Final project report

This will be the last blog for the DICE project and is where you can download the Final Report. It is also the opportunity to reflect on the success (or otherwise) of the project.

Read the DICE Final Report.

JISC funded 4 projects on the theme of Preserving Research Data. At first sight this may seem like unnecessary duplication but each was different in approach and target group. A meeting of the projects showed that several of us had sufficient in common to justify some collaboration. The results of this improved the quality and reduced the cost of the work undertaken. It allowed us to work outside the confines of our own institution and benefit from the experience of others. This was an unplanned but very positive outcome.

As well as our own resources, you might want to checkout those of PrePARe, SHARD and DataSafe.

We wanted to make sure that we weren’t going to be re-inventing the wheel with the project so our methodology reviewed the current state of research data preservation, at least in the English-speaking world (which, to my shame, is the only one I inhabit), then we set about finding out how advanced our researchers were, and hence what their training requirements would be.   This was a fascinating experience for me as an incomer (not having worked at LSE before) to see the similarities and differences to other universities I’ve worked in.  LSE is certainly focused on the intellectual endeavour of a research-led institution. There is a range of attitudes and approaches but everyone I have had contact with was striving for the best quality attainable. LSE is to be commended for this culture, which I’m sure is at the heart of its success.

The work that we conducted means that we now know more about the research community at LSE and its needs. Comparing our findings with those from the other projects suggested that we all had enough in common for the learning materials we developed to be of use, with intelligent adaptation, at other universities that conduct research, though you will probably find that the DICE approach is best suited to the social sciences and humanities.  If you do adapt the material, please contribute it back to the community. Although it is a condition of the CC-BY-SA licence, we hope you would do it anyway in the spirit of building on the work that has gone before.

What would we have done differently if we were doing it again? We would have liked to have had better validation of the training materials we developed. We had one iteration with staff and students but the timing of the project meant that this had to happen in May/June, which is towards the end of the academic year and before the time when new researchers start. It would have been good to test the material with a new cohort of PhD students and hence refine the material more thoroughly. So, in an ideal world, we would re-schedule the project so that testing could be conducted in October/November.

My thanks go to Ed Fay and the Digital Library team for welcoming me for the short period of my stay at LSE and for the trust they put in me to complete the project.  Thanks also to Jane and Maria, Nicola and Sue for all their help and support.

[posted by MR]

Project outputs

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This will be the penultimate project blog post, and  I will be linking to all of the project outputs now that the training materials are complete.

We have now made publicly available under a CC-BY-SA licence:

A self-study training course called Sending Your Research Into the Future. This is in HTML format for putting on a Web site. If you unzip the files and preserve the folder structure it should just work. No special functionality is needed from the Web server. Feel free to hack the materials to suit your own needs – that’s why they are in easily-editable HTML format. There is a single style sheet that you can edit if you don’t like our choice of colours!

Presentations are available for trainer-led sessions in both

(identical content; again, rename the downloaded file to .zip). There are also some Prezi presentations with a slightly different content. Presentations tend to be quite “personal” to the trainer, so feel free to hack them about for your own purposes.

All of the above training materials are also available on open access from JORUM and LSE Learning Resources Online.

The other project outputs have been mentioned previously in this blog but they are repeated here just to consolidate the information in one place. The only exception will be the project’s final report, which will be added in a few days in the last blog post! These are all publicly available under a CC-BY-SA licence:

[posted by MR]

Preserving data – image

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Image

I wanted an image that said “preservation of data”, and came up with the idea of a memory stick frozen in ice. I tried a few different formats, also with and without the LSE logo. Lighting it was fun – in the end I used a single flash through a diffuser plus a white reflector. Interestingly, when I’d defrosted them and allowed them to dry for 48 hours on a sunny windowsill, they carried on working!

[posted by MR]

Sending Your Research Material into the Future – leaflet available

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A leaflet introducing the benefits of research data preservation and the skills necessary to implement it has just arrived from the printers, and we’re really pleased with the result!

The leaflet has been jointly developed by the DICE, SHARD and PrePARe projects, and designed and printed at LSE. You can get a PDF copy here. It is intended for printing A4 double-sided and folding into 3.

 

progress report – June 2012

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Work is progressing well on the production of learning materials. These are being authored in LSE’s Moodle learning environment but they are HTML pages and so can easily be re-purposed. All material will be made publicly available under a Creative Commons licence and deposited in JORUM.

Copy-and-paste is producing two more resources:

  1. a FAQ sheet, in collaboration with PrePARE at Cambridge and SHARD at ULCC/IHR
  2. a set of presentations to library staff in the context of “train the trainers” that can also be used with researchers. These are on Prezi and can be viewed/downloaded from http://prezi.com/explore/search/page/1/?search=malcolm%20raggett

A series of 30-minute training courses is under way to inform library staff about research data preservation.

PrePARE, SHARD and DICE have collaborated to produce an introductory leaflet targetted at researchers. This is currently at the printers and should be available in plenty of time for the next academic year, when it can be included in the Welcome Pack of all new research students as well as being given to existing researchers.

