Do you speak research data? The potential of a Jisc RDM toolkit

Andrea Chiarelli (from Research Consulting Ltd) updates us on progress with the development of the Jisc RDM toolkit, and asks whether you will use it in future.

On December 5th, 2017, I attended the open access (OA) community workshop organised by Jisc in York. Hosted across the street from Clifford Tower, the event discussed some of the challenges experienced by the OA community and possible approaches to address them.

I was there to share information on the upcoming Jisc research data management (RDM) toolkit with OA experts. Staff dealing with OA sometimes deal with RDM as well and, in any event, benefit from maintaining a working knowledge of the topic. In this post I share some insights on the toolkit project gathered at this event, along with general updates on progress.

Halfway through the process…

In the past few months, I have been discussing the RDM toolkit with a wide range of stakeholders, using different approaches: I interviewed 12 people and I engaged with many others at workshops and conferences (including the above OA community workshop, the Research Data Management Forum, and the event “Engaging researchers in good research data management” held in Cambridge). It quickly became clear that the research community strongly wishes to see RDM resources gathered in a central hub and that stakeholders in the field are happy to be involved in the project. The conversations I had led us to understand what kind of features the toolkit website should possess:

  • It should include up-to-date material;
  • It should allow easy browsing of said material;
  • It should offer a choice of pathways to access material tailored to different audiences;
  • It should allow the reuse of content; and
  • It should encourage community engagement.
  • Having involved stakeholders in different roles and with a range of interests, we are confident that we have grasped the community’s key concerns and that these can be addressed. At this stage, resources for inclusion in the toolkit have been critically appraised and organised in a logical way, including tags for searching and browsing. We have now prepared a specification document for the toolkit steering group, detailing the structure and functions that the toolkit website could or should include, clearly mentioning the above principles.

    It is time to go beyond the information-gathering and scoping part of the project and get our hands dirty with the practicalities of implementing such a comprehensive resource.

    Do I need a toolkit?

    If you are reading this post, I believe you probably do. The extent to which people would use the RDM toolkit website appears to be linked with institutional efforts in this direction. Clearly, when an institution already has a wealth of resources on RDM, staff don’t often need to look for material externally.

    However, we found that almost 40% of UK HEIs do not have institutional RDM pages, which shows how the above case is not very common. This suggests that the potential user base for the toolkit is very wide. Jisc would also like to build a lively community around the resource. Some of the stakeholders involved stated that the toolkit could be a powerful training resource, too.

    On multiple occasions, people went as far as stating that, in time, they may decrease institutional RDM efforts if the Jisc RDM toolkit is reliable and credible. This might be wishful thinking, but imagine the resource freed and refocussed in HEIs all over the country should this become a reality!

    Looking forward

    The next key step in this project is to write up the toolkit pages. The text will have to be crafted carefully: novices should understand it fully, but experts should find it engaging, too. To find the right balance, we will write up the toolkit text and share it with both Jisc and interested stakeholders in the RDM community to fine-tune the approach and make sure that all the main messages come through.

    We still need to finalise a few technical aspects, though. The governance of the toolkit is a key concern, and the technology on which the website is going to be based is still under discussion. Nonetheless, we are hoping to see the toolkit online during the spring of 2018 and we will make sure that our efforts are focussed on making this promising resource a reality.

    As usual, we welcome inputs from the community – please get in touch if you wish to be involved in the review of the toolkit text or have anything else to add.

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