Managing data across the institutional research lifecycle

Tagged: University of Bath

University of Bath Data Management Plan template and guidance

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📥  General

One of our key tasks for the Research360 project was to produce an institutional template for data management plans (DMPs) at the University of Bath — an initial version of this is now complete and available to download, along with guidance on its completion.

We used an iterative method to develop these documents, going back and forth between members of the project team and a number of researchers to produce a template that is functional and fills the needs of researchers as well as the institution and our funders. Since most other UK funders already provide a template, we focused on the needs of our EPSRC-funded researchers, but drew heavily on the policies and templates of all the other RCUK funders, as well as the DCC Checklist for a Data Management Plan.

The template

The template itself is available in two versions: a blank version, and one with suggested possible answers. The latter was developed based on feedback from researchers (who wanted a simple way to get started on a DMP) and could potentially be used in a multiple-choice fashion to quickly draft a DMP which covers the full range of issues.

We suggest a two-stage process to developing a data management plan using the institutional template:

  1. Pre-award: when applying for funding, use the multiple-choice template to quickly produce a basic DMP and identify resources which may need to be included in the project budget;
  2. Post-award: after funding has been granted, review the initial template and fill in further details as appropriate for the project in question — at this point issues should be referred to the relevant University support department (e.g. computer services) or third-party body (e.g. data archives).

This will ensure that all potential issues are surfaced at an early stage, while allowing the researchers to focus on the more important scientific aspects of the bid. By building up the DMP in several stages, each of which is itself only a small step, we hope to lower the barrier to entry for data management planning.

The guidance

The guidance document accompanying the template serves two purposes:

  1. To give advice on how each question should be answered; and
  2. To explain why each question is important.

Our intention is to help researchers make informed decisions about both what should go into their DMP and what they can leave out if it does not apply to them. We also intend this document to signpost specific infrastructure and support services that researchers may not be fully aware of. We have therefore taken care to highlight relevant University support services and policies for each question.

Future work

We have begun work on specialised versions of the template to fulfil particular sets of requirements, by narrowing down the questions asked and giving additional guidance where appropriate.

All of the funders we work with have slightly different requirements and emphases for data management plans, so by tailoring our own template to suit the needs of each funder (e.g. by being selective about the questions that are included), we hope to be able to maintain a single set of guidance which will apply to all funders.

We are also developing a version of the template to help researchers develop a standing research data policy for their research group or department. We hope to implement a mechanism to allow these local policies to be published on the web, so that each project DMP can focus on project-specific issues and simply refer to the standing policy anything more generic.

University of Bath Research Data web pages go live

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📥  Progress updates

I'm pleased to announce that our redeveloped Research Data web pages have now been published.

We hope that this resource will be useful for researchers and support staff both within and beyond the University.

They will continue to be added to and updated as time goes on, particularly over the next 6 months or so as we finalise the University's policy on research data.

For those who are interested in such things, we've taken a conscious decision to keep the content as brief as possible and signpost visitors to good advice held elsewhere, by organisations such as the Digital Curation Centre.

There are two ways into the content:

  • The left-hand navigation bar, which appears on each page, is organised logically into categories. In addition, the navigation bar also includes an email link to our main point of contact for research data, to encourage a) people to seek personalised advice; and b) feedback to improve the site further.
  • The home page is intended to signpost useful resources to help with particular activities and situations, broadly divided into stages of the research lifecycle.

Many of the pages have boxouts with crosslinks pointing to other areas of the site with related content.

Any feedback would be most welcome: contact me at

The University of Bath Roadmap for EPSRC

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📥  General, Progress updates

The University of Bath has spent the past few months working on their response to the EPSRC’s letter to Vice-Chancellors. In this letter, the EPSRC set out their nine expectations for how institutions in receipt of their funding should manage their research data.

Responsibility for responding to the EPSRC’s expectations – the roadmap setting out how compliance would be achieved - lay with the University’s Research Data Steering Group (RDSG), a work group set up in January 2011 to advise on Research Data Management (RDM) across the institution. There is considerable overlap between members of the RDSG and the Research360 project team and as such, the Roadmap for EPSRC was developed alongside Research360 project work on a longer term RDM strategy.

We are now able to share the University of Bath Roadmap for EPSRC: Compliance with Research Data Management Expectations. We also wish to share the process that we went through to develop and obtain approval for our Roadmap, positive feedback that we have received and to tell you what we intend to do next.

