First meeting of National Research Data & Software training coordination

Picture credit: Carlos Teijeiro Barjas

Paula Martinez Lavanchy, the Research Data officer coordinating RDM training initiatives at TU Delft and 4TU.ResearchData co-organized the ‘First meeting of National Research Data & Software training coordination’ together with Mateusz Kuzak from the Netherlands eScienceCenter and Carlos Teijeiro Barjas from SURFsara.

This is her report about the event that took place on 3 March 2020 at SURF in Utrecht.

How did this initiative start?

In October 2019, TU Delft published its Vision for Research Data and Software Management Training. This ambitious plan aims at covering the different training needs that we consider relevant for researchers (including PhD candidates) at different stages of their research. This is a live document that needs constant evaluation and adjustment. So, since its publication, my task as the coordinator of RDM training activities has been to implement this vision and to investigate the challenges that can be encountered and possible solutions.

One of the first evident challenges is, how can we ensure that we are able to provide all the training we think is relevant for researchers in a sustainable way? 

At the end of 2019, in a meeting with Mateusz Kuzak from the Netherlands eScienceCenter and Carlos Teijeiro from SURFsara, we discussed all our ideas for developing and organizing training at our respective institutions and already found some ways to collaborate. But, we also thought that the sustainability issue of RDM (including software) training is probably common at different institutions and that there are other challenges that we could be solving collaboratively within the training coordinators community. So, we decided to go national!

What was the meeting about?

We contacted everybody that we knew was involved in providing or coordinating training in the field of Research Data and Software skills at the Dutch Universities and other organizations and call for a meeting to:

  1. Network and exchange knowledge about the training activities at different research institutions around the Netherlands
  2. Identify the challenges and the needs for training
  3. Identify collaboration opportunities

The session took place on 3 March 2020 and 18 participants (including us – the three hosts) from 12 institutions joined for a whole afternoon to discuss training.

Here you can see the introduction slides of the meeting: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3712254

We initiated the session with 5 min pitches from each institution to know what type of training is in place. After that, we collected challenges encountered in RDM-generic training, Software-related training and Discipline-specific training.

This first part of the discussion provided useful information about the different approaches towards training for RDM-related topics. Sometimes training on RDM is provided under a broad topic like Research Reproducibility or Open Science, and sometimes it is split to focus on specific RDM-related tasks such as Data Management Planning or Data Publication. 

At this point, I already identified with whom I should be exchanging experiences more in-depth about similar courses organized at TU Delft. It is in my to-do list to discuss with colleagues from the Centre for Digital Scholarship Leiden if and how to join forces to provide Data Carpentries for Social Sciences, which demonstrated to be very relevant for researchers at TU Delft Faculty of Architecture. I am also hoping to exchange knowledge with colleagues from VU Amsterdam about their approach to training on versioning control (training on Git). And, I could also get some more colleagues engaged in participating in our Code Refinery Train-the-Trainer event planned after the summer. 

When discussing challenges, it was easy to identify commonalities such as lack of trainers and helpers for the training sessions, the low motivation of researchers to attend the generic RDM courses if they are not mandatory, the lack of practical exercises and applied material, or the the lack of awareness about innovative ways to provide RDM training. 

Then, the most exciting part came: Is there room for collaboration to approach the challenges? Are we interested in collaborating? If yes, how can we collaborate? 

A collaborative future

In the last part of the meeting, we brainstormed about ideas to work collaboratively on training. Everybody agreed that there is a lot of potential to work we could collaborate on in different areas.

Some example of collaborative efforts that were mentioned:

  • National pool of trainers for domain-specific, data type-specific and/or software to exchange between institutions.
  • Database of trainers profiles – in case institutions want to hire trainers or facilitate the exchange of trainers within institutions.
  • Coordination of The Carpentries efforts – having a national coordinator of The Carpentries (or training in general) that can support people in creating a community around training, certifying instructors, and the development of training materials.
  • Exchange of course materials from the different institutions in The Netherlands – focus on making them FAIR, exchange course description, modules, visual material and exercises (especially practical exercises).
  • Training in developing open training materials in  a collaborative manner (using The Carpentries framework)
  • Train-the-Trainers programme – support staff providing training needs pedagogical skills and to learn creative ways of providing the content/exercises. In addition, there is also a need to learn about tools that researchers use for RDM in order to be able to teach about them. 

What’s next?

In the next few weeks, we need to identify if some of these ideas could be organized within established initiatives already existing in the Netherlands e.g. LCRDM, NPOS, RDNL, etc. It is also necessary to discuss how the resources can be organized to continue the coordination of the Research Data & Software training at a national level. 

The ideas will be shared with the initial group we contacted and we can decide as a community the best way to move forward.

If you coordinate Research Data and Software training at your institution and you are interested to join this network, please contact Paula Martinez Lavanchy, Mateusz Kuzak or Carlos Teijeiro

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