Because good research needs good data

Where are they now? An RDM update from Loughborough University

The latest in our series of catch-up blog posts is based on discussion with Dave Temple and Jeff Brown at Loughborough University.  

A Whyte | 03 February 2015

The latest in our series of catch-up blog posts is based on discussion with Dave Temple and Jeff Brown at Loughborough University.

In November 2014, Loughborough University raised waves in the RDM Community with the announcement by Figshare, Arkivum and Symplectic of their joint venture to provide the University with its platform for managing research data. We took the opportunity to catch up with Dave Temple, Deputy Director of IT on the background to this exciting development.  

Loughborough’s RDM strategy has been to not only be "compliant" with funding body minimum requirements, but also to maximise the visibility of the institution’s research in the wider academic world.  The benefits sought include the potential for citation advantages offered by data publication, and to track this as part of the broader picture offered by bibliometrics. Already a Symplectic Elements site, Loughborough are enthusiastic about Figshare’s potential to make data more impactful, through its strengths in data visualisation and its integration with Elements, which enables academics to pull dataset usage metrics into their Elements profiles.

Loughborough was one of the first institutions to take advantage of DCC support through our engagement programme, hosting training events in each of the last 3 years. We also offered input to the RDM working group’s early drafts of the University’s policy and its guidance to depositors. The exchange of ideas has been two-way; for example Loughborough subject librarians participating in our training were guinea pigs for our guidance on data selection. We also supported a survey Loughborough carried out in summer 2013 of RDM in UK institutions, which led to an IDCC poster , and was one of the catalysts for our own survey early in 2014.

A strong ethos of collaboration has permeated the institution’s approach to RDM, both internally in terms of the initiative’s close working between the University’s research Office, IT services, Library and Academic Schools, and externally in terms of working with other providers. But what factors have led to the link up with Arkivum and their Digital Science partners?

From Dave Temple’s point of view, the needs to control storage costs and guarantee long term access were the main drivers towards re-examining the implementation approach first considered by the RDM project. Their initial intention was to deploy Dspace as a research data platform, since it already fulfils the Institutional Repository role for publications. However the costs of enterprise storage led the University to reconsider the sheer scale of the challenge to develop an archiving platform for research data.

Figshare’s original institutional offering in 2013, whilst excellent from a data visibility perspective, had proved difficult to justify- the institution wanted greater control of data storage costs and licensing than was then available. Arkivum’s integrity-guaranteed tape backup solution was appealing on cost and reliability criteria, and for Loughborough it fitted some of the use case for long-term storage of research data.  The opportunity to exploit synergies between the two providers lent itself – “we got them together in a room, and asked them to work together, to provide us with a whole solution” says Temple “they immediately saw the potential and have been working very well together since then to provide us with what we need”.

Essentially the joint venture provides Loughbourough with a Figshare ‘shop window’ on a back end that combines a small amount of Amazon cloud storage with a 48Tb Arkivum appliance.  Per-user control of storage is important to Loughborough ability to offer a quota to their users. The system is still in development, scheduled for delivery in late February, and the basis for a new release of Figshare Institutional around May.

Control of the data deposit workflow has been a key design principle for Loughborough, particularly to satisfy some School’s concerns about inadvertent release of human subjects data, and material subject to commercial confidentiality. “While for some Schools this is not a concern” says Temple “for those that are concerned, we need to be able to offer a final approval process, to allow sharing to be signed off by the sponsor”. The ‘admin’ workflow also enables the Library to quality-assure the metadata collected per item, to maximise its potential for discovery and ensure adherence to appropriate policies. The data flow also needs to work seamlessly between Elements, Figshare and Dspace so that they are all updated and linked appropriately. The intention being to ensure that the process is as simple as possible for academics, thus encouraging take-up.

The University now has both a RDM Working Group and RDM Project Management Board. The former includes members of the Library, IT Services and the Research Office. The Project Management Board is chaired by the Chief Operating Officer and includes academics, the Library, IT Services and the Research Office in its membership. A new position of Research Data Manager has been recruited and will be placed in the Library, starting in early March. Plans are currently being made for the promotion of the new service, which is anticipated to go live in March with a pilot.  The service is not being seen in isolation but rather as an integral part of the University's strategy for open access and citations. Awareness raising will be focused on the overall strategy with further details of each individual element and requirement.

(with thanks to Jeff Brown, Head of Collection Management, University Library)


Earlier RDM updates


An RDM update from the University of Northampton


An RDM update from the Open University


An RDM update from the University of Edinburgh


An RDM update from the University of Hull


An RDM update from the University of Salford


An RDM update from Queen's University Belfast


An RDM update from the University of East London