A few weeks ago, in collaboration with our colleagues from the DataPool Project in Southampton, we ran a survey for staff involved in supporting researchers at the University of Oxford. We got a total of thirty-seven responses, from IT Services, the libraries, Research Services, divisional and departmental research support, and one of the Doctoral Training Centres.
The survey asked support staff about a range of different research data management tasks. For each task, we asked them how confident they personally felt to advise researchers on this. As it’s clearly unrealistic to expect all support staff to advise on all topics, we also asked how confident they felt of their ability to refer researchers to the appropriate person, organization, or resources for advice.
The responses revealed that current average confidence levels are low to moderate at best. Respondents did in general seem slightly more confident about referring researchers elsewhere for advice, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement here.
We also asked respondents whether they felt that they ought to be able to refer researchers to the right place for further advice, regardless of their current level of confidence in doing so. Reassuringly, for most tasks, a majority of respondents felt that they should. However, a notable exception to this pattern was tasks relating to management of research data during the active phase of a project (contrasted with those relating to planning or post-research data management). Interestingly, these tasks also tended to be those which fewest respondents considered to form part of their own role. This highlights a need to ensure that the full range of help and advice researchers need is available to them, and to ensure there are no significant gaps in provision.
The spread of previous requests for help from researchers was also interesting. Staff working in the libraries had received the fewest requests, whereas respondents who received a larger number of requests were more likely to be working in IT Services, divisional or departmental research support or (to a lesser extent) Research Services. As we plan future provision, it will be important to make sure that researchers know who is best placed to advise on a given topic – and conversely, that the people researchers are likely to approach have relevant information to give them.
Overall, the survey indicated that additional training and advice on research data management would be beneficial for (and appreciated by) many research support staff. As the DaMaRO Project draws to a close and we continue thinking about the next steps for research data management work in Oxford, this is certainly something we’ll be giving serious consideration.
Update: As with previous DaMaRO surveys, we’d be happy to make a copy of the anonymized raw data available to anyone who’d like to do further analysis of their own – please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org