Celebrating 4TU.ResearchData’s Role in Fostering Open Science

Authors: Esther Plomp

The 29th of September 2020 was a big day for 4TU.ResearchData and its team as we celebrated the 10th anniversary and launch of the renewed data repository in the form of a 2-hour online event using the hashtag #10years4TUResearchData.

The event was opened by Marjolein Drent (University Librarian at the University of Twente) who welcomed us and chaired the event. Marjolein introduced us to Alastair Dunning (Head of Research Services at TU Delft Library and previous Head of 4TUResearchData) who delivered the opening speech in which he took us back to the start of 4TU.Research data, or rather, 3TU Datacentrum (see also the blogpost here). Alastair found that much of what was written in the 2006 Report on user requirements of researchers that would use the archive back then is still relevant today. Back in 2006 concerns were already expressed about the time investment and lack of incentives required for practising good data management, as well as a lack of standardisation in these practises. In order to overcome these challenges it is important to keep building connections between people and work on disciplinary specific networks in the future. 

The event’s keynote speaker, Sarah Jones (EOSC Engagement Manager at Géant), shared the do’s and don’ts of supporting Open Science. She praised 4TU.ResearchData approach as both an institutional and discipline specific repository. Rather than inventing the wheel for themselves, the three technical universities set up a network to tackle the challenge of data preservation. To support researchers in practising open science, data archives and support staff should listen to researchers in order to understand their needs and user requirements. According to Sarah, we should not insist on the ‘open’ too much or be evangelical about it as we may push researchers away rather than engage with them in a meaningful way. Sarah highlighted that we should not reinvent the wheel: If there is already a solution, adopt and adapt that one and only develop a new solution as a last resort. It is crucial to incentivise the practices that we would like to see and practise what we preach. Unfortunately, the pressure to publish is still the main stressor of researchers, as they are usually evaluated on this when they want to progress their careers. Unless we make open science practices valuable to researchers, why would they engage in this work? It is also important to build career paths that focus on data and software stewardship. Innovation and space to fail at innovating are important and Sarah thinks we can learn from businesses that are usually more flexible in their approaches to changes. Commercial partners should be engaged with open science. We should highlight the benefits of working openly to commercial partners rather than shutting everything down from the start by signing closed agreements. According to Sarah it is important to share the lessons learned with the wider community, as is done for example with the OpenWorking blog. Sarah also highlighted some of the issues in procuring services for universities, a concern that will be addressed in one of Géant’s workshops on Delivering Research Data Management Services in November. The main take away from Sarah’s keynote is that the problems that we face in open science are not limited to a specific institution or country: they apply globally and cross discipline lines. We need a collective approach in supporting Open Science and this can only be achieved if we work more closely together.

Tweet by Deirdre Casella (Communications Officer 4TU.ResearchData)

The keynote was followed by an interactive pop quiz that was led by Yan Wang (Data Stewardship Coordinator at TU Delft). The quiz consisted of some very tough questions on data repositories, linked open data, computer programmers, and open source sharing. Participants could refuel their energy in the short break after the quiz.

The popquiz participants visualised through Menti.

After the break we had three live interviews! Qian Zhang (Data Steward at University of Twente) interviewed Arnd Hartmanns (Assistant Professor at University of Twente), Natalia Romero (Assistant Professor at TU Delft), and Mathias Funk (Associate Professor at Eindhoven University of Technology). Arnd thinks that we should share research data in order to be able to compare and reproduce research. Natalia thinks it is useful to share her research data, as she collects costly data that consist primarily of in-depth interviews. She deposited her data with 4TU.ResearchData because the Data Steward of her faculty, Jeff Love, pointed her towards the repository. Mathias did not share his data yet, but said that  “data sharing  is important for replication, community building and education.” Both Arnd and Natalia stated that they chose 4TU.ResearchData because of the community behind the repository, through which they feel supported in archiving their data. According to Arnd “4TU.ResearchData is a natural choice if you work at a 4TU University. It is free, local and it is not some anonymous entity: there are people nearby that care.” Natalia thinks that the Data Stewards and Data Champions contribute to the community and said that the 4TU.ResearchData data funds made it an attractive repository.

4TU.ResearchData is a natural choice if you work at a 4TU University. It is free, local and it is not some anonymous entity: there are people nearby that care. – Arnd Hartmanns

The interviews were followed by five parallel breakout sessions (download the slides here):

  1. Dedicated services for Environmental Researchers (led by Egbert Gramsbergen and Kees den Heijer
  2. Restricted access for confidential/personal data (led by Santosh Ilamparuthi)
  3. ‘Reproducibility’ serious game (led by Nicolas Dintzer)
  4. Expert curation services for FAIR Data (led by Jan van der Heul & Eric Rumondor)
  5. 4TU.ResearchData: Demonstration of new features and functionalities (led by Mark Hahnel)
Tweet from the breakout room led by Jan van der Heul & Eric Rumondor

The breakout sessions were followed by the formal relaunch of 4TU.ResearchData by Madeleine de Smaele (4TU.ResearchData Repository Manager):

Tweet by 4TU.ResearchData

4TU.ResearchData transferred their infrastructure from Fedora to Figshare over the summer. Madeleine stressed that 4TU.ResearchData remains in full control of the repository. Users can now publish data under restricted access. This is useful for data that is confidential or contains personal data. When data is archived under restricted access, re-users have to ask the uploader of the dataset for permission to access the data first. You can also place a temporary embargo on a dataset: if you do so, only metadata about data is available until the embargo ends. This feature is applicable to, for example, papers that are still under review. 4TU.ResearchData now also has an integration with GitHub, which makes it possible to assign DOIs to software and code. Statistics associated with individual datasets are now also publicly visible: you can see the amount of views, downloads and citations of a dataset, as well as their Altmetric score!

After the relaunch of the repository, the directorship of the 4TU.ResearchData (and a literal scepter!) was officially handed over from Alastair to Marta Teperek (Director of 4TU.ResearchData – see this interview). 

Marta shared her vision on 4TU.ResearchData for the future, in which she would like to expand the 4TU.ResearchData community. Having good infrastructure alone is not enough to make data FAIR. Researchers should be supported in doing so by providing them with guidance, training and disciplinary standards. In doing this we need to work together with these communities and take into account disciplinary differences and practises. All 4TU.ResearchData partners now have Data Stewards to support researchers in archiving their data and code. These Data Stewards form a network in the Science, Engineering and Design disciplines which makes it possible to move much faster together and develop better solutions! Marta invited all the participants to collaborate in our journey towards FAIR data.

Tweet by Hannah Blyth (PhD student from Nottingham University and intern at 4TU.ResearchData)

The meeting was closed by Merle Rodenburg (Director of Data Management and Library, TU Eindhoven) who asked the participants two questions. The first question was about the key take away points of the event and the second question was about the future direction of data repositories. Keywords that came out of the answers were collaboration, FAIR, and community. Collaboration and discipline specific support were found to be very important throughout the meeting, and we are looking forward to working together with you on this! 

Special thanks to: Madeleine, Marjolein, Sarah, Merle, Ardi, Berjan, Egbert, Arie, Jan, Eric, Mark, Alastair, Marta, Deirdre, Femke, Santosh, Yasemin, Esther, Ellen, Kees, Nicolas, Yan, Jeff and everyone who joined the event to celebrate 4TU.ResearchData’s anniversary and relaunch!

All the slides from the event are available on Zenodo.

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