At the Publishing Better Science through Better Data (#scidata14) event hosted by Nature Publishing Group and Scientific Data, University of Oxford librarian, Sally Rumsey, presented her top ten tips for successful Research Data Management (RDM) for researchers. We’ve reproduced them below for your reading pleasure along with further advice that Rumsey gave at the event. Have a read and tell us what you think – do you agree with the list? Do any ring particularly true for you? Are there any others you would add? Share your views in the comments section below.
Imagine the worst case scenario. What if someone stole your laptop, your department went up in flames, or your data were infected with a virus or some other disaster were to take place? Would your data be retrievable? These are all questions you should ask yourself to make sure that you don’t get caught out and find yourself being made an example of a data-loss horror story.
Check your university [and funder] RDM policy. Your university and/or funder might specify how you should manage your data. Make sure you’re up-to-date with these policies.
Identify the people and information sources that can help you. There is plenty of help available. It is likely a number of support units across your university provide specialist help and guidance. For example, the research office (grants application and funder requirements), IT services (managing live data), and the library (data archiving). There may be a central website with information, and your subject librarian may be able to direct you to appropriate individuals and useful resources such as those provided by the Digital Curation Centre.
Are there any useful checklists and workflows? Find any resources available that will help you manage your datasets so you don’t miss important actions.
Data Management Plans (DMP). Do you have one? A DMP could help you to plan how you are going to manage your data and data creation activities. Some funders require a DMP. A full plan is available from the DDC website. The Oxford DMP group put together an abridged version created for research students.
Think about what to archive and how to describe and cite it. It is unlikely that you need to archive all the data you create. There may be a charge to archive your data so you need to bear in mind how much you can afford. You may like to archive a subset of your data that can be cited in your (or anyone else’s) publications. Your data can only be cited if you provide suitable metadata giving details of the dataset and where it can be found. You should provide enough well-formed metadata that describes your dataset, so other researchers can find it, understand the dataset and cite it. The DataCite website has more details on how and why to cite a dataset.
Check out suitable data archives. Some funders require you to deposit data in a specialist archive where other researchers in your field can easily access and cite your data. There are a number of specialist data archives that could provide a suitable long term home for your data. Examples include UK Data Archive, Archeology Data Service and the NERC data centres.
Does your dataset require specialist software to run it? If it does, and if other researchers want to access or use your data, they may need a copy of the software.
Check if there are costs involved at each stage of RDM. It is wise to be aware of costs such as archiving charges in good time so you can explore sources of funding if necessary.
Can you make your data freely available? Are the data anonymised? What will you do about licensing your data? What permissions should you assign? Are you authorised to assign a licence to your data? Are there commercial interests that you should consider? You should think carefully about the legal aspects of archiving your data and of making it available to others. There could be significant implications of making data freely available if you are not authorized, or if there is sensitive content within your data. You might like to find a specialist to help answer your questions such as a member of the research office or legal services.
You can also watch Sally’s talk, and all the other talks, and download the speakers’ presentations from the event here.
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