Data Mindfulness – learning the basics of good research data management

When planning a research project, whether this involves carrying out interviews for a first dissertation project or analysing secondary data for a PhD, it is important to ensure that you are handling your research data safely and effectively. Taking time to think about where and how you will store and organise your files, how your data can be backed up to protect against accidentally losing your work, and what to consider if working with sensitive information, will help make the research process simpler and help you become a better researcher.

The Research Data Service provide a range of training materials to help both new and experienced researchers to work with their research data more effectively. For students planning a dissertation project we have developed the online Data Mindfulness: Making the most of your dissertation data course (available as part of the Library’s LibSmart II course). This short introductory course is designed to be accessible and engaging, and incorporates videos, quizzes and reading materials to provide helpful tips and guidance for those preparing to undertake their first dissertation project.

Data Mindfulness is available online as part of the library’s LibSmart II research skills course

We are happy to share some of the positive feedback we have received from students who recently completed the Data Mindfulness course:

“It was clear and easily accessible, especially for someone who is an online student”

“A lot of information that I had no idea about but feel better having received it”

“It provides useful tips about organizing and storing data and files”

“Every SSPS student should be aware that they have access to this course before starting their dissertation”

For post-graduate students and those with previous experience working with research data we recommend checking out MANTRA, our well-established online training course which provides more in-depth training on key research data management topics.

Dr Bob Sanders
L&UC Research Data Support

It Is Our Mantra

Last week I was honoured to accept an invitation to speak at the Library Technology Conclave at Somaiya Vidyavihar University in Mumbai, India, organised by Informatics Limited and the University. A prelude the day before the event included a half-day “Research Data Management (RDM) Basics” tutorial for about 50 attending librarians, which I delivered based on adaptations of our Research Data Support team’s training materials for PhD students and staff. The training exercises, developed from a few other external librarian training sessions I’ve done, focused on building librarians’ confidence in supporting researchers with data management planning and data sharing. Doing the training in person helped me to overcome communication barriers and foster deeper engagement than could have happened online only.

Lighting the flame of the conference

Lighting the flame of the hybrid conference

The conference was on the theme of “Research Data Management and Stewardship: Building Blocks for Open Science,” with a number of eminent librarians, scientists, and educators speaking in keynotes and on panels in six thematic sessions, in-person and remotely. There was a palpable sense of urgency to the proceedings, as those in the room were concerned that India’s scientific institutions, without funder mandates, national open infrastructure, nor observable changes in cultural norms for RDM and Open Science, might be left behind, given this emerging new, more transparent way of conducting research. Questions focused not on the What or Why of Open Science, but how to instigate behavioural change of scientists and researchers, and how librarians could create demand for new services such as data repositories and quickly skill themselves up.

I have some empathy for their position. A decade or so ago I attended conferences which felt more like hand-wringing than change-making, with endless talk of carrots and sticks (and carrot-stick jokes), with researchers explaining over and again their reluctance to be ‘scooped’ by giving access to their data. I am not sure what caused the tipping point to talking about the potential of data sharing and open science to the exciting reality of it happening, but it seems to have come round (more or less). I do still harbour concerns that our own researchers will be left out of participation in the shared infrastructure that is the European Open Science Cloud because of Brexit-related barriers here.

Robin with attendeesOne talk that piqued my interest involved a survey of librarians in Gujarat about RDM and their capacity to deliver new types of service, by Dr. Bhakti Gala. As the Indian LIS (library and information science) curriculum was apparently seen to not be delivering RDM training to any great extent yet, the researcher had asked how the librarians had acquired knowledge of RDM. She said that about half the librarians who had pursued self-training had learned from the free, online MANTRA course (which stands for Research Data Management Training), offered by the University of Edinburgh.

The Chair of the panel, Prof Shalini Urs, with whom I had had a conversation over dinner with about the name of the course, said [naming me, as I sat in the audience] that I would be happy to hear that was the case, to which I of course smiled and nodded. Alluding to our prior conversation about whether the name was a cultural [mis-]appropriation or not, she looked me in the eye and said, “It is Our MANTRA, now.” Which is, of course, the great thing about Openness.

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

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