Thinking about this blog post has provided a welcome opportunity to reflect on what we’re hoping to achieve during the Research360 project. It’s a broad project covering many aspects of research data management (RDM) and generating numerous specific outputs that, one would hope, will all benefit researchers, their collaborators, the institution and the wider RDM community.
In trying to identify the three key benefits of the Research360 project (as against RDM more generally) I have used the KRDS benefits framework as a guide to determine what the outcome of the benefit will be, when it will be achieved and who will benefit.
1. Centralised provision of RDM support for researchers
Central to research data management are the researchers themselves and it’s easy to forget that all researchers already manage their data. What we’re asking them to do is to continue to manage their data, but in a more structured way and for longer than they might be used to.
In order to do this, researchers need to understand what is meant by RDM and what their responsibilities are – to themselves, to their students, to their funders and to their Institution. They then need to be able to find and access the support available to enable them achieve this.
Researchers will benefit most if this information is clearly visible and usable. We have therefore created and are continuing to develop a research data management website at the University of Bath. This website will host many of the outputs from Research360: our new RDM policy; guidelines in data management planning and storage; information about training and support; and links to other resources.
Production of this focal RDM resource will be a direct benefit primarily aimed at researchers internal to the University of Bath. However, it will also showcase our commitment to RDM to our external collaborators and act as a resource to other institutions and to the wider RDM community.
In the near term, we will monitor traffic to the website, use of the resources hosted there and requests for RDM support. We would also hope to see increased use of the existing managed storage facilities and uptake of data management planning as part of all funding applications.
Over the longer term, the resources hosted on this website will support a cultural change across the institution leading to a fully integrated RDM environment at the institution.
2. Strengthening of industrial ties
A key feature of both the Research360 project and research carried out at Bath is the focus on collaborative research, both interdisciplinary research and in collaboration with external organisations.
How then, might collaborative research benefit from effective research data management? In collaboration with colleagues working on the REDm-MED project and Neil Beagrie (of Charles Beagrie Ltd) we have recently been giving this question a lot of consideration.
Whilst there was general agreement that effective data management is a ‘good thing’ for collaborative research, identifying how this would translate to specific benefits for both industry and the institution has been difficult. Harder still is working out how any benefits could be measured.
As part of Research360, we therefore want to learn more about how data generated through such collaborations is currently organised, accessed, curated and preserved. We can then identify particular difficulties that managing such data can generate and identify what can be done to overcome these problems in the future, thus generating both direct and indirect benefits.
We therefore aim to identify representative case studies of research carried out in partnership with industry. By working closely with individual researchers, we can identify, target and resolve specific problems in the near term. This should then enable us to determine how our work on RDM is supporting and benefiting collaborative research over the longer term.
3. Creating a sustainable RDM infrastructure at the University of Bath
Achieving a fully integrated research data management infrastructure, particularly the technical and training aspects, is likely to take longer than the duration of the Research360 project. We therefore need to ensure that the work completed during the project is both maintained and built on once the project finishes.
We will therefore build on the outputs of the Community Capability Model Framework project to produce a clear institutional roadmap and supporting business case. These will provide the framework around which this longer term sustainable development will occur. They will also identify where further investment and work are required and define where responsibility for this work will lie.
This will benefit the institution in its strategic longer term planning. Researchers will benefit from a continued RDM infrastructure and from retention of investment from both funders and external collaborators. The wider RDM community will benefit from continued investment and development of RDM.
We won’t be able to directly measure the benefits of the institutional roadmap and business case until after they are delivered at the end of the project. However, by then we should have an idea about what the future plans are for RDM at the University of Bath.