The supportDM course at UEL is now complete and it’s time for us to assess how well it’s gone and to ask out librarians for their views (and to present their graduation certificates).
With a free lunch on offer (in order to entice our busy librarians away) and with the help of Sarah Jones from the DCC we sat down to ask some serious questions of the course. However, what made our task more difficult was the lapse in time since last meeting and also the large gaps in between meetings for the modules. As a reminder therefore Stephen provided a quick overview of the course modules, the tasks that had been carried out in the meetings as well as the homework that was set.
We then asked the following questions about the supportDM Course:
What was good?
- The Introduction to RDM was good, useful and “set the scene”. It formalized the course and the presentations from myself, Stephen, Sarah Jones (DCC) and Monica Duke (DCC) were seen as engaging. And with the DCC present it was positive to show that there was a proper body active in this area.
- Our participants found it was good to break up the presentations with discussion, reflection and exercises to contextualise the learning. The discussion exercises in each module were seen as particularly good and there should be more of them.
- The homework tasks were interesting in that it provided feedback, to hear back from others in the course. However, the homework tasks should be done in the face-to-face meetings.
- Our librarians felt the modules and the interview exercise was useful to relate to real-life situations e.g. of what researchers do outside of teaching.
- From the Data Management Planning module it was seen as revealing an interesting perspective on what researchers are expected to do and once they realised this “it started to click”.
- The tasks within the class added structure to the sessions but that the homework could have been done as an exercise within the session itself.
What was bad?
- There should have been a more formal introduction to the course. It needed an opening speech about scope, why, who for, who is involved. Simple information such as asking permission to photograph participants and outlining how those images would be used, were missing.
- Consensus surrounding the course topics appeared to be satisfactory but “the structure could be improved as well as the content”. Each topic meeting “was a bit too long” and “too stretched out” and the gaps between meetings were also seen as problematic: “Two weeks in between meetings is too long”. A librarian thought there were”too many sessions” and it was suggested that the five modules be “cut” and “condensed” into three.
- There should be more setting of the context, for example: “why you are learning this” as there was a question mark over who is responsible for RDM across the university and were librarians expected to answer RDM based enquiries. This was all compounded by ambiguity concerning the future roles of those in the TraD project team.
- The module on What Data to Keep and Why as an overview was not seen as relevant to every librarian on the course. That and the Data Management Planning unit were suggested as one single module rather than two. The DMP session for example took 90 minute session and it was seen by one librarian as running better at 30 minute length instead.
- As the librarians were not creating metadata the Cataloguing and Sharing Data module was also suggested be renamed as “depositing data” instead.
What was missing?
- There was a suggestion of another module on the subject of how we helped a researcher and understood their research process in the lifecycle.
- It was thought that the supportDM course should be more UEL-focussed with particular attention paid to the Research Data Management Policy with an exercise linked to the topics.
- It was also suggested that the Interviews with Researchers homework task should be conducted at the conclusion of the course in order to benefit from what they had learnt about the subject. The librarians felt that this would have made them more confident in their interviews which by and large their interactions are as teaching support.
- Some modules could be condensed as they don’t need so much info. Perhaps have links to more info if people want to explore, rather than taking them though everything.
- Perhaps include an option to leave feedback in the module itself? This could feed into a discussion at the next session.
- It was good to do Xerte after the face-to-face session because it reinforced learning.
- It would have been better for all content to be ready in advance to let people go ahead if they’re on leave or particularly busy one week.
- The five modules each had an exercise that was carried out away from the class so we asked our Librarians who took part in the course what they thought was “good”, “bad” and “missing”. Here are their responses (again based on those with a good memory).
- The Researcher interview was, for a first “homework” quite a big step – and they also didn’t have much time to schedule and complete it. However, it was seen as the most valuable exercise. We may have this as the only homework task to be scheduled at any point in the course and as suggested by the librarians themselves, upon completion of the course.
- The Reviewing RDM website was also useful but could have been done in the face-to-face session in groups. In fact it was suggested that the homework exercises could have been done in class – which is possibly a better model. People weren’t sure they’d understood the 23 things exercises, they found the DMP one too like the RDM websites so found it repetitive, and the metadata one a little frustrating. Often wondered what the outcome was – would the answers be checked? Why am I doing it? Though still found it useful though on reflection, just struggled to get into it. The “barriers to sharing data” exercise was seen as “interesting” and the participants enjoyed the discussion element in the class; a recurring theme in supportDM.
- Sometimes homework came too late so there wasn’t time to do it. Conversely, if it was done immediately after the session you could forget what you’d done before feeding back.
- The exercises in the class felt repetitive – someone thought the DMPs and website comparison exercises could be merged so we could perhaps include more information on the UEL repository and policy to relate content back to the university.
- There’s a time pressure so Xerte and homework can’t be too long to work through. It felt like too much.
- It would be better to run this over summer. Time is clearer then so could do once a week and fit in homework between. This keep things fresh in mind.
Who should do the course?
- The researcher interviews that the librarians carried out were universally seen as helpful; it was seen as less useful for library assistants, however, so perhaps this should be an optional course for them instead.
- It was seen as useful for academic liaison librarians – both learning and teaching as well as research. A briefing for other staff e.g. assistants at counter, Skillzone as well as those directly related to work e.g. repository/digital library.
- An overview for senior managers in the Library was seen as “essential”. A presentation to them about the supportDM course and using examples from exercises like assessing Data Management Plans.
- The course would also be useful guidance for students and their tutors as well as the Research and Development Service. in addition to research leads in each school.
- Other ideas included a condensed version of on hour length and offer it to researchers in the Staff Development Programme.
There is a lot to work through practically and in our mind when we are to run the course again but we are confident that as a first-run we learnt a lot and the course will be far stronger in content and structure when we offer it out to others across the University.
We thank our participants, the subject librarians at UEL who took time out of their busy schedules to attend the supportDM class and do actual homework for it too. We also thank them for the valuable feedback they gave us and we are confident that the course has provided them with confidence and knowledge about Research Data Management.