Hands-on RDM with SIM4RDM

18 April, 2013

On 12 April 2013 I attended a workshop organised in Berlin by the SIM4RDM project.

SIM4RDM is a European project that is creating a framework for evaluating and improving research data management (RDM). The idea is to have a RDM maturity benchmarking tool that allows stakeholders to see how far away from the ideal state they are. They will then be able to consult an RDM ‘cookbook’ for ideas on how to improve their maturity. Having implemented the suggestions, the stakeholder would then run the benchmarking exercise again and, hopefully, see improvements. There are obvious parallels with the DCC's own CARDIO tool and the Community Capability Model.

The title for this workshop was ‘Hands-on RDM: help us to build a better RDM framework’ and that was an accurate description of what went on. Almost immediately we were thrown into a practical exercise. We were split into five groups, each representing a different stakeholder group: funding bodies, infrastructure providers, institutions, publishers and researchers. Some effort was put into matching delegates to their 'home' group, though there some mixing was needed to even up the numbers.

For each stakeholder, the project had already come up with a set of statements describing RDM perfection, grouped under the headings ‘organisational’, ‘legal’, ‘technical’, ‘user engagement’, and ‘data reuse’. For researchers, for example, one of the statements was, ‘Authors clearly display the location of the data underlying research.’ Our first job was to add to, revise or delete the statements in the set and adjust the headings to our satisfaction. This will feed into the development of the benchmarking tool.

Once we had done that, we had to consider what stakeholders might do (or what could be done for them) to help them achieve each of the stated ideals. This, presumably, related to the ‘cookbook’ part of the SIM4RDM framework.

After a short feedback session it was straight on to the final exercise. Keeping to the same stakeholder perspective as before, everyone looked through the statements and actions produced by the other groups and marked what they thought were the five most important. This helped the organisers to see which actions would have the greatest impact across all stakeholder groups. At least I hope it did. I cannot speak for the others but I didn't have time to read each flipchart in full, so I might have missed good points or put my top five in the wrong order.

If that all sounds like fun, the good news is that the project team are planning to put up an online version so you can have your say. They are also looking to run some case studies, consisting of programmes of RDM improvements that could be used to validate or improve the SIM4RDM framework. Anyone interested should contact the team and fill out a case study proposal form.