DMPonline Needs You!

16 July, 2014

We’ve recently pushed out a number of changes to DMPonline. While the new interface for administrators was developed by Marta and I made a few changes too, a lot of the work has come from outside the DCC. This is something we’re keen to encourage.

We’ve been working with the University of Leeds (and particularly Tim Banks) recently to add some features they wanted, most of which were on our roadmap, but which we were struggling to get through. They employed Dave O’Brien, a freelance consultant based in Leeds, to do some of that work. He’s been great to work with and turned things round really quickly. Open-source software is awesome.

Filtering DMPs

Leeds are planning to administer all their DMPs centrally so certain users will have access to lots of plans. Dave has improved the “My Plans” page in two ways in order make it easier to manage long lists of plans. Firstly, it is now possible to choose which columns are displayed. Columns like Grant Number, Principal Investigator and Data Contact can be displayed in addition to or instead of the standard ones. Changes made here are stored, so users don’t have to make them every time they visit. Secondly, a text field added at the top of the table allows a user to filter plans, displaying only those matching the entered text.

Meeting Funders’ Formatting Requirements

When helping researchers to write DMPs, Tim found that the end result was often close to the maximum page limit allowed. Dave added two new features to help with this:

Custom PDF Formatting

When exporting, it is now possible for users to adjust the formatting options (font type, font size and margins). The default values displayed when first visiting are based on (funder) template requirements, where known. If a user does customise the settings, they are then saved for the next time the plan is exported.

Estimating The Length Of Plans

It would be useful for researchers to know roughly how much space is left while writing a DMP. Dave has introduced an algorithm to estimate the plan length in terms of pages each time an answer is saved. The estimate is based on the PDF formatting settings for that template. This prevents users getting to the end and finding they’ve written too much. You can see this as a secondary progress bar.

Choosing What To Export

Users can now select which parts of their DMP they would like to include when exporting.

Other Changes

Dave added JSON and XML export options. I’ve made a few changes too:

  • CSV export
  • Basic Microsoft Word export
  • It’s now more obvious that you can register as a member of an unlisted organisation
  • Users can now record the name of their funder when creating a DMP if it’s not in our list
  • Users can add a custom heading for their DMP when exporting.
  • The performance of the plan editing page should now be improved
  • Users are alerted more reliably when leaving a plan section with unsaved changes
  • Users are now alerted when navigating away from the plan editing page if they have unsaved changes

I’ve also added some seed data to hopefully make it easier for anyone downloading the software to get it up and running.

In progress

Dave’s currently working on streamlining the Shibboleth (UK Federated Access/“log in with your institutional credentials”) workflow.

Leeds had a great idea to facilitate plan creation by passing parameters in a URL, enabling one-click plan generation from other systems. While a fuller API is definitely something we want to add in the future, this would be a great step towards that.

What’s Next?

All this work has allowed us to close about a third of the issues we had open on GitHub. There remains much we would like to do to improve DMPonline. However…

I’m now into my final few weeks with the DCC: I’m moving on to the University of St Andrews as of 1st August. The DMPonline development team is a small one, and I’m reducing its size by 50% (in terms of bodies if not effort). There will be someone coming on board to replace me but there will be a gap between my departure and their arrival and, having delivered all the changes outlined above and in the previous post, we’re going to take the opportunity to reflect. While work will continue on DMPonline, don’t expect any more big new features for a little while. Instead, we’ll be tidying up the code, improving documentation and formalising processes. However, this isn’t just because of short-term resourcing issues. Doing these things will make it easier for others to contribute to DMPonline in future.

Help Us Improve DMPonline

As well as the great work Dave has done, others are using and contributing to the DMPonline code in other ways. The University of Alberta have created their own instance and have been feeding back to us on any issues they’ve encountered. A number of other organisations have been in touch about using the DMPonline code in this way. There are also a number of teams working on translating the interface into other languages.

You don’t have to write code to help us develop DMPonline. You can help us just by telling us what you want. Ideally, what you want will already be in our list of issues in GitHub in which case let us know how important is is to you. We need to know how to prioritise things. If something’s really important to you but you don’t speak up, you risk it slipping down the list of priorities. I strongly recommend creating a GitHub account (it’s easy) and commenting directly on issues (GitHub’s useful for things apart from code, by the way). If you really don’t want to do that, get in touch via dmponline@dcc.ac.uk.

If there’s something that you really, really want to see in DMPonline, please consider contributing development effort. We’ll be firming up the processes around this over the next while, but get in touch via dmponline@dcc.ac.uk and feel free to fork the code, play around with it and offer any feedback that you have.

There may be more developer effort for DMPonline from the DCC in future, but it’s always going to be a small team. We’re going to need your help to maximise the potential of the tool.

Adieu

It’s been great working for the DCC, and this past year or so on DMPonline has been great fun. There’s a real sense of a community building around it; hopefully that will continue and help DMPonline grow and develop.

More about

DMPonline