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

From Amy.

The new unit from the MANTRA Data Management Training programme focuses on Sharing, Preservation and Licensing, which follows on well from the previous unit on Data Protection, Rights and Access. The module took about an hour to get through, making notes as I went, and I found it a useful introduction to a topic that I know fairly little about.

The unit discusses the reasons for and against sharing research data and the benefits that can be enjoyed by researchers who do decide to share data. Other guides that I have read on this topic seem to offer a more one-sided view of the debate as they are trying to encourage researchers to share data. While this is understandable, and ultimately the aim of increasing awareness will be that more researchers share more data, it can sometimes make the source appear slightly less credible. For this reason, I was really pleased that this unit included a section on the barriers to sharing research data. For the issue of confidentiality it offered the solution of anonymisation, but it also recognised that financial and ownership issues are sometimes capable of preventing sharing altogether. By recognising that not all research data can be shared, its advice on data that can be shared became more realistic.

The unit provides extensive benefits of sharing research data including scientific integrity, meeting funder requirements, increasing research impact and preserving data for personal future use. This is all underlined by the examples given of real-life cases where the repercussions of not properly preserving/sharing data have caused problems. The unit gives an example of a postgraduate research student whose project was spoiled because they could not access the relevant data. While this is useful, the point is underlined far more seriously by the examples given of researchers who were accused of falsifying data and not having the records to back up their research. One of the benefits given that I could identify with the most was the impact that sharing data can have on teaching. The unit suggests that using research data in teaching is a good way to teach students how to collect and analyse data. Also, in my experience as a student, some of the most interesting teaching sessions I have had were those when lecturers talked about their current or recent projects and showed us data that they had collected for these. It made teaching much more closely related to research and made us, as students, feel more involved with what was going on in the University than when you feel like you’re just being taught from a set syllabus.

The unit also covers issues on licensing and introduces Open Data Commons as a source of guidance and licences that are conformant with the principles set out in the Open Knowledge Foundation’s definition of open knowledge. The unit definitely succeeded in its aims as the information provided, combined with the activities which outlined key terms and definitions, were useful to me as a postgraduate student in consideration of my own research, but also in consideration of data that I am using that belongs to someone else.

See MANTRA http://datalib.edina.ac.uk/mantra/preservation.html

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