Category: RDM Support Work

Reflections on the report “Scholars ARE Collectors: A Proposal for Re-thinking Research Support”.

Post by Amit Gal, Alastair Dunning and Nicole Will

The research organisastion Ithaka S+R recently issued the report “Scholars ARE Collectors: A Proposal for Re-thinking Research Support”. The report takes a user-centred approach when trying to understand what would be a good way to support researchers in the future, and outline possible places to invest.

It makes the case that researchers are, in fact, collectors, and that their (often massive) collections vary widely in form across different disciplines. All of these collections however, are not properly managed – which is quite understandable, as “collecting” requires a different set of skills and tools than “researching”.

From the context of our own research support services at TU Delft, we made some specific points in observation :

1. The report has a great focus on the right point of view – the user’s point of view. If we at TU Delft want to support the researcher better, we must understand her better. That means more than just knowing what she does, it means having an empathetic understanding of why she does it and who she is. Understanding is more than just talking.

2. From an empathetic understanding you get a better appreciation of the challenges. TU Delft’s Informed Researcher Training and Open Science MOOC tries to fill some of the identified skills gap.

3. The report points to four different stakeholders that support scholarly collecting – funders, open data advocacy groups, external tool and service providers, and academic institutions. It might be useful to realize that we, as the TU Delft library, represent two of these stakeholders – we are the academic institution, naturally, but we are also the FAIR data advocacy group. Is it possible that these two sometimes clash? Could one role impede the other, and if so – how should we address it?

3. The journey of understanding our users better, improving our services and creating new, better ones – is a journey we cannot be taking on our own. At the very least, ICT and the researcher groups must be partners here. So we should get better at collaborating with these, and other, parties around us.

4. Some of the language (eg, ‘scholars’, ‘personal collections’) and evidence here is drawn from the humanities and doesn’t feel right in the context of a technical university. The report misses some of the language and developments occurring in a technical university (eg., there is no mention of data science, data stewards etc, and the importance of writing code or running simulations is underplayed)

5. Our instinct is that scientists (as opposed to humanities scholars) have fewer ‘personal collections’ and more ‘group collections’. E.g. A team gets access to data, or a department collects data, or a consortium writes a proposal, or a group writes a paper. While individual roles always play a part, access to these different outputs is managed at a team level.

6. Many of the key points are similar to what we know here at TU Delft, eg about fear of being scooped or the time taken to document data. The metaphor of collection is also important, as it emphasises the emotional ownership scientists feel about their outputs.

7. The conclusions of the final page is definitely worth holding on how do we (and by that I mean not just the library but all the relevant support service) offer the kind of support the researcher needs throughout her workflow (not just the start and end). The goal is not Open Science per se, but getting to Open Science by responding to specific user needs.

Retrospect on Data Management Plan Support Work 2017

dmps

The year 2017 closes in and it was a busy one for the DMP (data management plan) support. The funding bodies NWO (Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk) and European Commission tightened their demands on research data management during the research and the discoverability and accessibility for the research outcome. Since that caesura the interaction with the researcher receiving grants from these funding bodies steadily increases. Next to other research support services, such as the valorisation centre, pointing researcher with a help request to our services, the RDS (research data services) team proactively contacts researcher to offer advice.

The first step is an introductory talk about the researchers project, their data and research data management. The following topic explains the provided ICT solutions available at TU Delft, because it still appears that researcher are not aware of the full spectrum of available technical infrastructure. Subsequently the DMP section about how to handle research data during the research is discussed. The last part considers preservation, archiving and data availability after the research, where the 4TU.Centre for Research Data is introduced and the benefits explained. Additionally the use of the 4TU.Reserach Data instance of DataVerseNL is described. With this wholesome range of support services, a possible data management and data deposit workflow is discussed.

 

For NWO the first deadline for a DMP draft is 4 months after the project officially started, for the H2020 programme by the European Commission it is 6 months. The RDS team also offers to give feedback on the DMP between that first deadline and the final submission.

 

The ideal involvement of the RDS team from start to finish begins with giving feedback on the data section in the proposal stage. When the project has received funding, the researcher comes back to the RDS team, or the team contacts the researcher again to offer support. Besides helping with filling in the DMP, the RDS teams offers training for the project team and the department, if the researcher is sympathetic towards that. With the data-doi reservation service of the 4TU.Centre of Research Data, the researcher are encouraged to already deposit the scientific publication underlying data into the archive. With the collection creation feature, the researcher are offered a great opportunity to represent their research output in the most suitable way and not wait till the end of the project to ‘dump’ some data into the archive to comply to the open data demand by the funding body.

All this is introduced and explained to the researcher in the first session and can lead to a close collaboration throughout the project duration, if the researcher is in favour of that.

So far we supported 20x research projects by NWO and 3x H2020 (open data pilot) with their DMP drafting and first submission. We did not receive any feedback by the funders about the quality of our DMP support yet. However, the researcher at TU Delft appreciate our advice and help.