The promise of institutional RDM support at UEL

I know that several universities are struggling to support their researchers with an RDM support service and infrastructure – even those in the Jisc MRD programme who have been able to document extensive evidence of demand. So I am very pleased that the University of East London has committed funds next financial year to help build such a service, as promised in our RDM policy:

LLS will develop by 1 May 2015 an infrastructure and support service for research data created in consultation with Schools and Services. This will include a portal for datasets which are suitable for sharing.

We had undertaken a staff/student survey (see our blog) to get a snapshot of the ways researchers are managing research data at UEL, what issues they have and what they would like to see. The top four wants were

  • Written guidance on procedures
  • Training for staff, students and support staff
  • Help when writing Data Management Plans
  • Additional personal or shared storage

Of course, we will undertake more extensive consultation to know what is wanted by researchers. And we will discover and document what support our colleagues in other central services can offer. I think an RDM website is a priority for the summer, pointing to existing internal support and the wealth of external guidance even ahead of a dedicated service. I will look to see what we can achieve in the TraD project before it ends that adds to the training aspects those of guidance, support and infrastructure. The many outputs of other MRD projects will help greatly here.

Our Associate Director Gurdish Sandhu had been advocating for good management of research data since 2009, when she presented the findings of the Keeping Research Data Safe report to the Research and Knowledge Exchange Committee. And our Director Cathy Walsh has been able to argue that Library and Learning Services is able to lead an RDM support service, building on our existing skills and a track record of delivering technology-enabled services with a customer focus.

Of course, there is more than enough work for me, and I hope to make a further announcement in the next week in this area…


Reviewing Module 3 of SupportDM – Data Management Plans

We met with our subject librarians on Monday to review Module 3 (on Data Management Plans) and to introduce Module 4.

A chunk of the blended learning course is the online module produced in Xerte and imported into our Moodle VLE.

Despite Stephen’s best efforts to create a thrilling online module covering DMPs it wasn’t fully appreciated by all of our librarians, however.

“Online learning isn’t really my thing.”

“I speed read through the online  modules”

“I get more out of these [face-to-face] sessions than I do from reading online”

“I’d rather do everything in one session, like today”


It seems to reinforce what we’ve done in the meeting.

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Interesting/vague: Reviewing Module 2 of SupportDM

We met with our subject librarians on Monday 8 April to review Module 2 (on support and guidance for researchers) and to introduce Module 3 (Sarah Jones of DCC presented on data management plans – more on this in a later post). We begin each face to face meeting with a review of the Xerte module and the tasks (“homework”) we set to reinforce the learning. Our approach in supportDM has been to give participants a flavour of the types of activity involved in running a support service for RDM.  For this module, there were two tasks:

  • review an existing university RDM website
  • answer a typical RDM-related question

Our participants reported back on RDM websites from Glasgow, Leeds, Leicester, MIT and Wisconsin-Madison. We asked them to see what the websites covered, to notice the layout, tone and language used, and to say what was worth copying for our future RDM support website at UEL. Comments ranged from “all of it” (on what we should copy) to “very bright and busy but in a bad way”. It is really helpful to get feedback from our colleagues, who approach the websites with new eyes, and John and I will make use of this feedback when we work on our website in June.

The second task was based on the 23 Things approach used by Exeter in their Open Exeter project (see their blog): our participants were set a real-world question to research and answer in pairs or threes, using a five-fold approach

  1. What I knew about the topic beforehand?
  2. What I know now?
  3. How did I obtain this knowledge?
  4. What else would you like to know about the topic?
  5. How did I find this task?  How would I improve it?

I didn’t explain the activity as well enough as I should in the previous meeting, because some found it unclear what they were doing and why – “too vague” was one comment! But others followed the instructions and made good attempts at answering their question(s). Their reflections included

I found this task interesting. It enabled me to learn about how to safeguard material and how to digitise non-digital data
We found the Digital Curation Centre website with relative ease and noted that all the relevant information is on there

The exercise gave librarians a chance to use their reference skills, and they carried out literature searches (or Googling as it is now called) and even phoned individuals in UEL to get information. I think this is a worthwhile exercise for others to undertake, because it gives them an opportunity to do something practical and to reflect on it. It could be used in a coaching setting, to give feedback to the student and to follow up their “what else would I like to know” response, or it could be used in a collective setting where group members share their results and help each other improve.

