Research Data Management: The University of Stirling Experience

Magdalena Drafiova | 27 April 2020

The University of Stirling’s research data management (RDM) support is the responsibility of my team, the Library and Archives Research Support Team, but in reality that actually means me!  Having supported research data management for at least 10 years I feel my expertise and ability to provide support has greatly improved over the years – but the nature of change, means I’m always learning.

In the beginning, to help us figure out this completely alien area we started with an institutional engagement with the Digital Curation Centre (DCC) which was great to get us going. We drafted an institutional policy on RDM, mostly recycled from Edinburgh’s policy (thank you!) and this was approved by Stirling’s University Research Committee in 2014.

In 2015, to fulfil the EPSRC requirements, we created a data repository, DataSTORRE which is built on DSpace.  We now have 63 datasets deposited. 

We don’t currently have a mandate to enforce researchers to deposit their datasets – we just ask they put their metadata in the repository so we know where their data is and what it is.  I am aware that people deposit in many other repositories, e.g., Dryad, Figshare, etc. but I am not certain as to whether people are also recording their metadata in DataSTORRE

DMPonline is a fantastic tool. I have customised DMPonline with Stirling specific advice, mostly to give Stirling specific help on storage and backups. 

We have created a specific drive for researchers for them to save and share their current research data with their research collaborators – we named it the X drive. This was launched back in April 2017 and has helped us tackle concerns regarding the safety of cloud storage and the dreaded GDPR issues.  Currently we have over 126 personal users with 53 group projects utilising just under 20 TB of data.

Conscious of the benefits of working collaboratively, in 2018 my IT colleague and I met with our Research Office’s Research Development Team to discuss referring all new research proposals for data management planning guidance and IT assistance.  This has worked really well and seems to be improving our reach. 

When we are notified that a researcher wants to meet we adopt a team approach and I ask my IT colleague along – Alan Richardson, Infrastructure Development Team Manager – this ensures a consistent approach and means the researchers only have one appointment to attend. 

I normally give people a customised guide for DMPonline, which is very easy to use.  I then ensure they know how to share their plan with me and I review their plan normally within a day of receiving their email – although service levels are still to be agreed! 

Numbers approaching me directly have dramatically increased since 2013. I have already received just under 30 enquiries this year. 

Challenges

By far the biggest challenge in research data management is engaging with actual researchers.

We have created lots of web pages (http://stir.ac.uk/2kv)  written blogs and provided items for newsletters but face to face still seems to be the best and most efficient way to engage with people.

We recently did a session at our Festival of Research (1 week-long celebration of research at the University of Stirling), where I introduced the topic of data management planning and had 3 researchers talking about their experiences in a Pecha kucha format.  The researchers are all from different disciplines and have different needs. 

One, a social scientist is working with educational organisations using video and audio recording and working with 2 partner HEI institutions who have varying IT help and capability.  The challenges she has faced were how to work together at a distance, with new software and new storage media.  She had to contact the ESRC to clarify what they meant by cloud storage and got a positive response that our StorSimple service offered enough security.

Another was a health researcher working with children and the huge number of ethics forms that have to be completed where neither of us knew the answers. The challenges for this young researcher are how to keep going in such circumstances but she has done so with resilience and humour.

A publishing lecturer was the final participant and he talked about his difficulties researching digital publishing before the web and how much of the information he requires is store in inaccessible formats or in a variety of archives with different metadata available.  

Despite there only be 3 researchers in the room this was an incredibly useful session and I hope I can work with my colleagues again as it is very useful for researchers to hear how others have coped and handled the data management and ethics challenges faced when starting out on a new project, as it gives much more context and a human face to what we are trying to do. 

Future developments

I would like to see increased interoperability with our Worktribe (which is our RMS) and DMPonline, so that people create dynamic DMPs that were linked to research grants and then outputs.  I would also like to see Worktribe flagging me or my team that someone was at the development stage so I can speak to them about RDM, using DMPonline and Research Drive.

Lisa Haddow

Library and Archives Research Support Manager

We would like to say thank you to Lisa Haddow for sharing this blog post with us. If you would like to get involved in our knowledge exchange and share a story from your institution please do get in touch with us.