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12th International Digital Curation Conference

By ucyldva, on 10 March 2017

A few weeks ago I attended the 12th International Digital Curation Conference (http://www.dcc.ac.uk/events/idcc17) in Edinburgh along with my colleague Myriam, and members of UCL Research IT Services. The conference takes place annually with international attendees with interests in Digital Curation, Digital Preservation and Research Data Management. This year the theme of the conference was “Upstream, Downstream: embedding digital curation workflows for data science, scholarship and society”. The theme of Data Science is obviously a hot topic but I was pleased to see that sessions were nuanced about the limits to data science methodology and emphasised the importance of data being well managed and presented in order for it to provide useful insights. The attendees of the conference work in a broad range of different institutions, countries and disciplines which were useful for thinking about the different needs and services being offered to support Research Data Management.


In the interest of brevity, I won’t cover all of the sessions I attended. Some of the highlights of the conference included:

“Rich Information: Hides in Missing Data” – Maria Wolters

This session focused on issues associated with missing data. Maria Wolters argued that missing data can potentially be meaningful and useful for research when the reasons for missing data are known.  Examples focused on missing data in health research contexts. Sometimes missing data in this context could reveal problems with the study design or the way in which data was being collected. It could also reveal a change in the health of the patient which was meaningful and predictive of a particular outcome. From the perspective of Research Data Management, the talk highlighted the importance of good documentation around study design and principles. This is especially important for making data reusable for others who may not have the same background information on how information was collected and why some data may be missing.

Next-Generation Data Management Plans: Global, Machine-Actionable, FAIR – Stephanie Simms & Sarah Jones

Data Management Plans were a recurring theme of the conference. Helping researchers write Data Management Plans is a key area in which the Research Data Support Officers in the library work to support researchers. These plans are currently documents which with a bit of luck are updated during the project to reflect changes in data management needs. There is an increasing interest in using these Data Management Plans to interact with other systems and automate aspects of the data management process through ‘Machine-Actionable’ plans. Using ‘Machine-Actionable’ plans may allow for things like automatic storage allocation, initial metadata for the project to be shared across other systems and for researchers to receive more tailored guidance as they write their plans. These plans are being considered in the ongoing development of DMPOnline and online tool that helps researchers write their plans. Currently, we are working on introducing a customised version of DMPOnline for UCL. The potential for integrating DMPOnline with other services and systems within UCL offers presents an exciting opportunity.

Curriculum & Training strand 

The strand of the conference focusing on Research Data Management training was useful for helping develop further ideas about developing and building on the training we are offering in Research Data Management. Of particular interest was the session on researcher training on spreadsheet curation. Spreadsheets form a large part of research data outputs at UCL so developing practical training in best managing spreadsheets could be a useful area for the service to develop in the future.

The conference was a great opportunity to gain ideas through the presentation and workshops but also through discussion with other participants. Over the next year, I hope to turn some of the ideas gained from the conference into new or improved services for the researchers we support at UCL.

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