Developing Institutional Research Data Management Policies

On 12-13 March, in conjunction with DCC and the University of Leeds ROADMAP Project, the JISC Managing Research Data Programme held a workshop to examine challenges around developing institutional research data management policies.

This is an important area of activity for projects in the JISCMRD Programme.  All 17 large infrastructure projects are developing policies – in 13 cases these are for the principle host institution.  In the other four – looking at disciplinary or metadata issues across institutions – such policies will apply perhaps at the institutional level, perhaps at the departmental level, across a number of partner institutions.

Agreeing an institutional RDM policy has been viewed as an important step in establishing an effective and sustainable RDM infrastructure and support service.  It sets the tone, underlining an institutional commitment and expectations.  Projects report that the developing a policy has been useful in getting support from key stakeholders, in clarifying priorities and in testing a projects’ understanding of where roles and responsibilities lie in the provision of research data management support.

The DCC has identified three currently public RDM policies in UK universities, as well as a Statement of Commitment.  A number more are currently at advanced stages in the approval process.

Such efforts have been given a shot in the arm by the EPSRC Policy Framework on Research Data, which requires that research institutions prepare an internal roadmap by 1 May 2012.  The roadmap is an instrument – resulting from a gap analysis by which an institution will ensure compliance with EPSRC’s expectations by 1 May 2015.

An institutional RDM policy is likely to be an important part of such efforts.

In parallel breakout sessions, the workshop tackled three thematic areas relating to the development of RDM policies.  These were:

  1. What approach are institutions taking to the development of RDM policies?
  2. How is support and approval being gained for the ratification of RDM policies?
  3. How are institutions planning to support the implementation of the policies?

In a fourth – plenary – session, the workshop discussed issues around the related issue of preparing a roadmap to meet EPSRC requirements.

DCC officers and JISCMRD Evidence Gatherers were on hand to facilitate discussion and to take notes.  The notes will form the basis of outputs from the workshop.  At the time of writing, these are likely to take the form of an abbreviated summary of discussions, key points and outstanding questions.  This will undoubtedly also contribute towards a DCC checklist or step-by-step guide to developing an institutional RDM policy, based upon the experiences and findings of the projects and institution involved.

My immediate ‘take homes’ were as follows:

  • A checklist of policies and supporting guidance and help materials for institutions developing and implementing such policies would be very useful.  This is something on which the DCC could work, in collaboration with and collating findings from the JISC Managing Research Data Programme.  Relatedly, Catherine Pink of the Bath Research 360 project has posted a preliminary checklist of guidance required.
  • Some projects will be developing guidance materials in the form of researcher targeted scenarios or workthroughs.  This idea was warmly received and it was also suggested that the process of creating such materials could provide valuable deeper understanding of requirements for institutional infrastructure and support services.
  • One of a number of recurrent themes over the two days was the question: ‘what research data should be retained’.  It was felt that policies – or the guidance materials supporting them – should do something to guide researchers and support staff in this regard.  Disciplinary research considerations are likely to be the primary determinants of potential reuse value of research data – but it is possible to adduce some general principles.  It was felt that more guidance and – above all – examples in this area would be extremely useful.

Since the workshop, a number of attendees have posted blogs containing reflections and summaries:

Bill Worthington, Research Data Toolkit Hertfordshire Project: Reflections on JISCMRD-DCC Policy Workshop

Laura Molloy, University of Glasgow and JISCMRD Evidence Gatherer: Emerging Themes from the JISCMRD Institutional RDM Policy Workshop

Scott Brander, Cerif for Datasets Project: Institutional Data Management Policies and Roadmaps

Angus Whyte, DCC: Turning Roadmaps into Action

Stephen Gray, data.bris Project: The Value of Research Data

It is worth noting that the scene was set by a couple of blog posts:

Jonathan Tedds, University of Leicester and JISCMRD Evidence Gatherer: Developing Research Data Management Policy

Sarah Jones, DCC: Navigating the Potholes

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