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 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.


Research Data Management Workshop

Firstly I should introduce myself; I’m UELs new Research Data Management Officer. I performed a similar role at the University of Glasgow, working on the C4D project. The outcome for Glasgow was a live data repository built on the EPrints platform. I am excited to now be part of the team at UEL, where we have an excellent opportunity to provide a fantastic new RDM infrastructure and service to our staff and students.


Stephen and I ran a Research Data Management Workshop yesterday in our Stratford Campus. We had 11 participants, from a variety of backgrounds. We aimed to give a wide outline of the importance of good RDM and the services we offer in the library.2013-11-05 12.33.04

12.00     Welcome and Introductions

12.15     Presentation on managing your research data

13.00     Briefing on exercise using a simple Data Management Plan template

13.30     Feedback and discussion on exercise, and next steps

14.00     Close

Stephen led the introduction and invited the participants to tell us and each other about the sort of research they do, and their relationship with data. There was a very good variety of research data being created and reused, from sensitive patient data, foreign government data, and interviews, to large quantitative datasets.

Stephen then started the presentation on managing your research data. I took over at one point and gave information on backing up and securing data. Once I had finish Stephen finished off by talking about Data Management Plans.

We then took a short break and encouraged everyone to have a go at completing a sample data management plan we provided, based on work by the DCC. The feedback at the time suggests that this was very helpful. Some saying that it helped make what they need to do for their research clearer.

We gathered the DMPs and plan on providing feedback to those who left their email addresses.

Our feedback forms show that overall the workshop was very well received. It has also given us ideas on how we can improve the flow in future. We are very pleased with the level of interest shown by the participants, reinforcing our view on the importance of providing good support for research at UEL.

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 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, 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.

At the UEL Research Conference

UEL has an annual Research and Knowledge Exchange conference where its academic staff and students can share their research with each other and with an invited external audience. Abstracts are submitted for peer review, then the successful authors give a 25-minute presentation on the day. Papers are available in ROAR, UEL’s research archive. The 2013 Conference was held on 26 June, and John and I manned a Research Data Services stand in the conference marquee to explain our services to this key audience.

RDS stand at UEL Research Conference

RDS stand at UEL Research Conference

This was the first public showing for Research Data Services. We prepared a couple of banners, a leaflet and collected useful resources from the DCC and UKDA to hand out to delegates. One banner was to say we can help those writing data management plans (we already know there is a demand for this). The other was to challenge researchers to say yes to the following statements:

I know what I am expected to do with my research data after the project ends

I want to share my data and get recognition for it

I know the best place to ensure long-term access to my data

My data is well described so others can understand and reuse it

I know the legal and ethical restrictions on sharing my data

Research Data Services leaflet

Research Data Services leaflet

The leaflet was based on one created by Leicester University (available here), challenging researchers to think about “What would you do if you lost your research data tomorrow?” and offering a checklist of things to consider around four areas: Create, Organise, Keep and Find & Share. Very many thanks to Dr Andy Burnham for permission to reuse the Leicester leaflet’s text, and to the whole RDM team at Leicester for creating such a useful resource: it is hard to seem engaging in a short leaflet, so offering a checklist of RDM-related issues for people to consider with a clear message of support from central services is a very worthwhile approach. It starts a dialogue with researchers about where they would like support from a central service, and can act as a prompt for taking appropriate action.

Summer had finally arrived and the marquee was sweltering, so we didn’t get as much attention as we’d liked as people rushed through to rehydrate. But it was still worth our while to have a presence, and we engaged with several research-active staff to follow up later.

Support for support

Join us on 16 July for a workshop on the support available to those in RDM support roles. The workshop will offer an overview of training materials available from the DCC and several JISC-funded projects, give you some hands-on practice using training resources, and hear from three JISCMRD projects addressing the training needs of library, IT and research office staff. You will find this event useful if you are planning to develop a support service for managing research data, or already undertaking this work. And the roundtable will give us all a chance to share good practice and any lessons learned. Join us in Stratford, East London!

Here’s the draft programme and a button to take you to the booking page on Eventbrite:

10.30 Registration and coffee

11.00 Overview of RDM training (DCC)

11.30 Exercise/ demos of existing training materials

12.00 Online learning module using supportDM

12.30 Lunch

13.30 Training Library staff (TraD project)

14.00 Training IT staff (ADMIRe project)

14.30 Training Research Office staff (RoaDMAP project)

15.00 Tea

15.15 Roundtable discussion – “Who to train, for what, and how?”

16.00 Close

Eventbrite - Support for support: training those in RDM support roles

Are you RDM Ready? From zeroes to heroes

Question 7

Question 7 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As part of the wrapping-up of the supportDM course (we’d already had a session with our librarians asking them what was good, bad and missing) we now asked them one last question: “Are you RDM ready?” Well, sort of a last question…

Within that question itself were 29 others which asked people to rate their own knowledge (0=None and 5=expert) BEFORE and AFTER their completion of the supportDM course.  They would then total up the amount at the bottom.  The questionnaire was the “RU RDM ReadY” self-evaluation form created by the RDMRose project and adapted by us.

This was an excellent evaluation for the supportDM course for several reasons: (and thanks to RDMRose for allowing us to use it)

  1. It was short enough for our delegates to take time to complete
  2. It gave us an understanding of what they had learnt (and not learnt) which identified parts of the course we should improve upon for the future
  3. It compelled our delegates to think about what they didn’t know before the course – to conclude that maybe they’d learnt something and therefore instilled confidence in themselves.

The average score our librarians achieved after the course out of a possible total of 145 was 75.35 which is roughly, well, average but not if you count how much they scored themselves before the course –  an average of only 21.65 . So from knowing very little to knowing rather a lot – zeroes to heroes?

Let’s go into more detail of our librarians’ knowledge after taking part in the supportDM course.

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