Teaching RDM to Psychology students

School of Psychology at UEL

School of Psychology at UEL

We’ve recently kick-started our RDM training for post-graduate students in the School of Psychology. In addition to the introduction presentations on RDM we are offering five online modules using the MANTRA course material via the newly launched Moodle virtual learning environment at UEL.

Our course will cover the following MANTRA modules:

1. Research Data Explained
2. Organising Data 
3. Documentation and Metadata
4. Storage and Security
5. Data protection, rights & access

Our first Introductory class included 27 professional doctoral students in clinical psychology and our second 12 professional doctoral students and 1 PhD student in educational psychology.

We were pleased by the number who attended; their time on campus is limited sometimes to just one day a week; research data management as a subject doesn’t always come across as terribly exciting either.

The PowerPoint presentation lasted from an hour to two hours and re-purposed useful slides previously featured in other JISC-funded RDM projects in psychology 1) Data Management Planning and Storage for Psychology (DMSPpsych) and 2) DMTpsych: Postgraduate training for research data management in the psychological sciences.

We also featured the research malpractice scandals from two social psychologists Diederik Stapel (falsifying data) and Dirk Smeesters (massaging data) which always livens up RDM proceedings. We quoted the report investigating Stapel which accuses the discipline of becoming a representative of “sloppy science” because of the way it currently deals with data.

We also fitted in 4 or 5 question points which broke up the session of our students being talked at and helped start discussions from.

  • What is your research?
  • What is research data for you?
  • Verification of science
  • Prevention/detection of fraud
  • Are you aware of these fraud cases?
  • How does it affect you, and psychology?
  • Do things need to change?
  • Has this happened to you?
  • What lessons have you learnt? (E.g. have you changed where you’ve saved your data? Yes/No?)
  • What concerns do you have about sharing data? (Especially dealing with children)

You can look at the presentation we did here

The questions that came out of these discussions were as follows:

  • “death of the data” – what happens to the research data when it is no longer of use. Can it be used for teaching or should it be destroyed?
  • What does the Data Protection Act (1998) say about keeping data after a project ends?
  • What does the UK Data Archive say about what rights I have over my data that I deposit?

We supplemented our presentation with a print-out of questions about RDM entitled: “Some things to consider in your research” which was started by MIT and adapted by us, which asked students questions such as

  • How long should it be retained? e.g. 3-5 years, 10-20 years, permanently?
  • What directory and file naming convention will be used? Year, versions, folder conventions.
  • Do you have a storage and backup strategy?

We also included print-outs from the fact sheet produced by JISC on “Freedom of Information and Research Data” which we hoped would answer any questions our students had if they were to be the recipient of an FOI. Reassuringly, we told them that were 23 exemptions to their research data having to be made public and the DPA trumped the FOI Act.

We’ll be blogging more about the Psychology training in future posts as well as in Geoinformatics.

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