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What is FOI and how does it apply to researchers?

By Ruth Wainman, on 7 September 2018

The Freedom of Information Act was created in 2000 to increase the transparency of the public sector and their activities. Under the Act, research data can be requested although copyright and IP rights to the data remain with the original researcher. When a request for information is made, there are normally 20 working days to respond. In the UK, most universities are defined as public authorities and are thus legally obliged to respond to FOI requests. There are, however, some key exemptions to the Act in the UK including:

  1. Personal data about living individuals cannot be requested, unless it is about you.
  2. Information that is accessible by other means.
  3. Information intended for future publication.
  4. Information that is subject to a confidentiality agreement.
  5. Information whose release would prejudice legitimate commercial interests.
  6. In Scotland, information that is part of a finite research programme for which there is a publication schedule and clear intent to publish.
  7. If the public interest in withholding the information is greater than the public interest disclosing.

Source: Corti et al 2014

There have been a number of high profile cases in which FOI requests have been made against research data being collected by the universities. Data cannot be withheld indefinitely so you should always work under the presumption that if any information is not released the first time round, it can always be requested again. Researchers are therefore advised to detail the ways in which they plan to release their data in a data management plan in order to avoid any unanticipated FOI requests. It is therefore paramount that you plan for FOI and the implications of the Act when creating a data management plan. Writing a plan will also enable you to think more carefully through issues surrounding consent, sharing and ethics. Yet researchers should always remember that the FOI Act can often act as a useful means of data collection in its own right.

At UCL, further guidance on FOI can be found on the Research Integrity pages. If in doubt, researchers are also advised to get in contact with UCL’s specialist Legal Services team.

Further Information

What is a Format?

By Ruth Wainman, on 7 September 2018

A format is essentially the form your data will take once you collect and archive it. Researchers are strongly advised to think very carefully about the final format their data will take so that it can be preserved for future use.

There are two main two main categories of files – proprietary and non-proprietary formats. Proprietary formats are more limited as they only work with the software provided by the creator of that data. On the other hand, non-proprietary formats can be used by anyone, are usually free of charge and therefore have more utility for future researchers. Plus open formats provide instant and easy access to data. In most cases, you should aim for your data to take the following formats:

  1. Non-proprietary
  2. Unencrypted
  3. Uncompressed
  4. Open, documented standard
  5. Commonly used by your research community
  6. Use common character encodings – ASCII, Unicode, UTF-8

There will always be cases where you will inevitably need to change the format of your data during the course of your research. This is why it is important that you provide further details about the format your data will take in your DMP and any features that may be lost once you convert it for archiving. Open formats may not support all of the original functionality of proprietary formats so you must take steps to hold on to both your raw and converted data sets. Some funders may also have specific requirements surrounding the final form your data should take so be sure to check their policies before committing to any set format.

Further links

Open Data as OER

By C. Yogeswaran, on 13 August 2018

Join us for this month’s UCL open education special interest group meeting. Dr. Javiera Atenas from the Open Knowledge Foundation will talk about a pedagogical element to foster open education through the use of Open Data, which MIT is currently working on. Javiera will showcase a data-research impact tool developed by the MIT which can be used as good practice to showcase open data as OER.

Wednesday 15 August 2018, 3-4pm, in Room 712, Maple House, W1T 7NF [map]

Introducing UCL’s open education initiative

By C. Yogeswaran, on 7 August 2018

Website: www.ucl.ac.uk/oer | Email: oer@ucl.ac.uk | Twitter: @OpenUCL | Repository: URL subject to change

What is open education?

Open education, like open access and open data, centres on a commitment to provide access to high quality education and educational resources to a global audience.

As the Open Education Consortium declares, “sharing is probably the most basic characteristic of education: education is sharing knowledge, insights and information with others, upon which new knowledge, skills, ideas and understanding can be built”.

Open education typically involves the creation and sharing of openly-licensed learning materials – open educational resources (OER) – that can be re-used and enhanced by the community. OER can include lesson and course plans, exercises, diagrams, animations, video or audio lecture recordings, presentations, handouts, mock papers/tests, reading lists, and so on.

How is research data relevant to open education?

Open Educational Data (OED) is open research data which can be reused for educational (teaching and learning) purposes and improving the quality of education. The UK Data Service states that “real data bring learning to life” and that using data for teaching “is an invaluable way for learners to confront complex […] research questions.”

