'The bedrock from which all science flows is reproducible observation and experiment.'
This means that ultimately what is observed, the data, trumps all, even the most beautiful idea. - Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, speaking at the 2012 Richard Dimbleby Lecture.
Research data is a valuable and important output of scholarly research, and should be appropriately managed, maintained and reused. The potential to make research data openly available for others to use, analyse and reference is increasing with the growing availability of internal, external and international repositories across subject disciplines. Being an original source of data that is then reinterpreted or extended can lead to further collaborations, as well as gaining credit or impact from the research of others.
Research Data Management Roadmap
The University of Dundee advocates the highest standards in the open accessibility and sharing of research data, and supports the RCUK’s seven principles on data policy, see RCUK Common Principles on Data Policy Accordingly, the University's Policy to Govern the Management of Electronic Research Data forms part of the Research and Governance Policy Handbook, and establishes a set of principles to govern the management of electronic data arising from the research activities of the University. The policy will help researchers meet the requirements of funders to manage and provide open access to research data. The policy should be consulted before commencing a new research project.
Research Councils and funders are increasingly specifying regulations, mandates and policies on the access to and management of data of this kind, encouraging open access, best practice in data management and increased awareness of the principles and expectations. Of particular note is the EPSRC policy framework, available at ESPRC Policy Framework on Research Data, which takes effect from May 2012 and requires full compliance by May 2015.
The Research data management roadmap outlines a roadmap of activities within the University of Dundee that demonstrate the planning that is underway and the aims of the organization in the area of research data management. It also evidences the efforts being made to create an environment suitable for both high standards of data lifecycle management and regulatory compliance.
Examples of external discipline data repositories include:
- European Bioinformatics Institute
- Economic and Social Data Service
- National Geoscience Data Centre
- Chemical Database Service
- Archaeology Data Service
- ESRC UK Data Archive for Social Sciences and Humanities
- Natural Environment Research Council Data Centres
The potential of data sets available through data repositories to enable research not previously realisable is gaining recognition in all disciplines. Other benefits are gained by the existence of data centres, such as the curation and preservation of data and increasing data visibility. Government support for data sharing has been evidenced in significant financial initiatives such as the National eScience Centre and support for the development of the National Grid Service. These initiatives are not commonly known outside of the science discipline and perhaps require some explanation:
eScience "research done through distributed global collaborations enabled by the Internet, using very large data collections, terascale computing resources and high performance visualisation." - Research Councils UK
The eScience programme which was launched in 2001 has allowed the development of generic technologies to create computing grids:
The Grid "allows different computational and data resources to work together seamlessly across networks, enabling people to share them, often across traditional boundaries and form virtual organisations." - Research Councils UK
There are similar new possibilities that have opened up in the humanities where new research potential has been released by data collections and digital databases. This is demonstrated in disciplines such as corpus linguistics where, using computational tools, texts are analysed for specific words or groups of words to identify patterns of use. A process known as text mining.
The sharing of data in the humanities does not present the same challenges it does in the sciences, however, a lack of prescribed standards for citing and describing data sets is acknowledged. It is felt by the research councils that there is still a lot to be gained from exploiting the potential of using large scale data sets and advanced text mining tools by humanities researchers.
The Research Information Network reported in 2011 that:
"Difficulties in data linking are perhaps the most significant barrier across [humanities research projects], arising from the lack of standardisation, and the inconsistencies in quality, reliability, and functionality across different resources. They result in delays in research, repetitive searching, and limited ability to draw connections between sources. For users of Old Bailey Online, however, the new London Lives database, linking records from 15 datasets, is regarded as an exemplar, enhancing their research capabilities."
Support and Activities
Data centres give guidance on management and curation of data in preparation for depositing data sets. Providing guidance and training for this area is a useful continuation of work in the library field into the storage, recording and open access of research outputs and both aspects are included within the Library and Learning Centre's operational plans for the next three years. SCURL (Scottish Confederation of University and Research Libraries) have an action point in their 2012-2014 business plan to address Research Data Management (3.5). Dundee is a full member of SCURL and is represented on the Business Committee by the LLC Director, Richard Parsons. A Scottish workshop in research data management is planned for this year and SCURL will coordinate work at Scottish levels, while not duplicating work completed in the subjects, institutions or UK levels.
The LLC is also hosting a roadshow on data management from the Digital Curation Centre, forecast for December of this year. Hannah Whaley (LLC Assistant Director) is coordinating this presentation and invitations will be presented throughout the University for researchers, administrators and managers.
There are resources available online to guide researchers on the management of their data. The following links deal with how to look after research data and how to preserve it for the future; they also provide methods for guarding against loss with strategies for securely storing, backing-up, transmitting, and disposing of data. For a free guide on managing data visit the Data UK Data archive website. Also try taking the online tutorial titled MANTRA available on the Edina website.
Record of Data Deposition
The University will maintain a record of all data deposited with external services, such as Research Council repositories in order to help and guide its own researchers and also to monitor usage of data sets. This information should be noted with the University and can be submitted electronically to the Library and Learning Centre using the form at the bottom of the page.
Data Record Form