Capturing the state of play on UK institutions’ research data management support

24 April, 2015

Driven by the need to better manage their digital assets, research institutions are building links between research information systems and other platforms. There’s a large appetite for linking research data catalogues, publications and data repositories. Doing so can help institutions to support research, promote its visibility and track impact. The range of platforms and capabilities is constantly evolving though, and as we found in for example in last November's Research Data Management Forum (RDMF12), it can be difficult for institutions to navigate the options, feel confident they are making the right choices, and identify where shared solutions may be more effective.   Jisc and DCC are committed to offering more assistance to institutions on RDM support. So we are surveying the sector to allow us to make better information available on what institutions are doing, and to inform what further steps we can take to help. First up is Jisc’s survey on Services and Systems for Research Data.  This survey is aiming to help scope Jisc’s response to a need that we have heard increasingly frequently; for shared storage and repository services.  As John Kaye’s blog post sets out in more detail, the questions are grouped around six categories of platform:

  • Active research data storage and archival and preservation storage for research data
  • Archival and preservation solutions
  • Current research information systems (CRIS)
  • Institutional repositories
  • Research data catalogue or registries
  • Research software

The responses will identify what is already in place, what plans institutions have, and what issues need attention. Just when Jisc’s survey closes on May 15th, DCC will be launching our second annual Institutional RDM survey. Where Jisc’s survey focuses on platforms the DCC questions take a broader service development view.  The questions closely follow last year's to aid comparison, with a few improvements to reflect last year's responses (which are available here). Our main goals for this survey are: -   

  • Understand how institutions are supporting research data management (RDM) through policy and organisational change
  • Identify how far RDM policies have been ratified, and how far policy implementation has progressed towards service delivery
  • Help prioritise Jisc and DCC provision of support in this area

The survey is also timed to coincide with the EPSRC’s first step to assess institutions’ compliance with its policy expectations; a questionnaire survey of Pro Vice Chancellors for Research in those institutions EPSRC funds. Sarah Jones' blog post recently outlined the guidance currently on offer from Jisc and ourselves on this. So are all these surveys really needed? We believe so, but appreciate the concern about overload this flurry of RDM-related questionnaires may raise. The justification we believe is this:

  • Jisc’s survey and ours have complementary but different sets of questions, and different people may have the knowledge to answer them
  • The EPSRC survey asks institutions to report to them on meeting the funding body’s expectations. While the DCC survey also asks about progress, it is aimed at managers responsible for RDM services. It is geared to finding out their expectations of support, and is an opportunity to share views confidentially. It is also going to a wider set if institutions- all those participating in the REF2014 research assessment.

We believe the sector really benefits from having an up to date picture of it’s own activity. Like last year, DCC will be providing our respondents with early access to the results.