New content in MANTRA: ‘Keeping research data safe’

We are pleased to provide an update on MANTRA, the free online research data management training resource.

The MANTRA course was developed around ten years ago to provide knowledge and training on a number of key research data management topics, including data management plans, effective organisation of data and files, and archiving and sharing research data at the end of a project.

As part of an ongoing update to MANTRA, six of the eight training modules have now been updated in order to refresh content and introduce new concepts and topics to better reflect current research data management practices and conventions.

Our most recent update is the new Unit 6: ‘Keeping research data safe’, which replaces the original ‘Storage and security’ unit covering how to store research data effectively, including keeping backups and methods to safeguard data. The new unit updates that content, and introduces a number of new topics including data classification, networked and cloud storage, password management tools, data access controls, transferring files securely, and working remotely.

Additionally, the new unit has been refreshed to include new images, videos and links to further reading to ensure it remains relevant and interesting to anyone looking to learn more about storing their research data safely and effectively.

In addition to this latest update, over the past year we have also reviewed and updated a further three modules:

  • Unit 2: ‘Data management planning’ – Main updates include: new videos on the topic of data management planning from the Research Data Service, and new content covering planning of a broader range of research outputs (e.g. software code, workflows, methods and protocols), and information on software management planning.
  • Unit 3: ‘Organising data’ – Main updates include: restructuring the content to make it easier to read and understand, and new pages on collaboration and working in teams, versioning files and using versioning tools, and managing software and code.
  • Unit 8: ‘FAIR sharing and access’ – Main updates include: new videos, new pages on open data, the FAIR principles, making data FAIR, open data repositories, and data access statements, plus revisions to unit summary activities.

You can also read previous blog posts about updates to Unit 1: ‘Research data in context’ (blog post) and Unit 7: ‘Protecting sensitive data’ (blog post).

We hope you find time to visit MANTRA to see what is new and to learn more about looking after your research data effectively. We will be sharing more news on MANTRA as further updates are released.

Bob Sanders
Research Data Support Assistant, L&UC

New feature in Edinburgh DataShare: the REST API

Ever wanted to get a table of the details of all the datasets on DataShare to do with Scottish history? Or matching some other criteria, possibly on specified fields? If so, the new API (Application Programming Interface) can help.

DataShare now has a REST API, which you can use to query our metadata. An API makes the database’s contents accessible for requests from external servers, through a command-line, which allows external users to script such requests. The DSpace API also provides its own web-based query client and report client. These pages allow users to use a graphical interface to quickly build a query and see the results in a table, all in the browser.

The DataShare REST API page starts with a link to our plain-English explanation of how the API can be used:

Edinburgh DataShare DSpace REST API 

We would like to hear from anyone who wants to use the API. Please try it out and let us know what you find useful! Email us at data-support@ed.ac.uk .

Examples using the graphical query builder

I wanted to find datasets where I could add a link to the associated publication. This is a bit of a challenge for us, since users typically deposit their data with us under embargo before the associated paper has been published, and we do not have an automatic way to detect when or whether an associated publication has appeared.  I used the query builder to find the IsReferencedBy value for deposits accessioned in 2017. The plain-English guide on the wiki provides the steps I went through to do so:

How to use the DataShare REST API 

This feature may be of use to colleagues who support organisational units at University of Edinburgh which don’t align precisely with the Collections structure of DataShare – the API lets you query on multiple collections through the reporting tool. We’d love for colleagues to contact us if their teams have published a new paper containing a data citation of their DataShare deposit, so we can add the details of the publication to the DataShare Item’s metadata, resulting in a hyperlink appearing on the dataset landing page.

I wanted to find datasets with an embargo date in December. This is a challenge for us because users often set their embargo expiry date to Hogmanay, which means their one-week reminder would arrive on Christmas Day right in the middle of the university’s winter break. But many other fields contain dates with December in them, so it has not been practical for me to search for this using the graphical interface. So I used the API to search specifically in the dc.date.embargo field. See the screenshot below. The API helped me find the datasets whose embargo date we needed to extend, or else lift the embargo outright, allowing us to contact the depositors in good time to ask them whether a paper had been published or more time was needed.