UCL’s open data repository, which is currently in development, will allow users to access and use data for educational purposes. Datasets which include raw and summary data can be curated and used as research-based educational content, and can include additional descriptive and support documents such as workbooks and educational guidelines.

Research methods and data analysis can be taught using embedded discipline-specific or inter-disciplinary data; this gives students real-world and practical resources to learn with, and increases the use and impact of research data.

Why should I share research data as educational content?

Publishing research data as educational resources will have wider global reach and impact, and attributing the UCL brand to your output should provide quality assurance for other users.

Your published OED can be cited and referenced by others and can be included in your publications (tying into the Academic Promotions Framework, which rewards open behaviours, for example), adding value to your teaching and research, and raising your professional reputation.

How will this benefit my students and me?

While the initial creation of educational materials from published data can require some consideration, sharing these will allow the creators to promote good practice, collaborate with other educators and learners, and respond to UCL promotional criteria that require publication of educational materials.

There is some evidence that re-using high-quality OER is a time- and cost-saving activity, as you can edit existing educational materials to make content specific to your programme or class. OER-use can also provide the chance to learn in different ways, i.e. a flipped classroom, and insight into the research-based teaching approaches of fellow practitioners in your field might lead to collaboration, inspire your own teaching and research, or contribute to original output.

Getting involved and learning more

If you have any content (such as data-specific OER) you would like to upload to the repository or if you require further information, please contact the OER team at oer@ucl.ac.uk who will be happy to support you.

To find out more about open education or to contribute to this practice at UCL, ask to join the mailing list by emailing oer@ucl.ac.uk, or attend the next meeting of the open education special interest group (SIG). This will be held on Wednesday 15 August 2018 3-4pm in room 712, Maple House.

We will also be present at RDM/RITS drop-in sessions if you’d like to talk to us or learn more about creating OER from your research data. Information about upcoming SIG meetings and RDM/RITS drop-in sessions can be found here.

More information about the project is available on the OER website, or you can follow us on Twitter @OpenUCL.

Further reading/viewing

UDIT: using (open) data in teaching (collaboration with Toronto, Amsterdam, and Radboud (Netherlands)) is a pool of resources for teachers to help them use open data in their teaching. These are being put into OER Commons and accompanied with the UDIT module. For those interested in contributing data, the project is seeking materials to incorporate into modules and OER Commons.

Open data in education (Marieke Guy, NetworkED)

You can also learn more by reading the Open data as open educational resources: case studies of emerging practice book, which includes case studies edited by Javiera Atenas and Leo Havemann.

Event at QMUL – SES Open: Harnessing FAIR Data Symposium, 3 September 2018

By Daniel Van Strien, on 25 July 2018

SES Open:  Harnessing FAIR Data Symposium

Harnessing FAIR Data (3 September 2018, 13:00 – 17:00) focuses on researchers who employ or are seeking to use data in their work. FAIR is a set of guiding principles to make data Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable. In this thematic context we aim to better understand the cross-disciplinary practice of sourcing, using and managing data and its associated implications, such as ownership, standards and metadata, and access and licensing. Experienced speakers from around the UK will come together to explore FAIR data and services, and a panel session will help to identify key questions that researchers face when considering using data in research.

Register online

Programme highlights:

Realising the Potential: Final Report of the Open Data Task Force. 
Prof. Pam Thomas, University of Warwick
The Re-use of Consumer Data for the Social Good
Prof. Paul Longley, Department of Geography, UCL
Using socio-ecological simulation models to make the most of hard-won paleoecological data 
Andrew Lane, Department of Geography, King’s College London
The CLOSER consortium of longitudinal studies: Opportunities and obstacles in harmonising data from diverse sources
Dr. Dara O’Neill, CLOSER, UCL Institute of Education
Publishing FAIR Data in Chemistry
Dr. Charles Romain, Department of Chemistry, Imperial College London

Panel members: Prof. Pam Thomas, Dr. Paul Ayris (UCL), Prof. Henry Rzepa (Imperial College London)

This event is hosted by QMUL, UCL eResearch Domain and the SES Consortium.

