Navigating the potholes

7 March, 2012

As part of our series of blog posts on developing RDM roadmaps, this week we're reflecting on what a roadmap looks like and where HEIs have most work to do.

What does a roadmap look like?

Over the past few weeks, the DCC has reviewed a handful of institutional RDM roadmaps. A common approach has been to list the nine EPSRC requirements and then consider where the institution stands in terms of compliance.

This often includes:

  • a summary of existing services or projects that have undertaken relevant work
  • brief plans for future activity needed to meet the objective
  • allocation of responsibilities to undertake the tasks
  • key deadlines or expected timescales

The roadmap may also have some introductory information to outline the context of the EPSRC requirements and explain the relevance of data management in general.

Where do HEIs have most work to do?

Looking through these intial roadmaps, there are some EPSRC expectations that pose more of a challenge than others, specifically clauses iii, iv, v, vii & ix.

  • Countless surveys have shown that RDM practice is often ad hoc, so it's no mean feat for an institution to have a comprehensive view of research data holdings that can be made available online - within 12 months! Or to be certain that researchers aren't using cloud services that store data outside the UK. (see clauses iii, v & vii)
  • Access requests tend to be handled by individuals, and researchers' willingness to share data can be based on feeling in control - knowing who is using their data and for what purpose - so maintaining an accurate central record to determine retention schedules may be difficult to administer. (see clauses iii & vii)
  • Digitising physical content in itself should hopefully not cause too many problems, but implementing an institution wide process to digitise and share such materials on request may be challenging to scope and deliver (see clauses iv)
  • Funding RDM activity from within existing streams also requires an effective case to be put to senior management. Though several HEIs have already made headway here, so hopefully their examples will lead the way for others. (see clause ix)

The underlying challenge is that the EPSRC policy necessitates a change from ad hoc approaches to a more structured process. People don't like change and will resist it unless the tools and services being implemented make things easier. This was summed up well by Chris Holland, a researcher who spoke at the DataFlow and VIDaaS workshop:

"Inherently we’re a bunch of creative people and we like to do things in our own way."

For the road to be smooth and for data to keep flowing, lots more effort will need to be given to usability and buy-in.

Image credit CC-BY-NC by Harshad Sharma


See the earlier posts: