A data journey pt 1: from conception to completion

We’re delighted to make available our first research data collection on data.uel. It involved a major survey to demonstrate the take up of healthcare services in one Indian state, compared to another state and to the situation several years earlier. The dataset and associated documentation is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.15123/DATA.4. The project was led by Mala Rao OBE, until recently Professor of International Health in the Institute of Health and Human Development (IHHD) at UEL.

The project was a major international collaboration with contributors from the Administrative Staff College of India (Hyderabad), ACCESS Health International (Hyderabad), SughaVazhvu Healthcare (Thanjavur), Indian School of Business (Hyderabad) and the Development Research Group (DECRG) of The World Bank, Washington, DC as well as colleagues in IHHD. Funding came from Canada (International Development Research Centre), UK (Wellcome Trust and Department for International Development), USA (Rockefeller Foundation) and from the World Bank. Professor Rao wrote a detailed guide to the contributions made to the study in a BMJ Open article reporting on the results:

[Mala Rao] conceived and designed the study, applied for funding, and was responsible for the supervision and management of all aspects of the study as well as the dissemination of its results. She is the guarantor. [Sofi Bergkvist] shared responsibility for the conception of the study, applications for funding, study design and data collation and analysis, contributed to the questionnaire design and commented on drafts of the report. [Prabal V Singh] contributed to the conception of the study and study design, led the questionnaire design and survey implementation, including training of survey staff, monitoring survey progress and data collation and verification, commented on drafts of the report and helped prepare the references. [Anuradha Katyal] undertook the data collation, verification and analysis, assisted with the survey and questionnaire design and survey implementation and prepared the tables for the report. [Amit Samarth] led the literature review, assisted with the study and questionnaire design, survey implementation and preparation and analysis of baseline data, and commented on drafts of the report. [Manjusha Kancharla] helped with the data analysis. [Adam Wagstaff] devised the methodology for the estimation of the programme impacts, advised during the data-collection and data-preparation stages, wrote and implemented the computer code for the model estimation, helped to oversee the production of the results, and contributed text to the report. [Gopalakrishnan Netuveli] provided technical advice on accounting for the complex survey structure in the analysis, developed a STATA equation, helped to compute an asset index, advised on the output tables, verified the analysis and commented on drafts of the report. [Adrian Renton] helped develop a conceptual framework for the evaluation, advised on funding proposals, the study design, analytical methodology and presentation of results and contributed text to the report. [Mala Rao] wrote the first draft of the paper and its redrafts in accordance with the comments of all other authors and reviewers.

It must have been a major undertaking to organise and coordinate research activity on three continents, with concurrent surveys in two Indian states. The data in http://dx.doi.org/10.15123/DATA.4 is available as an SPSS zip file in .SAV format. It comes with extensive documentation: for each of the two states (Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra) there is

  • Field training manual (detailing how to conduct household surveys in rural areas)
  • Bilingual household listing schedule
  • Household survey tool (the questions asked in the survey)
  • Code book of values encoded in SPSS

In addition, we have linked the data to several publications based on it, as well as to the baseline data from an earlier government survey:

  1. Rao, Mala and Katyal, Anuradha and Singh, Prabal V. and Samarth, Amit and Bergkvist, Sofi and Kancharla, Manjusha and Wagstaff, Adam and Netuveli, Gopalakrishnan and Renton, Adrian (2014) ‘Changes in addressing inequalities in access to hospital care in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra states of India: a difference-in-differences study using repeated cross-sectional surveys’, BMJ Open, 4(6), e004471. (10.1136/bmjopen-2013-004471).
  2. Narasimhan, H. and Boddu, V. and Singh, Prabal V. and Katyal, Anuradha and Bergkvist, Sofi and Rao, Mala (2014) ‘The Best Laid Plans: Access to the Rajiv Aarogyasri community health insurance scheme of Andhra Pradesh’, Health, Culture and Society, 6(1) (10.5195/hcs.2014.163).
  3. Bergkvist, Sofi and Wagstaff, Adam and Katyal, Anuradha and Singh, Prabal V. and Samarth, Amit and Rao, Mala (2014) What a difference a state makes: health reform in Andhra Pradesh. Working Paper. New York: World Bank. Available at http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/2014/05/19546767/difference-state-makes-health-reform-andhra-pradesh.
  4. Katyal, A., Singh, P. V., Samarth, A., Bergkvist, S., & Rao, M. (2013) ‘Using the Indian National Sample Survey data in public health research’, National Medical Journal of India, 26(5), pp. 291-294. Available at http://www.nmji.in/Volume-26-Issue-5.asp.
  5. Rao, M., Ramachandra, S. S., Bandyopadhyay, S., Chandran, A., Shidhaye, R., Tamisettynarayana, S., Thippaiah, A.,  Sitamma M., Sunil George, M., Singh, V. Sivasakaran, S. and Bangdiwala, S. I. (2011) ‘Addressing healthcare needs of people living below the poverty line: A rapid assessment of the Andhra Pradesh Health Insurance Scheme’, National Medical Journal of India, 24(6), pp. 335-341. Available at http://www.nmji.in/Volume-24-Issue-6.asp.
  6. National Sample Survey Office (2004) ‘Survey on MORBIDITY AND HEALTH CARE: NSS 60th Round : January 2004 – June 2004’, [dataset] New Delhi: MOSPI, 2004. Available at http://mail.mospi.gov.in/index.php/catalog/138.

In the next part of this Data Journey, David will talk about the work involved in archiving and publishing this data collection.


Research Dialogues

Research Dialogues is a new initiative to help researchers at UEL share good practice in research activity. Facilitated by Library & Learning Services and the Graduate School, lunchtime sessions at each campus will offer a short presentation on a topic of interest and plenty of time for discussion. The first Dialogue takes place during International Open Access Week 2014 and will focus on UEL’s response to the new HEFCE policy for the next REF exercise. This will require articles to be made openly available (not behind a subscription paywall) even to be considered for submission in the next exercise. November’s Dialogue will look at ORCID, an open and persistent ID for researchers.
Here is the programme for October and November, but if you have a topic you want to cover, contact Stephen Grace the Research Services Librarian at s.grace@uel.ac.uk or David McElroy the Research Data Management Officer at d.mcelroy@uel.ac.uk.

Topic Date Venue
Open Access: why should I care, what should I do? Tuesday 21 October 13.00-14.00 in ED.4.02
Open Access: why should I care, what should I do? Thursday 23 October 13.00-14.00 in EB.1.39
ORCID – an open ID for researchers Thursday 20 November 13.00-14.00 in EB.1.39
ORCID – an open ID for researchers Friday 21 November 13.00-14.00 in ED.4.02

Fun with LARD

Friday afternoon saw the inaugural meeting of LARD, the London Area Research Data group for those involved in RDM services. LARD aims to be a practical and supportive environment for sharing news and views with colleagues at other institutions, and the meeting certainly delivered on that. Kindly hosted by King’s College London, people came from across London (and even farther afield): East London, Goldsmiths, Imperial, King’s College, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, LSE, Middlesex, NatCen Social Research, Queen Mary, Reading, Royal Holloway, Royal Veterinary College and University of London Computer Centre

We all shared what we have been up to in our respective institutions, and it was interesting to hear how quite different approaches have been taken to supporting researchers. A few things I’ve taken from the meeting:

Go to where researchers are to talk to them about RDM

Institutional funds for examples of good practice

Access to training and information at different points of research lifecyle

Not just formal workshops, but bite-sized resources too

Standard guidance texts to help draft DMPs

Ask Research Offices to notify of successful awards for RDM support

Lowlander Grand Cafe

Lowlander Grand Cafe, copyright image by Ewan Munro CC BY-SA 2.0

Gareth Knight led us on a SWOT analysis of our respective RDM offers, to help us think about what we might want from LARD. We agreed to meet again in the autumn, with a special focus on data repositories. We’d just about dried off from the downpour which struck as people arrived by the time we adjourned for the liquid meet along the street at Lowlander Grand Café.

DataCite client meeting

Yesterday at the British Library, as one of 15 new members since the last meeting of DataCite clients managed by BL. 20140722_114350_resizedWe heard from Cambridge Crystallography Data Centre, which applied over 500,000 new DOIs to existing CIF crystal structure files in short order! And the ODIN project – a collaboration between ORCID and DataCite – has developed tools to make it easier to relate researchers and data. We will look at maximising the interaction in our new data repository once we are up and running. STFC assigns DOIS to the software it produces (the product, and each version and each release) to make citation easier, and there was discussion about the value of assigning DOIs to grey literature: good to remind everyone that not all data is a) structured b) numerical. We will look to assign DOIs to appropriate material in ROAR where UEL is the publisher, such as the working papers that various UEL research centres produce.

One issue to consider is where in a workflow a DOI is created and minted – before or after publication? I can see that authors would find it useful to know a DOI ahead of time to incorporate it into their texts, but this has to be mediated by our repository software which controls the coining/minting of DOIs. One to explore.

Overall, it was a very worthwhile meeting, with a chance to hear from other institutions applying DOIs to their research data. And the bottle? A reminder of the “Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK” exhibition, showing at the British Library until 19 August.

Working with PGR students

David and I ran a concluding workshop for the 2nd-year clinical psychology professional doctorate students yesterday. They were a lively and motivated group – an opinion in no way influenced by being  plied us with mince pies and biscuits as this was their last session at university this semester.

David asked them to recall the introductory presentation I gave them on 1 October. Luckily they could: they remembered discussion of backing up data, issues with using USB drives and Dropbox, Data Protection etc. The timing was seen as “ideal” since they were starting to think about their research projects. Only one had started to look at the MANTRA material I recommended, though he found it useful and detailed. Others said they would look at relevant modules when they were underway with their data gathering activity.

