Skills4EOSC fellowship

This is a guest blog post from Clara Parente Boavida, about her fellowship with the Research Data Service as part of a European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) project.

My name is Clara Parente Boavida and I work in the Research Support Office at Iscte-Instituto Universitario de Lisboa (Portugal). I applied for the first call of the Skills4EOSC Fellowship Programme and between 11th March to 5th April I worked with an amazing team at Research Data Service at the University of Edinburgh.

The Skills4EOSC Fellowship Programme aims to address the need to promote and sustain professional roles dedicated to open research by supporting short-term secondments.

Among the three different types of fellowships, I have chosen a Research Data Support internship. This placement allowed me to actively participate in the day-to-day activities related to research data support, providing an immersive experience and a comprehensive understanding of research data management practices within the host institution.

I would like to congratulate the Skills4EOSC project for this initiative and thank everyone who has helped to make this opportunity possible. I’m grateful for the support of my institution (Vice-Rector Jorge Costa and Carina Cunha), I’m grateful to Robin Rice for the extraordinary welcome and I’m grateful to all the people I’ve had the opportunity to talk to and interact with during this month.

“the essential is invisible to the eyes”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s novel “The Little Prince”

Each week’s agenda was carefully prepared with my expectations and interests in mind. The University of Edinburgh has a busy life in terms of Research Data Management. Not only in collaboration with various services within the University, but also with the external community. This holistic view has made me reflect about the different services that Research Data Management intersects with. Success comes from healthy and effective relationships with different stakeholders.

Photo collage of Clara's activities in Edinburgh.

I was involved in the day-to-day activities of different members of the team, and each experience added something new. I had the opportunity to attend face-to-face events, one-to-one meetings, kick-off meetings, as well as online meetings and events. I also took part in internal team meetings and service meetings. Informal activities were carefully planned to allow the Research Data Service team to interact with each other and to allow other teams to be involved.

I had one-to-one meetings with each member of the Research Data Support team about: DataShare, DataVaut, training programme, DMP, DMPonline, Research Data Management Policy and Metrics. I had one-to-one meetings with members of other teams: Open Research, Scholarly Communications, Research Information Systems, Digital Research Services, and Edinburgh Research Office.

I attended a number of events in person: Digital Research Lunchtime Seminar: How to interpret and analyse your data efficiently; Open Research Scotland Meeting; Open Science Framework Workshop Modules 1, 2, 3 & 4; Ethics & Data Management at the Childlight GDF Residency; Technomoral Conversations: Who is Responsible for Responsible AI?; Library Tour for Staff, and Digital Research Lunchtime Seminar: Manage, publish, share and preserve.

I also participated in online events: Updating the DataCite Metadata Scheme webinar; UK Research Network (UKRN) webinar on Indicators for Open Research; UKRN Indicators Pilot 2 online meeting; UKRN Pilot 1 kick-off meeting; Writing a Data management plan, for the Health in Social Science School; and Working with Personal and Sensitive Data. I also had the opportunity to organise an online meeting with Mike Wallis (Research Services, IT Infrastructure) and the IT Services of Iscte to answer questions about DataStore.

In terms of personal contributions, I wrote suggestions for updates to MANTRA Unit 1, part of an open access Research Data Management Training course. I had the opportunity to demonstrate the interoperability process between CRIS systems and OpenAIRE, and also how to link EC funded projects to publications and datasets.

Finally, I designed a Research Data Management Roadmap for the Iscte. This roadmap intends to guide the work to be developed over the next three years towards the implementation of a RDM Service for the Iscte-Instituto Universitário de Lisboa. It incorporates lessons learned during the Skills4EOSC Fellowship Programme at the University of Edinburgh. It is also aligned with the Human Resources Excellence in Research Award (HRS4R) principles for researchers, which is a mechanism through which the European Commission seeks to ensure that concrete steps are put in place by institutions to enhance working conditions for researchers across Europe, as set out in the European Charter and Code.

Digital Curation Interviews project with DCC

In this guest blog post, Clara Lines Diaz reports on last year’s Digital Curation Interviews with University of Edinburgh researchers, conducted by the Digital Curation Centre (DCC) on behalf of Digital Research Services.

The project was initiated by staff in the Research Data Service to gain an overview of the research data and software management practices and challenges across the University through in-depth interviews with researchers. The DCC was selected as best placed to conduct the interviews, given its expertise on the subject matter and location at University of Edinburgh. The information was collected through semi-structured interviews during Spring 2023.

2 women talking at table


Image by WOCinTech Chat, Flickr

The motivation to collect this information was to help ensure that researchers are supported in their specific needs and to contribute to shaping the research data management (RDM) services. The choice of in-depth interviews as a method was also expected to help build deeper relationships between service providers and users.

For the semi-structured interviews we had some topic blocks as below, and some prepared questions within each of those blocks. This was used more as a check list for us and we gave the interviewees space to focus on or bring up anything they considered relevant.

Topic blocks:

  • A: Introduction: Research line, projects, collaborations
  • B: Data provenance, types and reuse
  • C: Data/Software management practices
  • D: Influences on data/software management practices
  • E: Data management challenges and sources of assistance

This type of interview works well for exploratory studies like this because it allows common and maybe unexpected patterns to emerge, but also has some caveats around comparability, as not all interviews cover exactly the same topics in the same level of detail. This means that in the results we were able to indicate, for example, how many people mentioned using a particular service, but we could not infer that the others don’t use it, just because they did not mention it.

