to coordinate provision is key.

After finding the gap and having evaluated their efforts so far, the learners started week 3, focusing on how to set up services and good starting points.

Our MOOC runs until 14th October and will run again later in the year or early 2020. Find out more at


iPres 2019 Professional Visit – “Caring and Curating for Research Data”

On 20th September, TU Delft and 4TU.ResearchData welcomed visitors from the iPres conference. It introduced them to TU Delft’s approach to building a culture of good research data management. TU Delft has taken an approach that is systematic (by involving many related stakeholders across the university) but also pragmatic (that acknowledges the different motivations, or lack of them, that researchers have in managing their data well).

It also included the Lego game for teaching the importance of documentation in research data.

The following presentations were given

A Day in the Life of a Data Steward – Heather Andrews (pdf)
RDM training at TU Delft – Paula Martinez Lavanchy (pdf)
10 Principles for Research Data Services – Alastair Dunning (Google Slides)

Come learn with us!

Image: MOOC tutors. From left to right: Sarah Jones, Rene van Horik, Alexandra Delipalta, S. Venkat, Ellen Verbakel.

Just over a week in and we all continue to be overwhelmed by responses to our new MOOC* on Delivering Research Data Management Services. We have over 1400 learners from 116 countries and they have been very active in the discussion forum. Literally hundreds of comments and questions – and such insightful responses to the material.

Ellen and Sarah moderated the first week of the MOOC and have been inspired to do more online teaching as a result. This week you have Rene, Sarah and Ellen answering your questions. In the first week we learnt about the basics of RDM services, the data lifecycle and making the case for support. Participants watched various videos and read case studies, then reflected on the priorities at their own institution. Forum comments show that participants found the inputs from people we interviewed useful:

‘I agree with Gavin that ‘well managed data leads to higher quality research’.
Dorothy Byatt

‘I liked the summary by Tanita Casci (Head of Research Policy at the University of Glasgow) of what good research is like: “Good research is research that is well-planned, well-executed, well-documented, and widely shared.’
Philipp Conzett

Data Management Planning and data stewardship were key discussion points. Many funders and organisations worldwide are encouraging DMPs but there are concerns about ensuring requirements are realistic and support researchers’ practices. The data stewardship approach at Delft also raised a lot of discussion. People appreciated their emphasis on open science and found the model a great way to bridge between the various services available in the institutions, as well as between data services and research communities.

The discussion on the stakeholders provided us with lots of insights from the institutions you all work in. The overall conclusion was that there is often a lack of engagement from senior management. Many people wanted to raise awareness, especially amongst researchers. Services could also be unconnected across the institution so support staff wanted to join up provision to offer a coordinated set of RDM services.

We have a few learners from a research background too. Our course is aimed specifically at those delivering RDM services. Some lessons will be transferable to other contexts, but those wanting to learn how to manage and share data should check out parallel courses such as those noted below:

Our MOOC runs until 14th October and will run again later in the year or early 2020. Find out more at:

* A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course. Our MOOC is available on the FutureLearn platform and is free to all.

This blog post is also posted here.



Request for comments — Raising the Profile of Research Software

Image credit: EHT Collaboration

This blog post is originally posted here.

Read our paper and share your comments.

In March 2019, a group of active members of the research software community in the Netherlands had a meeting with NWO (The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) to discuss the importance of research software in contemporary research and its relationship to research data, open science, and reproducibility in research (please see Making Research Software a First-Class Citizen in Research).Following from that discussion, the group produced the position paper “Raising the Profile of Research Software”. The aim of the paper is to provide funding agencies and research institutions with concrete recommendations for raising the profile of research software.And now we would like to bring more attention to this community effort. We are very interested in hearing your feedback. Please share your comments and suggestions here – we will collect more opinions during the UK-RSE and NL-RSE conferences to strengthen and improve these recommendations.

What is the paper about?

Software has become a crucial part of research, but it still does not receive the same recognition as other research outputs. There is a need to fully acknowledge that research software is as important as research data and scientific publications, as expressed in DORA. We share the Research Software Alliance’s vision that research software should be “recognised and valued as a fundamental and vital component of research.”

We have provided recommendations which funding agencies and research institutions can implement to achieve this goal. These recommendations do not offer a full solution to addressing this issue, but provide a further step in the direction of achieving recognition for research software as a fundamental and vital component of research.

We believe that even minor policy improvements in the domain of research software will lead to visible improvement in science and suggest to funding and research institutions to adopt at least a part of our suggestions.

Authors (alphabetically):

Anton Akhmerov, Maria Cruz, Niels Drost, Cees Hof, Tomas Knapen, Mateusz Kuzak, Carlos Martinez-Ortiz, Yasemin Turkyilmaz-van der Velden, Ben van Werkhoven

The full paper can be found here:

The Third TU Delft Data Champions meeting

Authors in alphabetical order: Nicolas Dintzer, Esther Plomp, Yasemin Turkyilmaz-van der Velden

On the 3rd of September, we had our third Data Champion meeting. Following the Data Conversations at Lancaster University, we decided to make the meeting open (within and outside TU Delft) for anyone interested. This way, we aimed the inspiring stories of our Data Champions to reach to a wider audience.

