Preparations for building a solid Research Data Management (RDM) support started more than ten years ago at the University of Helsinki. In an early project at the life sciences campus researchers and library staff presented and discussed data related workflows and possible solutions for data management. First steps included a programme of staff training that was initiated at the medical campus library. Participants were library staff members from all four campuses at the university. The training consisted of events and workshops organized by a team from the library. The participants also conducted data interviews with researchers in order to get a broad view of data management issues encountered in different fields of science.
It soon became evident that research data management is a broad and complex subject, and more than librarians are needed to tackle the challenges of RDM support. We also needed to engage IT service people, legal advisors, and people working in project funding and support. This insight led to the establishment of a university wide network branded Data Support. This network keeps in contact continuously and meets 4–6 times a year at workshops, where current RDM issues are discussed.
The network produces RDM guidance both in English and Finnish, organizes training, and helps researchers with their questions throughout the year. Data Support has a service catalogue which was developed to help researchers discover RDM services using a simple wizard. Research data management guidance has been compiled to LibGuide format. It is kept up to date by the library with support from the IT Centre and legal advisors at the university research services. Lately RDM guidance, which also serves as Data Management Plan guidance, has been transferred to the university web site. The guides are also uploaded to Zenodo for users preferring the PDF format. The primary place for guidance is DMPTuuli (a national instance of DMPonline). Additionally, a smaller basic RDM guide in Finnish is produced especially for students and researchers not that familiar with the subject.
Data Support started to organize DMP workshops on all four campuses in connection with Academy of Finland funding calls. These calls are important on the national level as Academy of Finland is the major research funder in Finland. These calls are organized twice a year, with main focus in the September call that attracts most applications.
The DMPTuuli workshops are more domain specific than the generic RDM Basics courses. The workshops have an introductory part where general guidelines are presented and the tool used (DMPTuuli) is introduced. The main part of the workshop is dedicated to individual guidance for researchers working on their data management plans.
Reviewing and commenting DMPs has emerged as a well received service with eight people from the library giving feedback to DMPs composed by researchers. Experience gained from the DMPTuuli workshops revealed a definite need for an introductory course called RDM basics. These two hour events run monthly on all four campuses of the university. RDM Basics is a generic course but lightly tailored to the disciplines at the campuses.Questions on RDM range on a wide spectrum, and often the organization of data is key to sound data management. Data Cleaning Day is a recent effort to promote best practice in this respect.
The main tool for answering RDM questions is the ticket system Efecte implemented throughout the university. The previous ticket system (LibAnswers) was only used by the library and there was no integration with other units at the university. The Efecte platform makes it possible to transfer a clearly IT related question to the IT Centre support service, and they can transfer RDM related questions to Data Support staff. In our university the IT Centre and the Library are separate organizational units, unlike in many British universities where they have been combined. For researchers and students the ticket system presents a single point of entry in the form of a Data Support email address.
The platform used for creating DMPs is a nationally licensed version of DMP Online called DMPTuuli. The content of guidance and funder information is customized for each university and research institute, and the guides refer to local support services at each university. Researchers can opt for making a DMP public, resulting in a pool of public DMPs that could serve as inspiration for researchers working on their DMPs.
Questions on data storage are among the most frequently asked enquiries. So far there has been little to offer at the local university level except shared storage space for research groups. The situation is now changing with the introduction of Datacloud, a platform based on the Nextcloud software. This is a drop-box like platform for storing and sharing data among research groups and collaborators. The next step towards open research data is using EUDAT services customized for the University of Helsinki. An instance of B2SHARE will soon be used to host data from the University of Helsinki. OpenAIRE compliance is a priority in the customization of B2SHARE in this implementation.
Experience so far has clearly demonstrated that questions on ownership of research data need to be worked out and agreed in writing at the start of a research project. These aspects should be described in the DMPs, and ideally there should be a clear process with legal support and appropriate agreement templates for resolving data ownership. Researchers do not always realize there is a need for these agreements. If all this comes as an afterthought at the end of the project, the open release of research data from that project may never happen.
Text: Kimmo Koskinen
Photo: Jussi Männistö