[posted by MR]

UK government still emphasise publications over data

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Today’s Guardian newspaper carries several articles about publicly-funded research. An article by Alok Jha, science correspondent, headlines the advisor Jimmy Wales’ contribution to helping make taxpayer-funded research freely available online.  However the core of the article is that Dame Janet Finch is to report on how an open-access scheme might work. also, David Prosser, RLUK, says that the details of this is crucial and highlights the need for data, not just publications.  Well said David! a great deal of the cost of research is in creating and manipulating the research data, and it holds huge value for the future so, yes, the research material and data also have to be preserved.

In a separate article, David Willetts, UK Minister for Universities and Science, aims both barrels at academic publishers and spends most of his column discussing publications.  Given his target this isn’t surprising but he largely misses the opportunity to promote the need to make research material and data publicly available too.

I hope that Dame Janet will be reporting on how to make all of publicly-funded research available, and not just publications.

[posted by MR]

Results of researcher survey

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We conducted an online survey of researchers at LSE to find out the current awareness of data preservation, the type of skills that would be needed and the best method of delivering training.

There were 167 responses, 56% of them from PhD students.  Respondents were spread across the academic departments and centres of the School, so the results should be reasonably representative of the researcher community here.

Below is a brief summary of our findings.  For an executive summary, download the short report or, if you are having trouble sleeping, you can download the full report.

Synopsis

The survey showed the general lack of awareness amongst LSE researchers of digital data preservation: this isn’t a criticism, if we had found a good awareness we would probably have to stop the project! We also found that there are cultural challenges to address as well as the need for more technical training if researchers are to send their research data and materials into the future with confidence.

Researchers are using a wide range of technologies to create research data in a variety of formats, so as well as the general principles of digital preservation, we will use case studies of the major data types in the materials that DICE produces.

The survey shows that researchers have a preference for informal support and autodidactic methods of learning. Although no one method is suited to everyone, we will target the methods of training and support that showed the most popularity, and produce re-purposable materials wherever possible.

There is a presumption that data preservation and public availability of that data go hand-in-hand, however we identified a need for data preservation without public availability. There seems to be an acceptance by the researchers that this restricted preservation will take place under the control of the researchers themselves and on their own systems, which suggests that a Personal Archiving approach may be appropriate for some researchers whether or not the School provides the repository for the data.

In general, research data are not well documented: researchers using others’ data have reported difficulty understanding it, or even understanding their own data after a few years! The documentation of data is important for preservation so this will be included in the DICE outputs.

[posted by MR]

Common findings and collaboration

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Seven people from the 4 JISC projects working on digital research preservation training materials met at LSE last week. We exchanged our findings so far and found that, although we had used different investigative techniques, we had a lot of findings in common.

We agreed to collaborate on the development of (i) a set of FAQs, (ii) advice on acceptable file formats for short-term and long-term preservation, and (iii) the design and production of a top-level brochure about the preservation of digital research data. However we all agreed that we would need to devise a better terminology than “research data preservation” for user-related training material!

Here are the notes from the meeting.

[posted by MR]

The prize winners are…

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Prizes were given for responding to the recent research questionnaire. There were 11 prizes and 137 eligible respondents, so if you did enter you had an 8% chance of winning, which isn’t too bad. I’m not going to name names but if you haven’t had an email by now it probably wasn’t you! The top prize of £100 Amazon voucher went to a Research Assistant, the other 10 £50 vouchers went to 7 PhD students, 2 lecturers and a Research Officer.

Thank you to everyone who responded. There were 167 responses, so now the analysis begins…!

[posted by MR]

A few surprises

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The survey of researchers at LSE is in full swing. If you are an LSE researcher and haven’t already responded, go to

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dGlMZmRKWkMyYXd3WXpOc2ozcHM2UEE6MQ#gid=0

We’ve had 77 responses so far, and there are some interesting results starting to emerge. For example, in response to the question:

Do you plan to preserve your research material and data beyond the end of the project? The responses were:

Yes, and it will be publicly available 32%
Yes, but it will be private/restricted 46%
No 5%
Not sure 17%

and drilling a bit further into the barriers that stop researchers making their material publicly available, we asked

What are the main factors that could deter or prevent you from making your material and data publicly available? Which gave the responses:

Contractual factors 27%
Commercial sensitivity 9%
The data cannot be anonymised 27%
Intellectual property rights issues, including copyright 28%
Ethical issues 31%
Reputational considerations 14%
The cost of preserving materials and data 10%
Technological issues 9%
There is no reason to make it available 29%
I don’t know how to make it available 12%
Other 5%
[People may select more than one checkbox, so percentages add up to more than 100%.]
Rather worryingly, 29% said they saw no reason to make it available, which makes me wonder how to get the “open and free at the point of access” message across. It certainly points to a need for culture-change thinking and techniques first, since these people won’t even attend the training we are designing in this project if they can’t perceive a need for it.
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