I then gave them an exercise based around an existing thesis by one of their predecessors. Using the abstract (taken from the entry in ROAR our institutional repository), and some bullet points on data aspects I extracted from the thesis, they had to consider in small groups answering the questions posed in a template Data Management Plan. Our template adopted that developed by Jez Cope during the University of Bath’s Research360 project (available at http://opus.bath.ac.uk/30772/). Split into four groups, the students tackled one section from

  • Defining your data
  • Looking after your data
  • Sharing your data
  • Archiving your data

They found the exercise worthwhile, and were able to relate it to their own concerns as students managing data as part of their own studies. There were also some challenging questions we couldn’t answer about some of the processes they have to engage with (like what they put in their research ethics application). I suggested they use the template as the basis for discussions with a supervisor.

We will repeat this exercise in the future, and adapt it to other disciplinary settings. I think this suggests a useful model for generating training material specific to a particular discipline.

Writing a Data Management Plan

Yesterday I ran a 2hr workshop with Sarah Jones (Digital Curation Centre) on writing a DMP. We had six participants from across UEL, who were very engaged and willing to participate – making the trainers’ task more enjoyable. The aim was to introduce the rationale and structure of DMPs, to look at some real-world examples and to start drafting a plan for one’s own research project. Here is the outline of the workshop:

  • 12:00 Welcome and introductions
  • 12:15 Data Management Planning presentation by Sarah Jones
  • 12:45 Walk through example plans
  • 13:15 Work through a template to create a DMP
  • 13:45 Feedback and summary

In the introduction we heard about the data activity of participants, both research students and staff. Sarah then walked through the need to have a data management plan when seeking Research Council funding, but also stressed that they are useful tools for researchers themselves (even without an external requirement). She highlighted the common topics covered by plans, whether from funders or institutions. And we had a walkthrough of DMPonline (in its new improved version, in beta at http://dmponline-beta.dcc.ac.uk/) which helps create a plan customised to a particular need.

Next we looked at a couple of real DMPs – the sample AHRC Technical Plan offered by the University of Bristol (which helpfully includes the assessor’s comments on each section of the plan), and a UK Data Archive one from the ESRC/BBSRC/NERC Rural Economy and Land Use programme. These helped to reassure the participants that DMPs are not long or complicated, and laid the ground for the next exercise – drafting a plan using a straightforward template.

We reused the Research360 project’s template devised for PGR students at the University of Bath. This uses six basic headings, with more specific questions under each to prompt authors:

  • Overview
  • Defining your data
  • Looking after your data
  • Sharing your data
  • Archiving your data
  • Executing your plan

We’re grateful to Jez Cope the template’s creator and to Bath for making the template available under a CC-BY licence, which allows others to reuse and adapt it. The template is available in Bath’s OPUS repository (at http://opus.bath.ac.uk/30772/), as is a similar one for research staff.

I wrapped up the workshop with a quick mention of Research Data Services, the support service we are developing at UEL to help staff and students manage their research data. We got some good ideas about what this should cover from participants, so thanks for that. Participants took away a copy of Sarah’s DCC guide on writing DMPs and the UK Data Archive’s Managing and Sharing Data, and an offer to review any plan they worked up after the workshop.

Support for support supported

We held a workshop yesterday at UEL on the training resources available for those in RDM support roles at universities. The workshop was a collaboration between three JISCMRD projects and the DCC:

  • TraD, University of East London
  • ADMIRe, University of Nottingham
  • RoaDMaP, University of Leeds
  • Digital Curation Centre

Sarah Jones from the DCC started with an overview of RDM training materials – what is available, the intended audience and licensing arrangements for reusing. She gave some examples of the types of material available for the audience. Her presentation is here, and she referred to a document the two of us compiled for the workshop with full links to the materials quoted.

John Murtagh at UEL then gave a short hands-on exercise using examples from three resources.

  • matching data to article citations from supportDM
  • data copyright scenarios from the UK Data Archive training resource
  • the “Are you RDM Ready” self-assessment form from RDMRose

We also gave time for participants to use a sample online module from supportDM (the one on data management planning), so they could experience this form of learning for themselves.

After lunch, three presentations talked about the experience of their respective projects delivering training to specific audiences. First, I spoke about training our subject librarians at UEL using supportDM – and what we learned from their feedback. Presentation available here.

Laurian Williamson of the ADMIRe project described training IT staff at the University of Nottingham. IT staff there were keen to be seen as enablers of research, with a broad understanding of the data environment and not just data security. Laurian is now at the University of Sheffield, so we are grateful to her new employers for allowing her to share the lessons of Nottingham. Presentation available here.

Rachel Proudfoot then talked about the RoaDMap project at Leeds’ activity in training research support staff. She gave some useful observations on the sessions RoaDMaP delivered, and ended with a desideratum for easily available Data Management Plans with costed activities compared to the actual data management effort. Presentation available here.

We ended with a roundtable discussion where the four presenters led a discussion about sustaining the training of those involved in supporting the management of research data. Some notes of the discussion are available here.

Very many thanks to Sarah, Laurian and Rachel for presenting and answering questions with me, and to John for leading the hands-on exercise and making sure everything went smoothly.