New course in 2018/19! Writing Effective Data Management Plans

By Myriam Fellous-Sigrist, on 17 July 2018

Write

Photo by Mike Laurence / CCBY

Research Data Management (RDM) is an increasingly important skill for researchers across all disciplines and career stages. Most research funders are introducing new requirements around Data Management as part of the application process. Often researchers will be asked to produce a Data Management Plan or be required to share data at the end of a project.

This workshop will provide a practical overview of the major issues in RDM including how to meet funder requirements, how to effectively store data during your project, and making decisions about whether to share research data. As part of the workshop participants will begin to develop their Data Management Plan.

This new regular course will start in September 2018. Booking is already open for the following dates, 14:00-15:30: 26/09, 24/10 and 21/11.

This new course is part of the support services already provided by the Library RDM team to write Data Management Plans. Online resources will remain available to understand funders’ requirements, see examples of Plans and ask for review.

Research IT & Data Management drop-ins: dates for 2018/19

By Myriam Fellous-Sigrist, on 27 June 2018

The Research Data Management and Research IT teams run regular drop-in sessions. These sessions are open to all UCL research staff and research students and will be attended by someone from the Research Data Management team as well as representatives from all of the RITS service areas; if you have any questions or problems related the following areas, you should find someone there who can help:

  • research programming
  • workflow automation
  • finding tools and services for your research programmes
  • high performance computing
  • handling large datasets
  • handling sensitive data
  • data storage
  • Research Data Management (including Data Management Plans).

There’s no need to book, but we can make sure there’ll be someone there to help with your problem if you email rits@ucl.ac.uk ideally two days before the session.

Read the rest of this entry »

How can I preserve and share research software?

By Daniel Van Strien, on 23 May 2018

Research software is an increasingly important research output across all disciplines. Alongside this, there is an increasing recognition of the role of software in supporting the reproducibility of papers.  Whilst there is still work to be done on ensuring proper credit for research software there are already steps that researchers can take to make their software more sustainable whether this software consists of a short script used to generate graphs and other visualisations in a paper or a large software project with many collaborators:

  • We have guidance available outlining some approaches to preserving and sharing research software.
  • UCL benefits from a Research IT Services team who support researchers using software in their research
  • Regular drop-ins offer the opportunity to get support from teams from the Library and Research IT Services on issues related to research software alongside data management, open science or policy questions.

 

 

 

Writing Effective Data Management Plans – 2nd May, 14:00-16:00

By Daniel Van Strien, on 20 April 2018

Research Data Management (RDM) is an increasingly important skill for researchers across all disciplines and career stages.

Research funders are increasingly introducing new requirements around Data Management as part of the application process. Often researchers will be asked to produce a Data Management Plan as part of a funding application or be required to share data at the end of a project.

This workshop will provide a practical overview of the major issues in RDM including how to meet funder requirements, how to effectively store data during your project, and making decisions about whether to share research data. As part of the workshop participants will begin to develop a datamanagement plan.

By the end of the workshop, participants will be able to:

  • identify the main considerations in RDM for their project
  • understand how to comply with funder policies
  • make more informed decisions about effective data sharing
  • produce an effective Data Management Plan

This session will take place on the 2nd of May, 14:00-16:00. Further details and booking available through Organisational Development

UCL Open Science Day: developing open scholarship at UCL

By Daniel Van Strien, on 19 April 2018

Free event for UCL researchers and staff.

This one day workshop will explore the facets of Open Science and how these are/could be pursued by UCL researcher. In the morning speakers will discuss different aspects of and perspectives on Open Science with afternoon workshops offering practical advice. There will also be opportunity to discuss the steps UCL should take to support Open Science. This free event will be open to all UCL staff and is delivered by UCL Library Services with support from UCL Organisational Development.

Speakers include:

  • Prof. David Price, Vice-Provost (Research), UCL
  • Dr Paul Ayris, Pro-Vice-Provost, UCL Library Services
  • Catriona MacCallum, Director of Open Science, Hindawi
  • Emily Sena, University of Edinburgh
  • James Wilsdon, University of Sheffield
  • Simon Hettrick, Sustainable Software Institute

Afternoon workshops will cover:

  • How do we make Open the default at UCL
  • How to make your data open (and FAIR)?
  • Citizen Science
  • Open Peer review
  • Open Education

Registration available via Eventbrite. Please contact lib-researchsupport@ucl.ac.uk with any questions.