Background to the Edinburgh Research Data Blog

Since the University Senate passed the Research Data Management Policy in May, 2011, Information Services has been working with others across the University to determine how best to implement the policy so that it serves the needs of researchers, their funders, and the University.

Subsequently, several other UK universities (such as the Universities of Essex, Nottingham, Exeter and Manchester) have used the Edinburgh policy as a model to develop their own policies, adopting much of the same language. The Digital Curation Centre (DCC) used Edinburgh as a case study for an online publication, How to Develop RDM Services – a guide for HEIs.

In the same period, new policies have emerged from funding agencies. The RCUK Common Principles on Data Policy assert that publicly funded research data are public goods which should be openly shared whenever possible. The EPSRC Policy Framework on Research Data obliges research institutions to provide support infrastructure for research data management and storage.

A governance structure for the rollout of services and infrastructure has been agreed, with the formation of a Research Data Management and Storage (RDMS) Steering Group with cross-College representation led by Professor Peter Clarke (Physics), and an RDMS Implementation Group chaired by Dr John Scally (Library and University Collections), including key IS service managers. This work is made transparent through a wiki open to all University members.

Funding has now been secured to establish infrastructure for the secure storage, management, sharing and preservation of research data in the University. A Roadmap which communicates strategy and milestones for planning over the short and medium term has been approved by the Steering Group which will guide IS service managers in building streamlined services that are fit for purpose across research areas. Roadmap timelines will be revised in the coming weeks and announced here.

The new funding adds to momentum that has been building since the passage of the policy. The DCC has conducted pilot work with University researchers on services to aid data management planning. IT Infrastructure is procuring high-capacity storage, and pilot work has been completed to inform the storage architecture. The Data Library has been engaging with User Services in IS to conduct training in RDM for librarians. Further training for IT consultants is planned. An online course – Research Data MANTRA – designed for PhD students and early career researchers, is available for self-paced training. The data repository, Edinburgh DataShare, is available for dataset deposits, and further pilot activity is informing work on user enhancements.

Upcoming Roadmap milestones will tackle interoperability between systems and ways to capture information about where datasets are stored for a University-wide register.

With the advent of big data, open data, the long tail of (small) data, and data-driven research, data management is a hot topic for academic support groups across the UK and beyond. IS staff are monitoring developments coming from the Jisc-funded Managing Research Data programme, the new international Research Data Alliance and elsewhere, and participating in events and discussions about standards, tools and best practice, through experience gained working with research groups across the University.

This blog has been set up to share the latest news and views on this exciting activity. The primary audience is the researchers of the University, but it will no doubt be read by peers in other institutions equally engaged in RDM work, just as we will be attuned to their developments.

Robin Rice, on behalf of the RDM Implementation Committee

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