Screenshot of the output of the REST API

Results showing datasets with an embargo date in December 2021

Thirdly, to demonstrate the power of this tool relative to the non-specific Search I chose a topic with very common words to show how to use the query builder to focus in on results avoiding spurious matches.

Using the existing ‘Search’ function on the homepage I searched for ‘history Scotland’. This produced 39 matches, some of which have nothing to do with historical research or Scotland, but merely mention a funder “NHS Research Scotland”, and mention the history of the research field in passing to provide a little context. Most of the matches are interesting, but some are not relevant.

Whereas when I set the API query builder to search for ‘history’ in the research area (subject classification), and ‘Scotland’ in the field for geographical metadata ie dc.coverage.spatial. This provided me with a short list of high quality matches, three datasets of historical research to do with Scotland – see the screenshot. This is a useful tool for narrowing a search.

Screenshot showing the input, and the output on the API query builder webpage

A search for two very common words in specific fields produces high quality results

Enabling the API

The REST API is a feature of the underlying DSpace repository software. Our sysadmins configured the API with great care to block certain commands and enable only the ‘GET’ commands that are needed for appropriate queries using DSpace config settings (further info DSpace 6 Documentation on the Lyrasis wiki ).

The Future

In the international DSpace repository community, we’re aware the API is used for integration with at least one CRIS (Current Research Information System) and quality tool applications (Andrea Bollini, 4Science, private communication). We understand the API of the newer DSpace 7 contains significant changes compared to that of DSpace 6, which we’re using for Edinburgh DataShare.

We’re aware of only a few examples of the API being used by individuals for occasional metadata queries. But we will watch with interest to see how the DSpace 7 API will be used.

 

Pauline Ward
Research Data Support Assistant
Library and University Collections
University of Edinburgh

Diverse climate change data in DataShare’s newest thematic collection

‘Code red for humanity’ was the galvanising message of the sixth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published on 9 August. The report draws on thousands of academic research projects. Research data is vital to understanding the nature and scale of the challenge of climate change, and the necessary deployment and application of solutions.

We decided to draw together the datasets relating to climate change to showcase them on a single Collection page on Edinburgh DataShare, our research data repository. In part this was prompted by a new deposit from Oliver Escobar in the School of Social and Political Science – data from citizens’ assemblies debating wind farms. Our DSpace repository allows us to ‘map’ an Item to Collections other than the one to which it belongs, resulting in the dataset being listed in more than one Collection. Edinburgh DataShare contains a wealth of research datasets from an extremely diverse array of academic disciplines, reflecting the strengths of the University of Edinburgh, and so it is with our climate change research:

Climate Change Collection

We added many datasets from our School of Geosciences: one dataset from Ian Goddard and Professor Simon Tett demonstrated how urbanisation has affected temperatures in the UK, and includes a map showing heat islands around our major cities. Professor Tett said:

“To truly understand how climate change might impact society we need to bring together many datasets developed by many researchers so that other researchers can use them for their own studies. DataShare enables this.”

Goddard, Ian; Tett, Simon. (2018). “Software and data used in the study ‘How much has urbanisation affected temperatures in the United Kingdom'”, 1990-2017 [software]. University of Edinburgh. https://doi.org/10.7488/ds/2370.

Climatological data and toolkits for public engagement around climate and natural resources came from Professor Marc Metzger – including various kinds of maps, a board game and posters showing natural resources.

One dataset was a description of an artwork, a quilt representing global temperature measurements. Posters on the wall show the years, so as to provide a time axis for the temperature data represented in the colours of the patches in the quilt:

Photo of quilt hanging on the wall of an exhibition space

World temperature quilt on display at the Data-X exhibition

Zaenker, Julia; Vladis, Nathalie. (2017). Feel The Heat – A World Temperature Data Quilt, [image]. University of Edinburgh. EDINA. https://doi.org/10.7488/ds/1998.

Another theme was renewable energy – we included data from our School of Engineering on tidal turbines, and recent wave buoy experimental data:
The big 3-0-0-0: DataShare reaches three thousand datasets

All this raises the question – why bring these data together, what for? Do the datasets measuring and defining the problem really belong with the research working on technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? To answer this, I think the analogy of our other thematic collection on Covid-19 is apt. To develop and implement effective treatments and public health responses to Covid-19, we do need to understand a great deal about the cause, the pathogen and the pathology it creates. We should strive to break down barriers between domains of knowledge. So yes, to tackle climate change more effectively, we should all seek to better understand the underlying processes and the behavioural and technological solutions we must employ.

