Damaro progress report, January 2013

January has been an exciting month for Damaro thanks primarily to the IDCC 2013 conference in Amsterdam, where we displayed two project posters, presented two papers (all available via the conference web site), and gave demonstrations of the in-development DataReporter tool, as well as participating in a variety of workshops. As usual, the Digital Curation Centre did a splendid job of organising the conference and it was an excellent opportunity to catch up with what other institutions and organisations are doing in various parts of the world.

The conference also gave us our first real opportunity to discuss the findings of Oxford’s recent Research Data Management survey with the wider world. I was particularly interested in the reaction to one slide which illustrated the fact that a significant proportion of researchers conduct their research as individuals and manage their data by themselves. Those of us who work in research data management can easily get the impression that researchers tend to work in large teams and on funded research, as we tend to hear most about the challenges of big data generated by large-scale research projects, but this is not how many researchers work. During the presentation I did not break our findings down into disciplines, but doing so helps to make the patterns more obvious.

The survey was addressed to researchers at the University of Oxford whose work involves generating or compiling data of any sort, and the question we asked our researchers was ‘Do you conduct your research as part of a team or as an individual?’ The results show that researchers in our Humanities Division were very likely to be working as individuals, whereas those in the Medical Sciences were, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most likely to research in teams. Across the board, however, researchers whose data was managed collectively by their research teams were outnumbered by those who looked after their own data outputs.

Whilst practices at other universities will doubtless vary to some extent, these figures show the need to support and train researchers in research data management not just at the research group level, but also at a much more fined-grained level, covering the ‘long tail’ of data-driven research as well as the big science.

The survey also served to remind us that not all research involving data outputs is undertaken with funding from the Research Councils and other external funders. Excluding ‘don’t knows’, 37% of our survey respondents were not currently receiving any external funding for their research. As before, those in Oxford’s Humanities Division were most likely to be conducting unfunded research, whereas those in the Medical Sciences were most likely to be in receipt of external funds. This has implications for the business models of the tools and services that the University is developing and the manner in which we promote and provide them.

Back in Oxford, recent progress on Damaro has included the integration of WebAuth with the DataFinder software, so we know who’s using it and can check that they’re not getting access to parts of the system that they shouldn’t. We have also encoded our metadata as RDF. We’re now working on turning the user interface from a rough arrangement of placeholders into a thing of great beauty and profound usability.

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