Managing data across the institutional research lifecycle

Sakai Development: Post Seven

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📥  General

In which I outline the development task in more detail and start working through the code. After going round in circles trying to figure out exactly what does what, I am finally able to make my first edits.

The full post is on my personal blog here.

Sakai Development: Post Six

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📥  General

In which I finally am able to import Sakai into the eclipse IDE, the designated development environment. And at the end I am left wondering whether all the work has been worth it - I might have been better off developing with a text editor, old school style.

The full post is on my personal blog here.

Sakai Development: Post Five

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📥  General

In which I add LDAP authentication to the test Sakai installation, and sort out a bizarre issue with the Resources tool: a complete lack of the hooks and buttons needed to add content.

The full post is on my personal blog here.

Research data management training take 2

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📥  Training

On Thursday 28 June, Cathy and I ran the latest of our postgraduate workshops on research data management.

The session was structured similarly to our last workshop, though without the extended hands-on section on data management planning. The loss of this section was down to time pressures (we had an hour less this time).

We started by showing a series of statements about research data management, such as "I am satisfied that my data is safe", and asking the participants to rate (anonymously using clickers) how much they agreed or disagreed with each statement. The answers gave us an opportunity to start some discussions and get a picture of what the current level of knowledge was.

Cathy then gave a more formal presentation (slides available here) covering the major aspects of research data management with me pitching in on more technical bits.

We finished up by revisiting the statements from the start of the session to see how opinions had changed, and handing out some leaflets from the DCC.


Feedback from the attendees was overwhelmingly positive:

  • 95% of respondents were satisfied with the course;
  • 91% would recommend the course to others;
  • 95% found it relevant to their needs.

Some interesting answers to the question "What was most useful?" include:

  • "Need to plan for good management"
  • "Reminding me of how easy it would be to lose my data and how I should look after it better"
  • "Notes on data cycle, info on making data public"
  • "Knowing where to go for help, helping to focus my data management plan"

Actions that participants said they would take as a result of the workshop fell mostly into two categories:

  • "Prepare a management plan"; and
  • "Back up my data"

Although we don't know whether anyone carried out their actions, this was very encouraging to read, as our message had clearly got through.

Room for improvement

One participant felt that there was a bias towards science. This is understandable, since both Cathy and I have science backgrounds, and science/engineering is the main focus of Research360, but we'll see what we can do to rectify this.

Another comment referred to "lack of more contemporary ways of storing data, e.g. Dropbox". We'd intentionally steered clear of Dropbox, as the official University stance on cloud storage is still being decided. Whatever that decision turns out to be, we'll need to deal with Dropbox and other cloud tools.

There was a request for more group discussion, and I think this would be a valuable addition, so we'll try to make the next session a bit more interactive. Group discussions could usefully focus on differences and similarities between disciplines, for example, as I think people in different subjects would have quite a lot of pre-existing knowledge that they could share.

I'd also like to give the participants something concrete to do after they've left the workshop. This could be something specific like "write a data management plan", but I think there would be more likelihood of these actions being carried out if the participants take some ownership. One way to achieve this would be to wrap up the session with an action-planning section and ask each student to define their own data management goal or goals.

Reaching out to staff

Although the session was also open to research staff, only one staff member registered to attend and in the end they didn't turn up.

Helping busy research staff to gain new skills is a difficult task. They have many demands on their time, pulling in many different directions, and many already work far more than their contracted hours.

We aim to deal with this in a number of ways:

  • Providing an e-learning module which researchers can study in their own time at their own pace;
  • Developing a website with concise and practical guidance, structured around specific tasks and situations;
  • Reaching out in a variety of different ways, including:
    • A single point of contact email address for all inquiries relating to research data — this is tied into the university request tracker system, so an individual requests can be passed on to the team best placed to help;
    • Presentations to Deans and Heads of Department by Professor Matthew Davidson, chair of the Research Data Steering Group and Associate Dean (Research) for the Faculty of Science, as well as an active researcher himself;

We're also in discussions with the professional services around the University to understand (and help them understand) how research data management fits into their roles and how we can provide the support they need.

Sakai Development Diary - Prelude


📥  Technology

My next major job will be to write an extension to the Sakai research environment software which enables the deposit of material from Sakai to some SWORD2 compliant repository. (SWORD2 is a protocol for the deposit of digital materials into repositories, so this is a reasonably sensible project to undertake.)

My Sakai background is negligible, so I will be starting from scratch. I have had a look round the Sakai website, and had a chat to some people who know the system better than I do, and have not been left much wiser than when I started. This is really the reason behind this diary: it does not look easy to pick up the information that is needed to start developing for Sakai, and documenting how I went about it and what worked should therefore be helpful to the Sakai community.

First Impressions

In which I look at the online information about Sakai and SWORD2, with an eye to finding the information needed for development work.

For more go here.