For blog posts summarizing the previous meetings: first meeting, second meeting

The meeting started with an introductory presentation by Yasemin (Data Steward of 3mE and the Data Champion Community Manager). This was followed by the talk of our intern Connie Clare titled as “Reward and Recognition for Data Champions: A summary of my internship interviewing Data Champions at TU Delft”. During her internship Connie has written a seminar report, nine interviews that she carried out with the Data Champions, a toolkit to help other institutions build their community of Data Champions and contributed to the ‘Engaging researchers with research data management: The Cookbook’. All her work can be found under the dedicated tab for Data Champions in our open working blog.

After Connie, CiTG Data Champion Sian Jones gave a talk titled “An Introduction to Electronic Lab Notebooks” and shared her experiences in selecting and working with them. This fuelled a discussion about their potential and limitations as well as the challenges of their deployment in a group. Sian is a strong advocate for Electronic Lab Notebooks. To find out why, please check her interview with Connie – Keep calm and go paperless: Electronic lab notebooks can improve your research.

Then IDE Data Champion José Carlos Urra Llanusa gave a talk titled “Why is Open Source critical for Universities Today?”. During his talk, he guided us through the story of Open Source, which he has put together in an openly available book which can be found here. Following his presentation, we reflected on the potential Open Source models, and the ethical implications of Open Hardware. To learn more about open hardware please check his interview with Connie – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle knowledge: How open hardware can help to build a more sustainable future

After José, 3mE Data Champion Joost de Winter gave a talk titled “Benefits of sharing and collaboration within a research group”. Joost de Winter is a strong advocate for Research Reproducibility and Replication (blog post about his talk on the topic) and has taken  steps to promote Open Science within his own research team. During his talk, he explained how his research group contributes to Open Science and highlighted the contributions of his team members, such as his postdoc Pavlo Bazilinskyy (another 3mE Data Champion) who was also present in the meeting. We discussed the tools used by Joost and the possible application of his approach to other groups. To learn more about the story of Joost de Winter and Pavlo Bazilinskyy, please check their interview with Connie – Switch gear! Drive the uptake of Open Science within your research team.

This was followed by the closing remarks of our Vice-Rector Magnificus and Vice President of Education of the Executive Board, Prof. Rob Mudde. Rob Mudde has followed the whole meeting with great interest, and commented in great detail on the presentations of the Data Champions. According to Rob Mudde, our next Data Champion meeting should be held for an even greater audience and deserves to take place in a larger room, such as the Aula, the Conference Center of TU Delft. 

A Tale from a Master’s Student: “How I underestimated the role of data and data management.”

I am Daen Smits and I have started as a Leiden Delft Erasmus (LDE) trainee in the Research Data Services Team at TU Delft. This year, I will be working on policies and practices related to data management. As an ex-student (with a Masters in Public Administration and International Relations), I know how important data management is for academic research. In this short blog, I will write about the role that data played in my own studies. 

Surprisingly enough, when I look back on my research projects, I think that I saw the data only as an instrument to get to a final product. The focus was on the paper itself, without being fully aware of the value of the underlying data and its management. I would not be surprised if many (qualitative) researchers in the social sciences see their data this way. I remember that, while strolling down the databases, my utmost goal was data triangulation, an important pillar in qualitative document research. By combining different data sources, such as newspapers, video’s, speeches, minutes of meetings and policy documents, it became easier to ‘objectify’ claims that seemed somewhat subjective at first glance. I did not pay much attention to the documenting ‘behind the scenes’. 

My data management was actually quite basic and ad hoc (and looked a little like the image attached). I kept a list of the documents I used, but I did not think about a sustainable plan, or about the user-friendliness of the underlying data. Without sounding too  dramatic, I think that having a more decent data management plan can help to solve societal questions earlier, as many related phenomena have already been studied by others. 

Furthermore, findings from the past can provide solutions for present problems. I experienced that quite quickly, as my Public Administration thesis was about how the Multiple Streams Framework (a public administration theory) could explain the establishment of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987. Due to the contemporary tensions between the US and Russia (which are actually comparable to the tensions when the treaty was signed), the superpowers withdrew from the treaty only a few months after I finished my thesis. Hypothetically, the historical data could help suggest how Russia and the US could improve their relationship again. 

As data is omnipresent nowadays, a (more) proactive stance towards data management in academia is needed. I think it is important that researchers realise that a paper, report or article is not their only output: the data they have produced is also an instrument that can be used, extended, reproduced or consulted by other researchers that could then come up with new conclusions. Good data management enhances the quality of the final product and can be a new building block for something else.  I believe that this is a message that academic lecturers and professors should distribute from early on, for instance on bachelor and master level. 

For now, I am really looking forward to being part of the Research Data Services team. If you would like to get in touch, please e-mail me on: