Data Management Plans & the DCC

Posted on November 7th, 2012 by sarah

The Digital Curation Centre is one of HATII’s longest running projects, if not the longest – we’re now in our 8th year!  Based at the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Bath, the DCC supports the UK higher education community with research data management.  One of the main strands of DCC work is supporting Data Management Planning.  We’ve put together various guidance resources and developed an online tool to help researchers write plans.  You can find out about this on the data management planning section of the DCC website.

As part of this work I was down at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine yesterday for a seminar on Developing Data Management Expertise in Research.  The talk I gave covered data management planning for the health sciences. Slides are available via slideshare.

There were a number of common threads throughout the day.  David Carr (Wellcome Trust) and Peter Dukes (MRC) pushed for a nuanced approach to data sharing.  Not all data should be shared, just those of a high quality with long-term value as there needs to be a return on the time and resources invested.  David coined a nice phrase calling for “fair trade not free trade” recognising that there are legitimate restrictions on sharing.

It was heartening to hear that funders are generally impressed with the DMPs being submitted – they’ve discovered a lot of good practice.  Guidance has been revised by ESRC, MRC and the Wellcome Trust to continue improving DMPs.  Peter urged researchers to keep plans brief but detailed – they don’t need to know every last detail, they just want short, precise statements that name any standards or accepted methods that will be followed.  Interestingly they both suggested that a cost of c.7-10% of the grant to support data management and sharing is reasonable.  Whatever is costed in needs to be properly justified though.  Peter suggested naming individuals who would do the work because they had the relevant expertise.

The final talks focused on practicalities and support available for data management.  Libby Bishop pointed to the UKDA’s excellent guide on managing and sharing data.  This ends with a 20 point checklist to help researchers make sure they’ve considered all the relevant aspects.  She also overlayed idealised lifecycles for the research process and data management activities to show optimum intervention points.  Sue Childs spoke about the DATUM projects at Northumbria University.  She explained that whether data sharing is ethical, methodologically possible and practical all depends on the project and methods used.  In parallel with earlier speakers, she proposed a nuanced approach that balanced the cost of data sharing against the expected benefits.

The event closed with details of the RDM support service being developed at LSHTM with Wellcome Trust funding.  Gareth Knight urged researchers (no less than 4 times!) to complete their survey so the services that are developed meet their needs.  He became really animated when discussing options for the repository – he hopes to make this as fine-grained as possible, perhaps even offering visualisations by variables rather than just file-level details.  I worked with Gareth a number of years back in AHDS days.  He was the lynchpin who kept everything working at the data centre, so I’ve got no doubt that the developments at LSHTM will be one to watch!

 

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