There were a few problems with using Xerte and we have sought to fix what we can. We also took the opportunity to revise and tidy up the Xerte module. The second supportDM module is now available for reuse, and we’ve tidied up the first one. Both can be found at and we’d love to have your feedback.

M25 annual conference

No, its not for afficionados of London’s orbital motorway but for librarians – I attended the M25 Consortium’s annual conference at the Wellcome Collection yesterday.

The M25 Consortium of Academic Libraries is a collaborative organisation that works to improve library and information services within the M25 region and more widely across the East and Southeast

The conference was wide ranging – with MOOCs, engaging with students, linked open data and open source library management systems all on the agenda. There was also an hour of research data management before lunch. Dr Jonathan Tedds from Leicester gave a good presentation on open data and the depth of data creation in astronomy, then I talked about how libraries can support researchers in managing their data.

The conference theme was The Joy of Sharing, and I entitled my talk “Sharing the load: librarians and research data support services“. You can see it on SlideShare. I wanted to reassure the audience that researchers would be happy to have support and guidance in managing and sharing their research data, and that librarians had relevant skills. These skills may need to be augmented with specific expertise in RDM, but such an enhanced skillset will make one eminently employable. DCC publications, the supportDM course and the wealth of material from the other projects in Jisc’s MRD project will allow other universities to get started in RDM support. We shall certainly be making productive use of MRD outputs when we plan our RDM support service at UEL this summer.

What’s it all about? reviewing supportDM Module 1

The UEL subject librarians are acting as guinea pigs for the supportDM course, run as blended learning with fortnightly meetings interspersed with online study and homework tasks. After the kick-off meeting we blogged about here, we reconvened on 18 March to go over the Xerte module “Introducing Research Data Management”.

I ran the event by myself (John wasn’t available that day) so my notes are a bit sketchy – it’s hard to lead a conversation, give proper attention to the discussion and at the same time take notes. Perhaps I should have asked a participant to take notes, or made use of a flipchart to write notes as I went.

We reviewed their experience of the first Xerte module: overall, they felt it was repeating too much the content of the introductory PowerPoint a fortnight before. We also had a short three–question survey in Moodle to gauge their experience of the module, and one kind soul managed to make a positive out of this repetition:

Well, it was the same as the session on Monday so I’m a bit confused about what the point was. I suppose it underlines the main points.

The homework task was to set up and conduct a researcher interview. Not all could arrange the meeting within the time-scales  so in future we would want to give more advance notice. Several were apprehensive about the task, but the two that shared their experience found it less scary – indeed, a good way to engage with their chosen researcher. In future, it would be good to write up the interview as a record and to follow up: it may be that the interviewer is able to provide advice or signposting as a result of the rest of the supportDM course .

We were also joined by Mariëtte van Selm from the University of Amsterdam. Mariëtte had just visited the RDMRose project, and is well underway with scoping the library’s response to the RDM challenge at Amsterdam. It was great to get her perspective, and to share what she is doing. This helps to underline that library involvement in RDM is not just a “UEL thing” or “Stephen’s hobby horse” but a matter of interest across academic libraries.

RDM: Achievements, Challenges and Recommendations

Jisc Managing Research Data Programme Workshop: Achievements, Challenges and Recommendations, 25-26 March 2013, Aston Business School

The Trad project attended the two day event which was a review of the second Managing Research Data programme (2011-13) funded by Jisc. I think it’s worthwhile to show the entire list of projects here on the blog because they have been incredibly wide-ranging and catholic.


