iridium – postgraduate student evaluation of MANTRA RDM training – Sharing, Preservation and Licensing unit

From Blanca:

Probably I have blogged before about how useful MANTRA training units are and how much I enjoy then.  This month MANTRA released its new unit called “Sharing, preservation & licensing” which is no different from the other units in terms of how effectively it manages to get the message across.

More than that, I believe this to be a dramatic unit. Leaving aside specific barriers for sharing data such as not sharing because of commercial purposes, keeping subjects confidentiality and data ownership (all these barriers may or may not have solutions), there are other reasons which are linked to how the data has been managed during its lifecycle. This unit provides some dramatic examples of why you should share your data and how you need to treat your data from the moment you first get it.

One of the examples this is unit provides is an animated cartoon, which I found hilariously frustrating (putting myself in the shoes of a researcher who wants to re-use some data and finds herself at the mercy of the owner of the data). Problems such as backing up (which are the perils of using physical devices for storage on the short and long term?), appropriate formats (what do you do if the software you used for manipulating your data becomes unsupported?  What does this mean for future users?), and metadata recording (Do you want other researchers to be depending on you to interpret your data? Are you actually going to be available during the whole life cycle of the data?).

This simple animated cartoon made me reflect on the fact that besides barriers such as the ones mentioned above, some barriers are created by the very researcher and having an effective research data management plan can help you take the decision of sharing or not your data, and how you want to share it. In any case, how your data has been managed should not be a barrier for sharing it.

How the data is managed is effectively important.  This unit presents impressive real cases of data fabrication and falsification, these cases are truly unbelievable and I can just think, why would somebody put his/her reputation on the line in such way? The consequences are simply terrifying.

The unit also mentions the benefits of sharing your data, which may bring various rewards such as scientific integrity, increased impact in terms of primary and secondary publications, it may allow collaboration between data users and data creators, it may be the source of some other innovative unrelated research based on the same data,…, there are indeed various benefits and perhaps more importantly the researcher maximises transparency and accountability of his/her research while at the same time he/she complies with funders’ requirements.

Making your data shareable is not an easy task; there are several things to take into account, specially the need to define how you want your data to be re-used? This unit introduces Open data licensing briefly, a topic which I would possible like to see more developed in another unit.

In general, this is a really useful unit which I genuinely enjoyed reading.

MANTRA unit available from: http://datalib.edina.ac.uk/mantra/preservation.html

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iridium – postgrad evaluation of MANTRA RDM training – Data protection, rights and access unit

From Blanca.

Today I had the opportunity to explore the “Data protection, rights and access” unit of MANTRA. This is a quite new unit which offers plenty of relevant and essential concepts.

Firstly, it discusses the concept of ethics and how ethical requirements need to be taken into consideration with planning a RDM. Ethics, is a serious issue, specially when it involves people. Most of the examples and RDM strategies discussed over the unit concern data about people.

Essential concepts this unit focusses on are privacy, consent and confidentiality. The first step towards an ethical research would be to obtain consent from your research subjects (This way people are given the right to take decisions on the use of their personal data). Next, the researcher needs to make sure he/she will guarantee the protection of subject’s privacy, to do so, the researcher will need to outline confidentiality strategies (this is an agreement between the researcher and the research subjects on how his/her identifiable private information will be handled, managed and disseminated).

Besides ethics, the unit makes relevance on how important are legal considerations for RDM. The 1998 Data Protection Acts regulates personal data handling. Failure to comply with these regulations can incur in extremely severe consequences for organisations and individuals, the unit provides a series of crude examples about it. Even huge institutions such as the NHS are not exempt!

Next, the unit provides with some very useful anonymisation techniques (masking data so that no person identifiers are present), a document with some examples is provided.

Finally, the unit discusses what a are “Intellectual Property Rights” and “Freedom of Information.”

Intellectual property (IP) is all about the creation of the mind. Laws try to make sure owners of these creations are granted with certain exclusive rights when it comes to commercialisation of their creation. There are 2 categories: Industrial property (includes patents, trademarks…) and Copyrights (for literary and artistic works). On the other hand, Freedom of Information (FoI) is about providing the public the right to access information from public bodies.

In general, I found this unit to be quite vast in content. The approach it takes for the explanation of the concepts is really good and concise. However, it didn’t have as many interactive parts as previous units. The unit also provides some other recommended resources.”

MANTRA Data protection, rights and access unit: http://datalib.edina.ac.uk/mantra/dataprotection.html

iridium – fourth postgraduate student feedback on MANTRA RDM (4)

This is the fourth in a series of postgraduate blog posts reviewing the MANTRA training package from different discipline perspectives.

This post is from Blanca, postgraduate student in flood management:

“I have recently joined the iridium postgraduate team. My first task was to complete the online course by Data Library and EDINA, University of Edinburgh.

The online course comprises several learning units and software practical. I was only required to follow the online learning units, some units are still in development and I am looking forward to explore them in the near future.

The units I had the opportunity to explore are the following:

Unit 1 – Research data explained: really useful if you want to know the difference between what is research data and what is not. At the beginning I thought everything was research data!

Unit 2 – Data management plans: a data management plan never ends! That’s what I took from this chapter. It also reminded me that there is a public responsibility that one takes when doing research, thus it is important to correctly and responsibly handle research data.

Unit 3 – Organizing data: perhaps my favorite chapter. I helped me design a naming convection and versioning methodology for my files, something I will continue doing for the rest of my life.

Unit 4 – File formats and transformation: quite informative, especially the concept of files normalization and the importance of this when sharing data, it makes data more flexible and comparable.

Unit 5 – Documentation and metadata: it was really useful to know the difference between documentation and metadata. However, it was difficult for me to understand metadata categories.

Unit 6 – Storage and security: This was more like a horror movie “The nightmare of PhD students”. It really made me realize the price of losing my research data. I haven’t generated huge amounts of data, but the truth is that I need to review backup strategy. This chapter has really good videos with extremely important messages “Backup is the most important part of RDM”.

As an overall, I found this online course quite useful. I would totally recommend it! Besides providing me with the background and the jargon to carry out my work within iridium, it has actually helped me with my own project management. I believe it would be a great idea to introduce this kind of course to all postgraduate students at Newcastle University as part of the postgraduate research development program. This kind of course would be a great complement to the workshops that we have already. It also provides great skills for our future professional life.”

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