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Setting up a data stewardship programme - an institutional perspective


Background and importance: Part of the Open Science webinar series running in collaboration of the Greek and Cypriot OpenAIRE NOADs, this webinar focused on Data Stewardship. With data management services and practices to be at a primary stage of developments at the University level in Greece and Cyprus, it seemed as a good opportunity to introduce the concept/role of data stewards to the library and to the research community, providing an understanding of duties and position within the Universities organograms. Moreover, it could trigger interest in exploring the likelihood of adopting a data stewardship programme, idea and philosophy by Universities and Research Communities across Greece and Cyprus.

Some snapshots: Guest speakers Marta Teperek, Data Stewardship Programme coordinator at TU Delft and Esther Plomp, Data Steward at the Faculty of Applied Sciences at TU Delft started the presentation with a walk through the map of the Netherlands to show attendees where the city of Delft is located followed by an introduction to the University's faculties, collaborations and areas of excellence. Marta then continued by explaining how setting up a Data Stewardship Programme at TU Delft was in total alignment with the 2018-2024 Strategic Framework of the institute as openness is one of its core principles. Such endeavour was also very welcomed by the Rector Magnificus at that time, Karel Luyben.

Moreover, the Data Stewardship Programme has a duration of 3 years, starting from 2018. It is associated with both the Library and with the faculties as well as with the 4TU Consortium, comprised of the four technical institutes in the Netherlands. Particularly, the data stewards are based in the faculties so that they engage more with researchers.

By now, each faculty at the TU Delft has appointed a data steward (8 in total) and is working towards developing domain-specific research data management policies. Esther, being a data steward herself, informed about her role by stating that the focus is on inspiring cultural change in the way research is performed and communicated. A data steward is not police, but is there to assist and serves as a first contact point for any data questions. Duties vary from advising on data services and archiving, to helping with writing grant proposals and Data Management Plans (DMPs), to also providing training through workshops.

During the last segment of the presentation, Marta touched upon the challenges and next steps for the future. Among the challenges are recruitment and retention and costs. Running a Data Stewardship is not as cost-effective as it might seem. In fact, that is why Marta acknowledged the need for occupation of both data stewards (faculty level) and data managers (group level). Data champions were also mentioned for contributing to cultural change and best data practices exchange. Among TU Delft's next steps is experimentation with Electronic Lab Notebooks, adoption of data policies, and sustaining funding.

Presentation ended with three take away messages:

  1. The importance of senior management support
  2. What is a good value for money when it comes to achieving cultural change?
  3. Team building and people are key

Discussions: The webinar was followed by discussions around:

A. The differences in data related roles needed in a research ecosystem.

Many terms were mentioned but still the differences between them is unclear. Speakers confirmed that what is needed is a strong community of practice within institutions and that they are planning to create a table showing the activities of each data support beneficiary and how they relate to each other to prevent any confusions.

B. The budget and alternative approaches.

Since this is a quiet demanding programme which might not be applicable to Greek or Cypriot institutions, there was a question as to whether a Data Stewardship Programme can be set up and run nationally. Mixed opinions were expressed. Though it could be helpful to have more disciplinary data experts across the country and connect with them, there is an issue of where these experts are positioned. Meaning that it could be difficult to imagine data support based at the national level, mainly due to engagement constraints if such offices were outside the Universities.

C. The need for collaboration!

What became apparent throughout the whole presentation and during the discussions is collaboration of the library, faculty and other University structures to better overcome challenges and provide stable solutions and advice within a trusted and community-driven supporting environment.

 What is next? On 06 June the team will welcome Fotis Psomopoulos, bioinformatician and Principal Investigator C' at the Institute of Applied Biosciences (INAB), Center for Research and Technology Hellas (CERTH) to talk about best practices in developing software following the Open Science principles.

On behalf of the Greek and Cypriot NOADs

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24 Jun 2021

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