Because good research needs good data

Where are they now? An RDM update from the University of Northampton

The latest in our series of catch-up blog posts is from Miggie Pickton at the University of Northampton.

Sarah Jones | 05 January 2015

The latest in our series of catch-up blog posts is by Miggie Pickton at the University of Northampton.

Prior to our engagement with the DCC we already had a research data policy in place but we had made little headway in promoting this, still less in implementing it. So for the University of Northampton’s engagement we chose to focus on advocacy and training in research data management (RDM). We hoped to raise awareness of good RDM practice among both researchers and those tasked with supporting them.

Sarah Jones and Marieke Guy, our contacts at the DCC, made a number of site visits, each time engaging with a different group of researchers or support staff. They ran workshops and data clinics for both experienced researchers and those new to research. Some were discipline specific (e.g. a session on managing data throughout the research lifecycle for our business school) others were more generic in nature (such as the introduction to RDM for research students). There was also a three hour workshop for academic librarians which generated some surprisingly animated discussion!

Whilst all this was going on, we were fine-tuning our research data roadmap and the first group of researchers were starting to use the University’s TUNDRA2 system to store and manage their research data. TUNDRA2 is essentially a web accessible content management system. It uses OpenText Content Management software to store and manage content throughout the digital lifecycle. For research purposes it facilitates secure online storage; version control; metadata creation; the sharing of project documents and datasets among geographically distributed research teams (our pilot project users are based in Spain, Italy, Greece and the UK), and a high level of granularity in setting access permissions. A research team can therefore use TUNDRA2 to collectively manage their data while the project is ongoing, and then choose which datasets to make more openly available at the end of the project.

By the end of the engagement (how final that sounds!) we had certainly raised awareness of RDM in some quarters but we had by no means completed the work. So in the Autumn of 2013 we submitted a proposal to the University’s Research and Enterprise Committee that a Research Data Working group be created to continue with the implementation of the RDM policy and roadmap. This working group was to comprise representatives from all six Schools as well as key staff from Records Management and the library. Our hope was that the members of the group would become RDM ‘champions’ and help us to promote good RDM in all subject areas.

The group has met termly since December 2013. In its three meetings it has reviewed the research data policy and roadmap, created a brand new set of RDM guidelines and drafted guidance for a new revision of DMPonline. It has reported back to the Research and Enterprise Committee and several recommendations have been accepted – including one which puts quality assurance of research data management practice within the remit of research ethics committees and another in which members of the committee agreed to raise awareness of the policy and guidelines among fellow researchers.

Back on the ground, the library’s research support team continue to include RDM in training programmes for research students and early career researchers. A short session on RDM is delivered during the Graduate School’s induction week programme – the only element of mandatory training for doctoral students. Our own learning from the workshops presented by Sarah and Marieke has been critical for the delivery of the longer workshops that we have subsequently delivered. We have also valued the occasional further advice from the DCC as we seek to respond to researchers’ data management queries.

Moving forward, we have a number of aspirations: 

  • to finish populating DMPonline with Northampton-specific guidance;
  • to continue to promote data management planning as an integral part of the research lifecycle;
  • to make available further RDM guidance on our Research Support Hub;
  • to encourage data sharing and to facilitate discovery of Northampton datasets through TUNDRA2 and our institutional repository, NECTAR;
  • to engage the interest of IT Services in the management of research data.

Earlier RDM updates


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