By bringing together research data from diverse teams in a single DataShare Collection, we empower the user to browse those datasets using the ‘facets’ feature in DataShare, or indeed a text search within the Collection. The user can filter by geography, by data creator’s name, by keyword, funder (see the screenshot below) or they can choose their own search term. When they reach an individual dataset, the breadcrumb trail at the top of the page can lead them into the original Collection where the dataset was first deposited, leading them to other work from the same research group, centre or School. This is one small way for the curation team to enhance the findability of the data. Scientists tell us there are challenges posed by the plethora of formats and programming languages used, even within disciplines. We hope that by making the connections and common themes between these different strands of research from different disciplines more visible, we make the data more findable, and perhaps hope to inspire new research questions or approaches.

a screenshot from the Collection page

DataShare’s facets

A word about DataShare’s structure: we find our depositors prefer to place their data in a Collection that reflects the organisational placement of their research group – typically the Collection represents the research group, and sits within a Community representing a research centre, sitting within a Community representing a School, sitting within a top-level Community representing a College:
DataShare structure

If you would like to suggest a theme for a new thematic Collection on DataShare, please contact the Research Data Support team:
Research Data Service | Contact

The RDS team, like all the University of Edinburgh’s teams, has a remit to address climate change as the university is committed to contributing to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, including no. 13 “Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”:
Social Responsibility and Sustainability | The University of Edinburgh

We can all learn more about how we can take that urgent action effectively on the university’s amazing and inspiring “Climate Solutions” MOOC, available on edX:
Climate Solutions | edX 

I recommend anyone to take this course – it is free of charge, it’s fun, it is easy to fit around other commitments. I’ve nearly completed the coursework and already passed thanks to my quiz scores, got my nice PDF certificate signed by Professor Dave Reay. The Climate Solutions MOOC inspired me to create the Climate Change thematic Collection and it has really opened my eyes to the scale and nature of the challenge, and many actions we all need to take to contribute to halting the rise in global temperatures. Everyone has their part to play.

Pauline Ward
Research Data Support Assistant
Library & University Collections
University of Edinburgh

Data Mindfulness training integrated in new resources

The Research Data Service is pleased to announce an update to our ‘Data Mindfulness: Making the Most of Your Dissertation Data’ training materials.

Originally developed to provide face to face research data management (RDM) training for undergraduate students undertaking a dissertation project, the newly revised course is now available as one of ten units within the Library’s new LibSmart II training course.

‘Data Mindfulness: Your Dissertation Data‘ combines videos, reading material, and short interactive exercises to help students think about data management issues as they prepare to undertake a research project, potentially for the first time.

The course is designed to follow the research journey from beginning to end, from developing a research question and conducting a literature search, through to generating and managing project data and files during the life of the project and beyond.

The ‘Data Mindfulness’ unit provides an approachable introduction to the subject of RDM, with up-to-date and relevant information and guidance for undergraduate and masters students. The updated content also includes expanded material on finding and accessing secondary data sources, as well as links to wider training and resources provided by the Library.

You can find more information about the new LibSmart II course, and how to enrol here: https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/help-consultancy/rm-and-consultancy/academic-support-librarians/libsmart.

In addition to LibSmart II, we are also pleased to be working in conjunction with the Research Training Centre, based in the School of Social and Political Science, to deliver an updated version of the ‘Data Mindfulness’ course as part of the Micro-Methods Workshop series. You can find details of the Micro-Methods Workshops series here: https://research-training-centre.sps.ed.ac.uk/micro-methods.

Finally, we have made the ‘Data Mindfulness’ training materials available for re-use under an open CC-BY license, and you can find links to the videos and download a PDF of the revised ‘Data Mindfulness’ course handbook from the Research Data Service site (a Word version of the handbook is available on request): https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/research-support/research-data-service/training.

We hope these ‘Data Mindfulness’ materials are useful and relevant and appreciate any comments or feedback that you may have at data-support@ed.ac.uk.

Bob Sanders
Research Data Support Assistant