All RISE for Sussex

21 July, 2017

New job with lots to do.  We've all been there, perhaps none more so than a new RDM specialist in a new post based in the library tasked with putting together technical infrastructures to support RDM. Getting ’buy in’ from senior University management to secure resources and senior academics to use these new services is turning out to be the hard part.

I'd spent four months immersing myself in the RDM field and the current status of it at Sussex. Several initiatives have gone before me -  a policy, Library advocacy and training, my new post, a survey of researcher needs for their research data – Arkivum storage and a business case made to pilot Figshare. But there had not been a single governance structure responsible for creating an integrated service. Different departments have done their own thing and come together to collaborate when necessary. I quickly realised that I wouldn't be able to do my job if there was no permanent structured advocacy of RDM from the top down.

I needed a process that allowed me to assess the current RDM situation at the University and to demonstrate a deficit and its worth. I needed something that would break down things that needed to get done into work packages. This would then enable me to talk about a single work package with relevant stakeholders while retaining the contextual link to overall strategy.

It was timely that the DCC were in the process of developing a tool that would help. I decided to take part in a DCC workshop to assess a product they were developing called RISE (Research Infrastructure Self-Evaluation). RISE breaks down the different aspects of RDM into 10 different sections and enables you to score your institution against core levels of proficiency.

I carried out the RISE assessment mostly on my own with some help from my manager who pointed me in the direction of many things that the university was doing in RDM. I also had help from a colleague in academic services who advised me of all the training and advocacy work her team were doing. We scored relatively low in a lot of areas which was really a blessing because it showed me that I had a lot of work to do and that there was a lot of justification in having my post in the first place!

It was timely that my manager had recently asked me to write a roadmap after completing RISE and I knew that I could base the structure of the roadmap on the RISE areas of competency.  We were both aware of other roadmaps out there which had largely been written in response to EPSRC expectations. We had missed the boat with these expectations, but they acted as a motivator to create a roadmap that would be meaningful to senior management at the university.

The RISE levels of competency helped me create aims and specific activities that needed to be carried out to meet those aims. It also helped me highlight what the university had already done in each area in the context of an overarching strategy and how these achievements could be built on. For example, the policy which we had in place for a couple of years was a big achievement, but it allowed me to highlight a need to raise awareness of it among the academic population in order to be compliant with EPSRC expectations.

Once the roadmap was finished we had a document to engage stakeholders by asking them to review relevant bits of the document. We set up a task and finish group consisting of senior staff from ITS and Research and Enterprise and research data interested academics who were invited to comment and revise sections relevant to them. We then had a final draft that we sent to the PVC for research who could see that we compiled it in collaboration and it wasn't just the library shouting in the wilderness. He commissioned a new task and finish group to put together a business case for developing a cohesive RDM strategy with the goal of establishing an RDM steering group composed of stakeholders from all schools and relevant professional services that would report to the University's Research and Knowledge Exchange Committee.

This whole process has taught me to not be precious about what I’ve written, people with more knowledge about a specific area will always amend or completely rewrite what you've said. I also learned not to be too harsh about judging where you are as this can offend people and cut off any engagement before you start. Keep things in draft for as long as possible so people are aware that what you are sending them isn't a done deal. Getting support from key academics is really important because they highlight areas of the University that are better or worse than what anyone in professional services think.

We are in the middle of compiling the business case, so I can't let you know how it all works out in the end. I'm very hopeful and confident that it will be a happy one. I’m not here to say that you need to use RISE, it may not be relevant to your institution or situation.  But it certainly helped me to engage with relevant senior stakeholders and to have a conversation with the right people about what we needed to do.

More about

RDM, RDM readiness, RISE