Results of the survey on research data management in H2020

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The OpenAIRE project supports the Open Science vision of the European Commission. The project and in particular the Research Data Management team provide support, training and information on the Open Research Data Pilot. In this context, a survey was carried out to collect feedback on the Horizon 2020 template for Data Management Plans (DMPs).


As part of the support OpenAIRE provides for the Open Research Data Management requirements, OpenAIRE launched a survey to assess the DMP guidelines and template of the EC. Based on the outcomes, we evaluated how research and research supporting staff experienced the DMP requirements. What was their general experience? Did the guidelines provide enough support to fulfil the requirements? And what could be changed to improve the process?

Researchers and research supporting staff were asked about their general experience with the DMP template, specific questions about the guidelines and what could be improved.

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The survey, conducted together with the FAIR Data Expert Group, was launched over the summer of 2017 and had almost 300 respondents. To evaluate the DMP template a survey was set up to inquire about the general attitudes toward data management, specific questions about the template and the guidelines itself and the support needed or improvements desired.

Feedback was sought from both researchers and support staff. Reach out to both groups was well balanced since 50% of respondents indicated they were researchers and 60% identified themself as support staff showing some overlaps between the two groups. overal experience

Overall respondents had a positive experience with the RDM requirement, signalling the exercise helpful to assess their data needs and reflect upon potential issues early on. A majority found the template very useful (45% agreed). Naturally there is always room for improvement and many respondents provided detailed textual responses explaining points of confusion or offering suggestions for change.

Although a majority indicated that FAIR as a concept was well understood, detailed text-answers later in the questionnaire indicated that implementing all elements of the FAIR concept and applying them to a DMP can be complicated.

Terminology was a barrier since not all researchers were familiar with some of the specific terms used, with ‘interoperability’ as the main term causing confusion. References to RDM support teams, project officers and other data services indicate that they can play a vital role in supporting researchers and interpreting the guidelines in ways useful to the researchers' context.
For some projects, the template was found too structured and prescriptive. To use the FAIR structure as the basis for the template also meant there is an overlap between concepts and questions asking for similar information. open DMP

Improvements suggested by respondents and developments

Priority with regard to improving the information and guidelines provided by the EC comes down to a more tailored support. The top priority improvement to DMP templates or tools was to suggest relevant standards for their field and data type. Another high-priority request which returned throughout the survey was to provide example DMPs, ideally H2020 approved ones from a wide range of disciplines and project types. Regarding to the possibility of consulting example DMPs, it was encouraging to notice that 48% of respondents were open to the idea of publishing their DMP.
Since guidance is quite generic, examples would allow researchers to identify best practices and evaluate possible approaches. More discipline specific information, suggestions for common standards for particular data types and the need for dropdown option based on good practices per discipline were other points of possible improvement.
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Recommendations

The principal recommendation we make is to consider restructuring the DMP template to make it easier to complete. Although the FAIR concept is useful, when applying it to order questions causes overlap and redundancy. Questions could be more useful when grouped thematically or by key activities. This would provide a more logical arrangement and avoid repetition, while still addressing the need for FAIR data.
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Providing drop down options or making the DMP machine-actionable are other options that would further enhance the template’s user friendliness. Although this may be difficult to achieve, a template helping to give structured responses with the possibility to skip irrelevant questions would provide researchers the necessary guidance to complete the task.

The survey brought to the fore that respondents want much more tailored guidance and discipline-specific examples to help them apply the DMP questions to their context. Extra guidance should also be provided for larger, more complex projects with multiple work packages, data outputs and stakeholders, as they often found the DMP complicated to complete. Respondents demonstrated that there is a willingness to openly publish DMPs (48% yes [Q12]). Encouragement of this practice by the EC would be beneficial, as early release would allow communities to learn about research going on elsewhere and promote collaboration and sharing of outputs.

We advise to simplify the terminology used in the template in a way that both researchers and support staff can relate to it. Where possible, overtly technical terms should be replaced with more explanatory wording. Where terms that have caused confusion are retained, such as interoperability, metadata and ontologies, attention should be drawn to them by providing a glossary and/or examples in the template itself. This will help DMP writers to gain a better understanding of the terminology used in data management.
There were also a number of comments in the survey seeking clarity on how the DMPs will be reviewed and by whom. Respondents did not always understand the rationale for each question and how it would be used or assessed by the reviewer.
Over the course of the pilot the guidelines and scope were already altered and we applaud the changes implemented so far in response to community feedback.
Some adjustments to the template and provision of disciplinary guidance and examples will simply enrich the DMPs being provided and provide a firmer footing for the transition from pilot to policy.

 

More information


The full report, data and an infographic about the results can be consulted at https://zenodo.org/record/1120245
We have also presented a webinar where we highlighted the key findings.
If you missed the webinar you can see slides and a video online:
Slides: https://www.slideshare.net/sjDCC/results-of-the-horizon-2020-dmp-template-survey
Recording: https://webinars.eifl.net/2018-01-11_OpenAIRE_DMP_survey/index.html

The EC continues to welcome feedback on its approach to further iterate the guidelines of the Open Data Pilot. If you have comments we suggest sharing feedback with your project officers (in the case of active H2020 projects) or via OpenAIRE NOADs or the FAIR Data Expert Group.

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