Because good research needs good data

Where are they now? An RDM update from Oxford Brookes University

The latest in our series of catch-up blog posts, contributed by Sarah Taylor from Oxford Brookes University.

Sarah Taylor | 06 May 2015

A guest blog post by Sarah Taylor, Research Support Manager, Oxford Brookes University.

Since working with the DCC in 2011-2012, we have agreed a Research Data Management Policy in 2013. This is supported by an Operational document, which is specifically designed to be dynamic, allowing us to demonstrate how and to what extent support mechanisms in the University underpin the policy. We have deliberately included policy statements which are challenging: to both academic staff those supporting them and are working on improving the support we provide.

A key area of concern was archiving data and we signed a contract with Arkivum, under the terms of their agreement with JANET, at the end of 2014. We have set up a pilot with two research groups to work through how to use the system to support them best and how to scale up its use to enable all parts of the University to utilise it easily. We will be working with these two research groups to design protocols on best practice for archiving, which will be shared with all interested staff across the University.

We are just reaching agreement for academic colleagues to manage their own research project web pages. This will be one of the ways academic staff will have to make their research data openly accessible. This development is at its early stages and we would be expecting the data itself to be stored on our repository but with a link through from the relevant web page.

Both of these developments should benefit academic staff directly, but one of our other challenges is more focused on getting the support mechanisms right. Our Head of Resource Development and Delivery, from the Directorate of Learning Resources has produced a report on digital curation and the preservation of research data. This report has a 10-point plan for implementing a response to the issues of digital curation and preservation and includes consideration of issues relating to adoption of standards, guidelines on accessibility, policies for appraisal and re-appraisal of data and responsibility for leading on this area. A bid has been put to the University for additional support and we are about to meet Faculty Associate Deans for Research to discuss how to start to raise awareness of these issues in their Faculties.

In 2014 the Directorate of Learning Resources underwent a restructuring that would, amongst other things, support the University’s strategy for research and knowledge exchange.  For the Directorate this meant the introduction of a structure that enables working with the University’s researchers to support the growing research agenda.  This enabled the creation of a clearly articulated support for research data management across the Directorate.  This restructuring represented a move away from a structure based on activities and processes to one that was instead based on service provision.  The support for research data therefore changed from being focussed on supporting a repository service to supporting research data management activities, including the appropriate service provision.

This restructuring resulted in the redefinition of existing roles across the Directorate and also in the creation of a Scholarly Communications Team.  This team built upon the support that already existed for the institutional repository, RADAR, and staff already involved in research data management activities at the University.  The remit of the Scholarly Communications team includes the roll-out of research data management within the Directorate and across the University, ensuring that University research outputs and research data are deposited in the institutional repository and carrying out appropriate advocacy work across the University. Support for research data management is not confined to the Scholarly Communications team alone, and Academic Liaison roles have been revised to specifically include areas of expanding Library activity and, specifically, research support.  This ensures that the support for research is embedded as a core activity.

Some academic colleagues in the arts have embraced the issue of data management with enthusiasm – not least by discursive and ongoing discussions about what may constitute ‘data’ in their field. One of our colleagues, Professor Paul Whitty, delivered a paper on ‘Research data and Arts practice: a consideration of the relationship between practice-based research in the Arts, documentation, outputs and data management’ at the UKSG in November 2014 ( He has also secured funding from his Faculty to employ a Research Data Enabler. This post involves working alongside practice-based researchers during the process of ‘data’ creation to instil good practice around data management. This is a notable step forward in that it will constitute the first dedicated research data management role in the Institution.

We are in the process of rolling out a Current Research Information System (CRIS). We currently have all externally funded project details held in one database but we do not yet have a central record of internally funded projects. The CRIS will allow us to have that and so we can then start to contact academic staff and ask them about their plans for data as their projects start to draw to an end. This will serve also to flag up the policy requirements for data and act as a dissemination mechanism as well. The CRIS could also allow us to contact Line Managers when a member of staff is leaving, to check that arrangements are being put in place for management of data when they go.

We have also continued to raise awareness of issues relating to research data management – particularly those around making data openly accessible. We used the opportunity presented by HEFCE’s Open Access policies for the post-2014 REF exercise to ensure that data management continued to be considered. The then Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research and Knowledge Exchange (now our Vice-Chancellor) ran a series of roadshows on Open Access between October-December 2014 and included a session in each one on what open data meant and how it could affect different disciplines and what rules future REF exercises may have on the sharing of data.