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

New home for Edinburgh Research Data Blog!

Tempus fugit. This Data Blog, which has been going since 2013 is now moving to Edinburgh University Libraryblogs. This follows the 2018 organisational merger of the Data Library team at EDINA with Research Data Support in Library & University Collections.

We hope you will actively subscribe to the new blog at https://libraryblogs.is.ed.ac.uk/datablog/ now, by entering your email address in the right navigation panel so you don’t miss any future posts!

Meanwhile we will redirect the old URL and all the older posts to the new site so you won’t have to remember where to go to catch all the news about the Research Data Service and research data management at University of Edinburgh. Any cited posts or bookmarks will continue to resolve.

Otherwise it just remains to thank our former and future hosts – EDINA, and the Digital Library – for providing the platform.

Robin Rice
Data Librarian and Head of Research Data Support
Library and University Collections

Research Data Training: Semester Two, 2020/21

As we are still facing significant restrictions on movement and in-person events during the whole of semester 2 we have decided to continue offering our RDM (Research Data Management) training courses online only. Details of the upcoming courses are below.

For undergraduate and taught masters students we have a new course called Data Mindfulness: Making the most of your dissertation, which can be enroled on via Learn on MyEd. Alternatively the videos and workbook are available on our training page.

Our online, self-paced RDM training course, Research Data MANTRA, has also been undergoing a significant update, which will be the subject of a future blog post – it is openly accessible at https://mantra.edina.ac.uk.

Full details about each course are on our training webpage https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/research-support/research-data-service/training

Workshop Audience Date Time Booking Link
Writing A Data Management Plan for Your Research (RDS002) Research Staff 24th March 2021 09:30 – 11:30 https://www.events.ed.ac.uk/index.cfm?event=book&scheduleId=44117
Writing A Data Management Plan for Your Research (RDS002) All Staff & PGR’s 13th April 2021 10:00 – 12:00 https://www.events.ed.ac.uk/index.cfm?event=book&scheduleID=44862
Working with Personal and Sensitive Data (RDS003) Research Staff 15th April 2021 09:30 – 11:30 https://www.events.ed.ac.uk/index.cfm?event=book&scheduleId=44118
Realising the Benefits of Good Research Data Management (RDS001) All Staff & PGR’s 21 & 22 April 2021 13:30 – 15:00 Part 1 – https://www.events.ed.ac.uk/index.cfm?event=book&scheduleID=44856

Part 2 – ttps://www.events.ed.ac.uk/index.cfm?event=book&scheduleID=44861

Edinburgh DataVault: supporting users archiving their research data (RDS008) Support staff 22nd April 2021 10:30 – 12:00 https://www.events.ed.ac.uk/index.cfm?event=showEventDetails&scheduleId=44924
Working with Personal and Sensitive Data (RDS003) All Staff & PGR’s 26th April 2021 14:00 – 16:00 https://www.events.ed.ac.uk/index.cfm?event=book&scheduleID=44863
Realising the Benefits of Good Research Data Management (RDS001) Research Staff 04 & 05 May 2021 13:30 – 15:00 Contact IAD directly https://www.ed.ac.uk/institute-academic-development

The following courses will not run during semester 2, but we plan to relaunch them as soon possible. In the meantime if you need any support just get in touch with us via data-support@ed.ac.uk and we’ll be happy to help.

  • Data Cleaning with OpenRefine (RDS004)
  • Handling Data Using SPSS (RDS005)
  • Assessing Disclosure Risk in Quantitative Data (RDS006)
  • Assessing Data Quality in Quantitative Data (RDS007)
  • Introduction to Visualising Data in ArcGIS (RDS011)
  • Introduction to Visualising Data in QGIS (RDS012)

A final note, the Research Data Management and Sharing MOOC which we launched with the University of North Carolina in 2016 has enjoyed its most successful period during the pandemic, with people wanting to reskill for the digital world. Over 2,700 learners have successfully completed the 5 week course and passed assessments, with over 25,000 people engaging with the highly rated course since the beginning.

Kerry Miller
Research Data Support Officer
Library and University Collections