Research data management in France: DCC and Jisc MRD programme suggest possible approaches

24 September, 2013

ADBU, the association of French academic library directors, held a study day on research data management (RDM) as part of their 43rd Annual Congress on 19 September 2013 in Le Havre. A DCC colleague and I were invited to speak about recent developments in this area in the UK.

I opened the day with a talk on the importance of improved RDM and provided some examples of approaches from the UK context to serve as possible models of routes forward. After describing current RDM drivers and challenges, I outlined the work of the Jisc Managing Research Data (MRD) programme. One of the points I stressed was that, as previous research had identified a need for institutional-level RDM capacity development, the programme had deliberately made interventions at this level to promote awareness, build technical infrastructure and develop skills.

The DCC has of course worked closely with the Jisc MRD programme throughout, and cross-pollination between the two initiatives has resulted in a cohesive approach to advocacy and to the development of infrastructure and skills in a large number of UK higher education institutions.

The models presented a different national picture to that of France, where there appear to be pockets of activity in certain areas but possibly a lack of cohesion across institutions and particularly between universities and other research institutions. There was an indication that more obligation from the government, particularly on the area of data management planning, would be useful in raising awareness and participation amongst the researcher population. Greater participation was recognised as a key area for France as the European Commission's Horizon 2020 programme gets underway, and the open access agenda across Europe is increasingly piquing the interest of research libraries.

Alex Ball of the DCC also spoke at the event; he described how librarians currently support RDM and speculated how the role of the 'data librarian' might evolve in future. To illustrate his talk, he drew examples from the DCC's Institutional Engagements programme and the RDM activity at the University of Bath. Both DCC talks noted that librarians are already well-positioned to handle the research data challenge; Alex developed this theme by suggesting how their existing skills might be developed, and drew comparisons with other skill bases – detectives, consultants, negotiators, business analysts, publishers and so on. Among his conclusions, he suggested that as well as seeing librarians learning to be data specialists, we will see more scientists and other researchers recruited into the library profession.

In the closing panel session, we saw some disappointment that France appears to be behind in responding to the challenges of RDM, but also hopeful signs of progress. The work of INRA (Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique) was praised for making RDM attractive for researchers. And in a culture where developments are often top-down, it is refreshing to see the new working group for research data within BSN (Bibliothèque Scientifique Numérique) take a more bottom-up, participatory approach.

For an overview of the French context, the French government’s research infrastructures roadmap 2012-2020 is available online.

My slides are available from SlideShare.

Update: Alex's presentation is also available from the University of Bath repository.