To select the participants, we contacted research support staff in the three colleges and asked them to suggest participants or send the invitation around. It felt like there was a high interest to discuss these topics and make the challenges they encounter heard, especially among researchers in the College of Science and Engineering (CSE). The interviewees were all involved in data intensive research, with a mix of senior and early career researchers. The interviews were planned to last around 45 minutes but there was some variation in the duration.

From the 14 interviews, four were with staff from the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine (CMVM), eight with staff from CSE and two with staff from the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CAHSS). The oversampling of CSE interviews was intended as the service team was particularly interested to hear about their practices, which are less well known to them.

Once we had all the interview notes, we extracted the comments and classified them by themes. This was the basis for the final project report, which included a selection of the themes and possible points for action for the Research Data Service and the Research Computing Service in five key areas:

  • Data sharing and reuse was common practice, but there were challenges and areas where further support would be beneficial.
  • Code sharing and collaborative development was widespread and growing, but support and services were perceived as being less mature than that provided for data.
  • External collaboration with university-hosted services could be challenging.
  • Awareness of FAIR and open science was variable.
  • There was an appetite for more training, both for students and staff.

Sharing and reuse had a special focus in the interviews and the first two points are connected to that. Most interviewees had a lot to say about challenges related to sharing and reusing data, especially those working with sensitive data. Some extra advice to help people with those challenges would help. Most interviewees also discussed storing and, in some cases, sharing their code. GitHub is in general preferred for that. Sharing code is in general considered very time consuming.

A briefing was given to the Digital Research Services in August, 2023 and the Research Data Support team was given the transcripts and full results to inform service development.

Clara Lines Diaz
Research Data Specialist
Digital Curation Centre

Large scale data transport service launched

Research Services, IT Infrastructure Division, are pleased to report that a project that allows researchers to transfer terabytes of data between the University of Edinburgh and external collaborators has been completed. The service uses a transport mechanism known as Globus to set up multiple connections between host and client to transfer data instead of relying on a single point-to-point connection. This results in very large data being transferred between sites in parallel, allowing faster transfer.

The service is integrated with the University’s research data platform, DataStore, allowing researchers to specify specific folders that can be used as “endpoints” to the transfer. Many users have already taken advantage of the service, but it is key to note that this will not improve data transfer speeds within the University itself, rather that bottlenecks in the wider Internet can be mitigated.

For more information, University of Edinburgh users may view the RSS Wiki.

Mike Wallis
IS ITI

New Open Research Tool: Open Science Framework

Awesome news! The Research Data Service has a fantastic new addition to its Open Research toolbox! Fresh from the Centre for Open Science (COS) comes our institutional membership to Open Science Framework (http://osf.io): a powerful tool for supporting staff and students at the University of Edinburgh.

OSF is a free, open platform that provides full integration and sharing across the entire data lifecycle. Among many other things, it streamlines workflows with customisable project organisation and automated version control. It also enhances collaborative research, making it easy to find and connect with other UoE users and their research projects. But wait, there’s more! OSF enables easy management of private and public aspects of a project, so sharing with project teams as well as the wider research community couldn’t be simpler; it’s ideal for sharing preprints and preregistered reports. Best of all, with centralised storage for documents, data, and code, it eliminates the need to scramble around hunting for that one file you need right now: no more trawling through email chains to recover lost data!

To launch the new platform we’ve been running Free Lunch Lunchtime sessions, with Free Lunch in the Main Library. The Centre for Research Collections were kind enough to let us use their rooms on the 6th floor, so obviously, all our attendees used the stairs and worked up a proper appetite for their Free Lunch.

The first event was held on August 30th to a packed house, or room. After the Free Lunch and a bit of professional mingling, Gretchen Gueguen from the Centre for Open Science Zoomed in to give us a brief introduction to and overview of OSF: what it is, how it works, and why it’s such an excellent addition to any research toolbox. Gretchen was followed by Emma Wilson, PhD student, UoE representative for ReproducibiliTea, and Open Research Intern extraordinaire. Emma provided the first of two user-perspectives, talking about her experience of using OSF for her projects, presentations, and posters. The second pair of boots on the ground belonged to Mark Lawson, Data Governance Manager for the Childlight project currently being run out of Moray House School of Education and Sport. Being another long time-user of OSF, as well as being a fan of such tools, Mark spoke with great enthusiasm about the use of OSF to support the data management and project management aspects of his work.

Emma Wilson presenting during the OSF introduction event in August.

The second event wasn’t quite as packed as the first, but it was still nice to see those who managed to make it through the December wind and rain. Once again, Gretchen was there to provide the introduction and overview; and Emma, likewise, returned to talk about her experience as an OSF user. This time, the afternoon was rounded off by Gillian Currie who outlined the OSF training she and Eirini Theofanidou were ready and able to deliver. Before the close of the session Gillian had secured several bookings for her training sessions. Sadly, and despite having organised the event – and the Free Lunch – RDS won’t receive any commission for these bookings.

However, we will soon be in vigorous competition with Gillian and Eirini because we’re preparing to offer OSF Winter and Summer Schools. These sessions will be delivered remotely by COS to an in-person cohort of researchers over two or three days. If all goes to plan, we may even be recording the session recordings for future use. And yes, in case you’re wondering, there will, once again, be a Free lunch for attendees.

To learn more about the University OSF membership go to: https://edin.ac/47aGU0S. Questions about OSF? Email us: data-support@ed.ac.uk.

Dr Simon Smith – Research Data Support Officer
Research Data Support, Library & University Collections