On Thursday 25 April I gave an evening talk about research data and universities to a strange-sounded organisation by the name of LIKE. I’m still unsure how to pronounce this acronym (similar to Nike I suppose) but it stands for London Information and Knowledge Exchange and according to their web page is a “community of Library, Information, Knowledge and Communication professionals. We meet monthly to share stories, learn and exchange knowledge in an informal and relaxed setting.” It’s a social gathering as well as a learning environment and as people pay to attend holds a captive audience which I was grateful for.
Around thirty people gathered in an upstairs room of The Castle pub in Farringdon to listen about Open Data and how “The issue of open access to information has moved recently from a discussion reserved to a few enthusiastic circles to be the topic of many public debates….
But what is all the fuss about? Can open data really make a difference to scientific research or economic policies? What skills are needed to be able to make the most of these data and make sense of it all? How are the new models of distribution of scholarly knowledge proving a challenge for university libraries?”
To answer these questions the evening kicked off with Ross Mounce who is an Open Knowledge Foundation “Panton Fellow” and PhD student at Bath University (http://rossmounce.co.uk/). I’d previously encountered Ross’ work from a conference abstract he’d written that challenged the lack of replicable data in scientific papers which was welcome to someone working in advising and training researchers.. In a rhetorical flourish worthy of the Romans he re-words the motto of the founders of the Royal Society of London, “Nullius in verba,” from Horace’s, Nullius addictus in verba magistri, sometimes translated as “not pledged to echo the opinions of any master.” Ross ended his abstract/complaint by stating the following:
I humbly suggest that reviewers and editors not only examine the words of papers, but also the underlying data and calculations: Nullius in Verba, Nullius in Calculo – On the Explicitness and Reproducibility.
Velichka Dimitrova, OpenEconomics coordinator at the Open Knowledge Foundation (http://openeconomics.net/) also gave a talk on open data in economics. This was a timely presentation as the question of access to economics research data had been highlighted in the news (Global Economic Austerity measures were being based on a study that had incorrect data in a spreadsheet which was unable to be validated because it was available with the publication. In fact the following day Velichka published an opinion piece in the New Scientist arguing that:
If this had been done upon publication in 2010 – or if the idea of open data was universally applied – it might not have taken three years to prove these results wrong, and the odd case of Reinhart and Rogoff’s slip of the keyboard wouldn’t be making such huge waves around the world.
I chose to talk about how research data is being managed by universities but also the skills sets that are needed for those involved and the training that would be required. I also covered what UEL and JISC is doing in this respect such as the Managing Resarch Data programme and our very own SupportDM training for Library professionals and subject specific training for students of Psychology and Geoinformatics. My presentation can be found on SlideShare here:
As many in attendance were from a Library or Information professional background inevitably I had plenty of questions put to me at dinner and I was happy to answer as best I could. I rather enjoyed the event and was content that not only was I helping to spread the message of Research Data Management at UEL but also that universities are taking it seriously and isn’t just in the domain of Big Science or even Open Data.
I was assured that there is already an RDM event planned by the end of the year so watch this space.