A Data Management Infrastructure for Research (ADMIRe)
CERIF for Datasets (C4D)
Data Management Planning and Storage for Psychology (DMSPpsych)
Data Management Planning for Secure Services
Data Management Rollout at Oxford (DaMaRO)
Data Management Skills and Support Initiative – Assessment, Benchmarking and Classification (DaMSSI-ABC)
DATUM in Action – Supporting researchers to plan and manage their research data
Essex Research Data Repository (Essex-RDR)
History DMP
Journal Research Data Policy Bank (JoRD)
Managing Research Data: a pilot study in Health and Life Sciences
MaRDI-Gross: Managing Research Data Infrastructures – Big Science
MiSS (MaDAM Into Sustainable Service)
Open Exeter
Portable Infrastructure for the Metafor Metadata System (PIMMS)
PREPARDE: Peer REview for Publication & Accreditation of Research Data in the Earth sciences
Publisher, Repository and Institutional Metadata Exchange (PRIME)
Rapid Organisation of Health Research Data (ROHRD) Phase 1
Research Data Management for Mechanical Engineering Departments (REDm-MED)
Research Data Management Training for the whole project lifecycle in Physics & Astronomy research (RDMTPA)
Service Oriented Toolkit for Research Data Management
Sound Data Management Training (SoDaMaT)
Sustainable Management of Digital Music Research Data
SWORD-ARM: SWORD & Archaeological Research data Management
The OXFORD DMPonline Project
TraD: Training for Data Management at UEL

Yes, that’s us listed right at the bottom, alphabetically of course. Quite apart from listening in to all of the other projects talk about their RDM outputs we were also there to talk about our own work so far on the project. Set within the Training section of the Workshop we gave a 12 minute presentation entitled “Supporting RDM through training staff and students“.

It was useful again to hear from Andrew Cox at RDMRose on their work tailored for information professionals and the freely (and updated) materials that are available online. It is closely related to our own supportDM course that we are running for subject librarians here at UEL.

In terms of subject-specific training Dr Jo Goodger from the University of Hertfordshire spoke about RDM Training for Physics and Astronomy students – a useful comparison with our own psychology and geoinformatics training. It was also a reminder that different disciplines required different RDM training – something we could use if we expand RDM training across other subjects at UEL.

A very insightful and reflective presentation from Mariëtte van Selm presenting SIR – a library-led RDM programme at the University of Amsterdam and it was humbling to hear how others from outside the UK have been admiring the progress that the programme has made in RDM in the UK.

What we learnt from our own presentation feedback was the following:

  • Get students to feedback at the initial meeting (and give them lunch in return for feedback!)
  • To ask ourselves: “What stage were the psychology students at?” The point being that the RDM “message” might not have been appropriate to first year students.
  • We were also asked about timing of the courses and we responded that next time we would aim to put it the training into the research methods module of the Psychology doctoral courses.

Other things we learnt:

  1. An excellent “traffic light” checklist system of asking researchers about data management planning from Laurence Horton at the The Archive and Data Management Training Center at Gesis Leibniz-Institut für Sozialwissenschaften in Cologne. Laurence discussed how hard it is to develop exercises that stimulate, although lectures/presentations are easier. This is an interesting case in point as we look to plan how we deliver our subject-specific training materials, for example, lectures versus tasks.
  2. We need to share the modules from our supportDM courses with the community, this is largely a technical/packaging issue and we’re full of hope this will appear soon. There seems to be a ready appetite for this material and will add to RDMRose materials but also Edinburgh’s DIY toolkit for librarian training, to build confidence. (Edinburgh used MANTRA as pre-reading, with sessions a month apart, expert facilitators and guest speakers, reflective writing questions to think as a researcher, used Purdue University’s data curation profiles as the basis for researcher interviews, with an overall emphasis is on facilitation rather than teaching).
  3. Many things that came out from the two day workshop will feed into UEL’s developing roadmap for RDM. It was good to see that there were some tools and other resources that we can pick up quite easily such as Essex’s ePrints data repository.

We also entered into the project poster competition which we didn’t win but we definitely learnt how not to do a poster. See for yourself. We were missing arrows and circles (we think).

One last thing to mention is the tribute to Simon Hodson, our programme manager from Jisc whose hard work has helped the projects achieve so much. Stephen and I can certainly add our own voices to that chorus!