Research at Risk

JISCMRD Project Updates 2: the IDMB Project

The Southampton IDMB (Institutional Data Management Blueprint) Project is another project in the RDMI Strand of the JISCMRD Programme.  The project’s aims are ambitious: nothing less than to provide the University of Southampton with a ten-year roadmap for delivery of a comprehensive data management infrastructure.

The IDMB Project has run a series of workshops, interviews and surveys at the University of Southampton to gather user requirements.  These have focussed in the first instance on the schools of Archaeology, Engineering Sciences and Electronics and Computer Sciences.  Close to 50 detailed, semi-structured interviews have been conducted.  The detailed gathering of requirements will shortly be extended to Chemistry; and the intention is to perform an electronic survey for the entire University.  Some of the findings were presented at JISCMRD Progress Workshop and at other events (including a workshop run by the JISC-funded EIDCSR Project on ‘Institutional Policy and Guidance for Research Data‘).

Once approved by the project’s steering committee, a detailed report of this work, including requirements analysis, plans for implementation and a metadata strategy, will be released in September.

The metadata strategy being explored deserves some mention.  Following the approach of seeking quick wins, the project has developed a three tier metadata strategy.  The aim is that core metadata for finding data should be applied as much as possible through automated systems.  The project intends to extend this approach as far as possible within the University.

The IDMB Project will be providing two pilot data management infrastructures: for archaeology and for the nano-fabrication unit.  These infrastructures are currently being scoped and designed.  The overriding requirement of the Department of Archaeology is to ensure efficient gathering of field data and ingest into a familiar, easily-manageable system.  For this reason, the pilot will be exploring the use of Microsoft Sharepoint as a data management tool, applying newly available taxonomy engines to help this function.  Modular web parts will be written to assist automatic metadata assignment.  The project will also look to use RDF to denote relationships and provenance within the data.

Scoping of a data management infrastructure for the nanofabrication unit is still progressing, with ePrints and Sharepoint under discussion.  A third pilot will establish a discipline-cluster meta-repository, a proof of concept demonstrator providing a framework for searching across multiple repositories.  This work is particularly significant given the need to explore federated data management solutions within and across Universities.

Given the objective of providing a blueprint or roadmap to inform institutional policy for ten years, the IDMP Project is working closely with a Steering Group with high level buy-in.  Among the general challenges identified are:

  1. The importance of making sure that all the necessary stakeholders in the institutional are closely involved.  For example, the project has identified the need for the institution to provide a central point of information on research data management, providing details of policy, support and guidance.  The question remains open as to whether this should be hosted by the Library, IT Services or research support and how to coordinate input into the service.
  2. The need to bridge the gap between central IT services provision and the needs of specialised researchers.  Hence the interest in exploring how currently supported systems (Sharepoint, ePrints) can be extended to provide a data management function.
  3. The project is also exploring policy issues and challenges to effective implementation of best practice for data management in support of the University’s research integrity statement, which like many institutions requires that data be retained for a minimum of ten years.

The IDMB Project has already worked substantially with the AIDA toolkit as a methodology for benchmarking and measuring development of institutional data management capability.  A refined version of the AIDA tool is currently being trialled with four Academic Schools to assess capability at that level.

Other work to determine the costs and benefits of the proposed data management infrastructure has started and will accelerate in the Autumn.  (Programme level support is being provided by Neil Beagrie – there will be a JISCMRD Costs, Benefits and Sustainability Planning Workshop for the RDMI Projects in November.)  The IDMB Project is seeking to get a high level and a bottom-up view of costs and benefits.  Solutions for storage, including cloud, will also be considered.  Central to the Project’s concerns is to understand precisely what format the institutional blue print should take so as best to inform the steering group.  What format, content, structure, considerations is best for an actionable business plan for institutional research data management?

The IDMB Project has submitted a paper for the International Digital Curation Conference and has made the abstract available here.

Building on interest encountered at the EIDCSR Workshop and the JISCMRD Progress Workshop, Kenji and I discussed that Southampton might lead a small discursive workshop to consider institutional data management policies in detail.  This might be started with a questionnaire directed at other projects in the programme.  Interim feedback might be discussed at the cost benefits workshop in November, but a fuller discussion might be appropriate for a one-day workshop in January.  Watch this space!

More information about the IDMB Project is available at the project website and blog.

Project Lead: Kenji Takeda ktakeda at soton