How the Roadmap was developed

As part of the Research360 project we used Monash University's "Research Data Management Strategy and Strategic Plan 2012-2015" as a blueprint, from which we developed our own draft strategy and implementation plan. This original strategy consisted of a series of objectives and activities aligned with a number of themes, which in turn demonstrated how management of research data contributes to existing, long term University strategies.

We then turned our attention to the EPSRC’s nine expectations. Following a helpful series of blog posts by the DCC, and based on our experiences over the first few months of Research360, we started by identifying what the University of Bath is already doing to meet the expectations. We then re-structured the proposed objectives and activities from our draft strategy so that they were aligned with the EPSRC's expectations.

Importantly, this approach meant that whilst fulfilling the requirements of the EPSRC, our proposed activities were primarily focused on building a sustainable infrastructure that will meet the data management needs of the University.

Getting the Roadmap approved

Once approved by the RDSG, we sent the Roadmap for EPSRC to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (PVC) for Research. Working with the PVC Research was critical to the successful development of the Roadmap and we are extremely grateful for Professor Millar's support. The PVC Research oversees the RDSG and is Chair of the Research360 Steering Group. As such, she already had a strong awareness of Research Data Management activities at Bath, and was able to provide invaluable guidance and a viewpoint from senior management from within the institution.

In order to meet the EPSRC's 1st May 2012 deadline, we did not have time to progress the Roadmap through the normal approval process. We therefore submitted the Roadmap directly to the Vice-Chancellor’s Group (VCG). Despite positive comments from the VCG, they were not able to approve the first draft of the Roadmap. This provided us with an opportunity to incorporate their comments – mainly that we had been a little too ambitious in our aims and deadlines - before a resubmission of the Roadmap at the following VCG meeting, where the Roadmap was finally approved.

Submission to EPSRC and encouraging feedback

The University of Bath Roadmap for EPSRC: Compliance with Research Data Management Expectations was submitted by the Vice-Chancellor to EPSRC on 1st May 2012. We have since received some extremely encouraging feedback: Ben Ryan, Senior Evaluation Manager, EPSRC, congratulated Bath on the document, and described it as “an excellent example of an appropriate response”. He stated that the Roadmap “fully meets our needs for assurance that the University is taking our policy framework on research data seriously”. Further comments from Ben Ryan; from Professor Millar, the PVC Research; and Dr Liz Lyon, Director of UKOLN and one of the Roadmap's authors, can be read in a news item about our Roadmap for EPSRC on the University of Bath website.

Building on the Roadmap – what we will do next

Following approval by the VCG, we have been able to present the Roadmap at a number of other relevant committees, to all major stakeholders and to those who will share responsibility for implementing the Roadmap. Over the next few months, we will be working closely with these stakeholders to explain RDM and its benefits in more detail, and to address any concerns that have been raised about the challenging cultural changes that lie ahead.

Now that the RDSG’s Roadmap for EPSRC has been approved, Research360 will continue to work on the developing the long term institutional RDM Strategy. The activities and objectives in the Roadmap for EPSRC will form the basis of a dynamic RDM Operational Plan, which will accompany the RDM Strategy as a Research360 project deliverable. We will also continue to work on the supporting Institutional RDM Business Case. These three documents will then undergo a longer review and approval process, starting to progress through the relevant committees in the autumn.

Benefiting from Research360: Who, when and how?

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📥  General

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.

Introduction to Research360 for University of Bath staff


📥  Outreach

The University has been awarded funding by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) to support and develop Research Data Management across the institution. JISC supports and champions the use of digital technology in UK education and research.

Research360@Bath is a project to develop policies, infrastructure and training resources to help researchers at the University of Bath to get the most out of their research data, realise the benefits of good data management practice and comply with funder requirements.

In addition it is now common for research data to be shared for collaborative projects or more openly, but to work well this must be planned for by researchers and supported by their institutions.

Now funding bodies are beginning to require formal evidence of this type of data management and planning as a condition of funding; see for example the RCUK Common Principles on Data Policy.

The University's Research Data Management Steering Group, headed by Professor Matthew Davidson, has already made good progress in this area.

Professor Davidson said "Thanks to this funding from JISC we will be able to develop this work much further than would otherwise have been possible, to better help the university's researchers address the complex issue of research data management."

The project team draws on expertise from across the university, including representatives from the Vice-Chancellor's Office, RDSO, the Library, BUCS, UKOLN, DCC and the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies (Chemistry/Chem eng).

For more information and regular updates, see the Research360 project blog.