Monthly Archives: March 2013

Achievements, Challenges and Recommendations

University of Leicester Research Data Management Poster

“Achievements, Challenges and Recommendations” was the title of the Jisc Managing Research Data workshop which I attended this week (25-26 March, Aston Business School). 

It was a really busy programme with numerous presentations from those in the MRD programme and others, structured around the themes of what is now termed the “RDM Support Service”.  As this is the theme of my Transformations project it is all relevant stuff.  Whilst there was an awful lot to take in, with so many people there (approaching 100), so many institutions represented, and with the inclusion of external and international contributors it provided a great opportunity to find out what people are doing and achieving, and of course to compare and contrast with personal experiences and progress.

Congratulations to all those people who have achieved so much.

I will reflect in more depth later but some of the points of interest included:

  • Finding out about progression with RDM business cases (and the varying results)
  • Some approaches being taken to present RDM work as a short term enterprise, assuming that skills and practices will be embedded within a couple of years
  • Who is/whether anyone is taking responsibility for RDM related work
  • The scope of RDM, its interfaces and whether for example it is thought to include, be related to or separate from Open Access publication.
  • Numerous approaches to website development which show some similarities e.g. creating a single “research data” email contact, but also quite stark differences e.g. considered and collaborative development versus more “agile” or pragmatic approaches, minimal content (emphasising signposting resources and support) versus comprehensive content, and assumptions of sites being fairly static (who will be resourced to maintain long-term) or versus evolving.
  • International comparison with presentations regarding experience in the Netherlands, Germany and Australia.


I also found the poster presentation a useful element with the challenge to distil significant projects into a single A3 (or larger) poster. The effort from Leicester is shown above (click on the image to see a larger version).


I’ve been thinking recently about the range of issues I am dealing with through my job (bridging research and IT at University of Leicester), other projects I am involved with (IG lead for the BRISSKit project – alongside my general activity and the Transformations project. 

A focus of the Transformations work is the relatively rapid required progress from consideration of, and provision of advice, support and training around general RDM matters, to that which is discipline specific.

The fact that the University is concerned significantly with health (there being a College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology), that contacts I receive concern IT and data issues from this area, and given my own background of working in the NHS, I am thinking more about how RDM services and IT Services communicate with and support those areas of the University.

One of the things I need to manage is the scope of knowledge required to understand, support and provide input across a range of related areas:

  • Research Data Management (which is related to or could be seen to span, or influence, or require appropriate handling of…)
  • Information Governance
  • The Information Governance Toolkit (concerned with health data, projects, systems, information assets, and services –, and
  • Information Security Management

This I think reflects that we need to deal with questions at bid stage, through to projects in action, and specific data and IT challenges.  Often this means an understanding of the close and often complex relationship between the health and University domains.

Video to kill the long project report?

I recently spent an interesting day at Newcastle University at a Jisc Netskills course intriguingly titled “Storytelling Techniques for Project Dissemination”.

Yes, the title baffled me too.

A benefit of the Transformations programme is that I’ve been pushed towards certain things, including attendance at this event – otherwise I probably wouldn’t have seen it or thought of taking the long trip up north.

As it transpired I’m pleased I went.  Initially it was the best chance that I’ve had so far to talk face to face with others running Transformations projects and to share experiences.  From this it doesn’t seem a unique experience to find that such a project has unearthed a broader/greater/longer-term theme or challenges/problems that there is a need to look at.  The flip side of this positive is of course the challenge for a Transformations project manager to try to reign in “enthusiasm” and remember what the original project was, and what they are expected to deliver.

Anyway… the course itself.

Usefully Lawrie Phipps (Lawrie is the programme manager for the JISC Transformations Programme) was present for part of the day and was able to bring in the perspective of someone who has to wade through long project reports which often shine little light on matter such as what they are about, why they exist and what they have changed.  The purpose of the course was to present the alternative approach of using stories – in the form of short audio and video – as a communication device.

My conclusion was that there is definitely a point to this.  Having spent so many years around IT folk in particular a purely personal view is that communication with humans/the outside world is often not a strength (diplomatic enough?).  Thanks to all those involved in running the event, and to those who attended for the open minded approach they all took.

From a personal perspective, I must admit that love writing long reports and often they are what is needed… but equally recognise that this is not always the right communication tool.  I was definitely “out of my comfort zone” (apologies for the cliché) during the day but glad I attended and left determined to follow up on the aims of the event to prompt these alternative communication tools.  Yes, sometimes, in three minutes, with audio/video you can communicate far more effectively.

The particular link to Transformations is the following requirement:

…required to create a brief audio and/or video description of their project; what it has achieved and the main findings from their work by the Business Change Manager/Project Sponsor.