Further reflections on the JISC Managing Research Data Workshop

Like James, I also attended the JISC Managing Research Data Programme Workshop in Birmingham last week. It’s always good to have a chance to meet up with colleagues from other projects and hear what they’ve been doing, in the hope of picking up some useful ideas. (It can also be surprisingly reassuring to learn that other people have encountered some of the same challenges.)

Given my role as the DaMaRO Project’s Training Officer, I focused chiefly on the sessions dealing with training, support, and guidance. Sustainability was very much under discussion here, as at other workshop sessions: with the current round of JISC MRD projects drawing to a close, the question of how the work done to develop training provision can be continued is a pressing one for many: teaching materials are of limited use unless there’s someone available to run the course, and while guidance websites may remain online after projects have concluded, these will need to be maintained and updated if they’re to stay accurate and relevant.

I was also interested to note that a substantial proportion of the training initiatives described during the workshop were aimed at librarians. This is an area the DaMaRO Project hasn’t really ventured into up to now: instead, we’ve focused our efforts chiefly on reaching the researchers themselves. However, the discussion of sustainability left me wondering whether – funding permitting – this is an area that future work at Oxford might usefully expand into. It still seems to me extremely important to offer resources and training opportunities directly to the people who are doing the research, but the role of librarians and other support staff is not to be underestimated – and might provide an alternative way of embedding knowledge about good research data management practice firmly in academic culture.

I was particularly interested to hear about the DIY Research Data Management Training Kit for Librarians, developed at the University of Edinburgh. This makes use of modules from the excellent Research Data MANTRA course as a way of informing librarians about the issues that researchers face, and then supplements this with reflective writing assignments, group exercises, and other material such as podcasts. The course is designed so that it can be run collaboratively, without the need for an external expert trainer – something which has obvious benefits in an atmosphere of uncertainty about future training provision.

This also ties in rather well with some work already underway in Oxford: as James mentioned in his blog post, we’re currently collaborating with our colleagues in the Southampton DataPool Project to run a survey intended to gauge RDM knowledge and training needs among support staff, including librarians. The results of that will be reported on this blog in due course.

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