On the 14th of December 2018 the Data Champion Kick off Meeting took place at TU Delft. After an update on the Data Champion programme by Yasemin Turkyilmaz-van der Velden, the Data Champion Community Manager, the Data Champions took charge of the meeting by presenting their research, focussing on their research data management practises. In between these presentations there was room for networking activities, to stimulate interaction between Data Champions across the different departments and faculties. Here the researchers learned from each other and gained new insights for their own research data management.
Data Champions are researchers that are practising and advocating good research data management and are sharing their experiences and tips with their group/department members. Data Champions can help their Faculty’s Data Steward with the disciplinary specific practices of Research Data Management. In return, the Data Champion programme offers (international) network and funding opportunities, trainings and workshops, and increased visibility to researchers. Being a Data Champion is a chance to be recognised for your leading role in research data management in your department and faculty. For more information on each Data Champion, or information on how to become a Data Champion, please visit the Data Champion page.
Data and code in waterworks research – talk by Mark van Koningsveld
Mark van Koningsveld, Data Champion of the Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences and chair of the section Ports and Waterways, presented his research on waterworks in the Netherlands. He examines the spatial planning of regions where logistical change in the use of waterways is foreseen. He presented an example of his research on the water network of Amsterdam, which helps to understand how the traffic network would change if certain canals would be closed off for construction work. Mark designed software to see how the planning of the reconstruction work would affect the water traffic. The interoperable nature of software allows its re-use to study other case studies, such as the short term effects of the drought that affected the Dutch water networks this summer, or the effects of long term climate change on the logistics of waterworks.
The integrated and interoperable approach that the software offers contrasts with the field’s traditionally linear approach, which can be lengthy and slow. Software enables a parametric design approach, allowing for immediate feedback on multiple aspects under study, such as production costs, different types of vessels and traffic load on the network. To move the research field forward Mark thinks that software should play a more important role, which is why he set up the Ports and Waterways coding lab for his students. He encourages other researchers to set up their own coding labs, as the facilities for this are available at TU Delft. Mark thinks that there is still a lot to be gained from collaborative research within faculties and across the faculties. These unlikely interactions will result in new ways of problem solving.
Time to share is now! Talk by Anton Akhmerov
Anton Akhmerov, Data Champion at the Faculty of Applied Sciences in the Department of Quantum Nanoscience, continued the discussion on the use of software in research. Currently, the publication of papers, data and software are evaluated differently by the research community. Publications are the most visible output of research, followed by research data, and then finally there is software. Software is a difficult concept to grasp, as not every researcher knows how coding works or how to properly apply coding skills in daily research practices. This gap in knowledge is further complicated by the current policy of the TU Delft requiring researchers to fill out an invention disclosure form before publishing code or software openly at Github. Anton argues that training should be available for all PhDs and Postdocs in order to properly use platforms like Github, such as the software carpentry workshop mentioned above and the programming course Anton organises, but also in the TU Delft Graduate School programme. He thinks researchers should work together to discuss their problems,learn from each other and to familiarise themselves with the available tools.
Anton and Gary Steele, another Data Champion at the Faculty of Applied Sciences, worked on an open data policy for the Department of Quantum Nanoscience, in which they defined two levels of data sharing: level 0 and level 1. Level 0 means one uploads the numerical data as shown in the figures in a format that is readable to others. Since the data is already used to generate the figure anyway, this should not cost any additional researcher’s time. Level 1 is the publication of the raw data and scripts that underlie the data processing chain which produced the published data. Level 1 data is available in this publication where all the raw data (python scripts and notebooks) is available in Zenodo, a research repository. Level 1 does not mean that all the data collected during the research should be made available. Gary argues that people should think and discuss about what data should be shared, as researchers can get stuck in ‘molasses of useless documentation’ if everything is required to be shared. Anton argues that there is a lot of room in between the current practice of keeping data to ourselves and a possible future where all the data could be shared. Anton thinks that the time to start sharing is now, as the pressure starts to build up from the funding agencies to share research data. To see if the policy has an effect, Gary and Anton will monitor the latest publications and offer support to their colleagues if required.
Going beyond data
The important role of software and coding in research was a recurrent topic of the Data Champion Kick Off meeting. To support researchers to work with code and software, TU Delft hosted its first software carpentry workshop on 29 November 2018 and will organise more in the future. Additionally, Data Steward Kees den Heijer will organise code consultancy walk-in hours for researchers to support them with their coding and software needs. The first session will take place on the 24th of January from 9:00-11:00 in CEG 2.66 and is open to researchers of all the faculties.
Future of the Data Champion programme
The Data Champions that attended the kick off meeting were enthusiastic about the informal and interactive setting of the meeting, allowing for interesting discussions and the generation of new ideas, as well as providing network opportunities. For future meetings they want case study specific meetings to discuss common problems faced, perhaps even in the form of regular common interest meetings. They were also interested to meet representatives from the various support services of TU Delft, such as the Data Protection Officer, and they were looking forward to the attendance of Rob Mudde, member of the TU Delft Executive Board, to attend the next Data Champion meeting. A next Data Champion meeting is planned for spring 2019 and the Data Champion network is still open to new members.