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Research IT & Data Management drop-ins – autumn 2019 dates

TinaJohnson10 September 2019

The Research Data Management team and Research IT Services jointly run regular drop-in sessions.  These sessions are open to all UCL research staff and students. 

Someone from the Research Data Management team will be there to help you with:

– at all stages of the research lifecycle.

If you’d like to come along to one of our drop-in sessions, please contact the RDM team at lib-researchsupport@ucl.ac.uk with a summary of your research data query beforehand.

Representatives from all of the RITS service areas teams will also be on hand to answer questions or problems related the following areas:

  • research programming
  • workflow automation
  • finding tools and services for your research programmes
  • high performance computing
  • handling large datasets
  • handling personal and GDPR special category data
  • data storage

For RITS queries, there’s no need to book, but the RITS team 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.

Researchers are encouraged to attend however small their query. The sessions will also be a good opportunity to discuss research funder requirements, find out about services available at UCL and to get support with particular issues you are having.

Upcoming sessions

Date Time Location
Thursday 19 September 10am-12pm Common Ground, Institute of Advanced Studies, South Wing, UCL Main Building (www.ucl.ac.uk/maps/south-wing)
Tuesday 1 October 10am-12pm Common Ground, Institute of Advanced Studies, South Wing, UCL Main Building (www.ucl.ac.uk/maps/south-wing)
Thursday 17 October 10am-12pm Common Ground, Institute of Advanced Studies, South Wing, UCL Main Building (www.ucl.ac.uk/maps/south-wing)
Tuesday 5 November 10am-12pm Common Ground, Institute of Advanced Studies, South Wing, UCL Main Building (www.ucl.ac.uk/maps/south-wing)
Thursday 21 November 10am-12pm Common Ground, Institute of Advanced Studies, South Wing, UCL Main Building (www.ucl.ac.uk/maps/south-wing)
Tuesday 3 December 10am-12pm Common Ground, Institute of Advanced Studies, South Wing, UCL Main Building (www.ucl.ac.uk/maps/south-wing)
Thursday 19 December 10am-12pm Common Ground, Institute of Advanced Studies, South Wing, UCL Main Building (www.ucl.ac.uk/maps/south-wing)

Updated from the original post by Myriam Fellous-Sigrist, dated 11 December 2018

 

Harnessing FAIR Data Conference – QMUL, 3rd of September 2018

RuthWainman6 September 2018

On Monday (3rd of September), I attended the Harnessing FAIR Data conference held at Queen Mary in conjunction with UCL and the Science and Engineering South consortium. The event launched with an opening talk from Prof. Pam Thomas – the Pro Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Warwick. Prof. Thomas spoke of her involvement in leading a task force on Open Research Data which will eventually culminate in a final report in early 2018. Whilst the details of the report are yet to be finalised, the talk raised pertinent questions about what will happen to the increasing amounts of openly available research data that the UK universities seek to generate. As one audience member pointed out, there is still a need for specialist software to process this data otherwise it will remain unusable to other researchers in the future. Questions are currently abound as to whether researchers’ data will form part of the REF submission but for the meantime, it will remain more of a gold standard. David Hartland followed by giving an overview of the Jisc funded FAIR data report and confirmed what many in the audience already largely suspected – the difficulties of what adherence to FAIR data principles means in practice.

Another lively talk was given by Dr. Peter Murray-Rust who provided a rallying cry to all researchers to get behind their readers. The fact remains that a vast amount of research can only be accessed via a pay wall. Murray-Rust made the point that closed access data kills especially in countries which do not readily have access to the latest scientific research. Plus, researchers face further problems trying to extract data from articles which continue to be blocked by publishers as a result of access restrictions. Other talks centred more on the individual projects that researchers ranging from doctoral to early career and established are undertaking. Prof. Paul Longley from UCL’s Consumer Data Research Centre provided another interesting discussion about big data analytics. Just think about how much data companies take from our loyalty cards as a way to understand our shopping habits and movements. But how can this be harnessed for the social good? Well, according to Prof. Longley, we might want to use this data to look at people’s mobility around the country. This was later followed by a wide range of researcher lightning talks about their uses of open data. Some disciplines like biology pose more difficulties than others, as Dr. Yannick Wurm from Queen Mary argued, because they are still considered a young data science.

The conference ended with a panel discussion chaired by Robert Kiley of the Wellcome Trust. The panel was interspersed by anecdotes from Dr. Paul Ayris and Prof. Henry Rzepa about their personal experiences of sharing data. Dr. Ayris felt very much that historians continue to be resistant to sharing data. Prof. Henry Rzepa also spoke of his work as a research chemist and how his research later become subject to scrutiny only to discover that there were two ways his results could be interpreted.

All in all, the conference provided enough food for thought about the opportunities and difficulties that lie ahead for making use of researchers’ data in both a FAIR and open way.

Open Science at Utrecht University – Erasmus staff exchange

DanielVan Strien10 July 2018

I recently visited Utrecht University as part of an Erasmus Exchange exploring Open Science. The exchange was attended by staff working in libraries across Europe including Croatia, Finland, Malta, Austria, France and Latvia.  The exchange focused on Open Science support being delivered by Utrecht University as part of a national plan for open science.

Open Science in the Netherlands 

The programme was introduced in the context of ambitious plans in the Netherlands to pursue Open Science launched in a ‘National Plan open Science‘ launched in February 2017.

This plan includes focuses on three key areas;

  1. open access to publications which includes the ambitious aim ‘that publicly-funded scientific publications must be accessible to all by 2020’
  2. Making research data optimally available for reuse
  3. Recognition and rewards for researchers.

Open Science at Utrecht University

Utrecht University has developed local plans with the library playing a key role in supporting open science. The library spent time meeting with researchers to discuss how open science could be implemented within the university. This ensured researchers could outline their concerns and their own visions of open science. The chair of the project to implement the project is a researcher and will be supported by library colleagues. The library believed that this strategy of in-depth engagement which included meeting with 45 researchers/groups ensured that there was true buy-in from the research community when the project was launched.

The library has taken a distributed approach to work on Open Science with staff across the library taking ownership of particular areas of open science support. This approach has allowed the library to have a bigger impact than could be achieved by limiting open science support to one team and has made a broader range of support services possible.

Utrecht University Library

Utrecht University’s city centre Library

Areas of Open Science support

The schedule during the week included sessions on a range of topics:

Open access

This session introduced the work being done within the university and in particular focused on the coordinated work being carried out by Dutch universities to negotiate national deals with publishers for Hybrid Journals. These deals mean that researchers are able to publish without paying APCs themselves. Some publishers have helped this process by introducing workflows that make it easy for researchers to understand that they do not need to pay for an APC whilst also reducing the workload for the library in processing APCs.

The library also funds APCs for full Open Access journals but has set a maximum APC of a 100 Euros. This approach  – similar to that of other funding bodies including the Austrian Science Foundation – is intended to positively impact the market for APCs and push down the price. This type of policy was the topic of my Master’s dissertation so it was nice to revisit the topic and see how these approaches are currently being pursued by university libraries.

Research Data Management support 

Utrecht University has a policy on Research Data similar to that of UCL. Alongside helping develop and advocate for this policy the library provides training and support across the research data lifecycle including Data Management Planning and the publication of Research Data through various repositories.  A recent project by the library to build a pool of Data Managers based in the library but working on projects within the university was a particularly interesting approach to delivering practical support to projects in a sustainable way. This allows smaller projects who would struggle to hire a data manager themselves to get access to support as part of a funded project and also ensures that knowledge about systems, processes and policies are not lost at the end of a project when temporary staff leave.

Data Storage infrastructure at University of Utrecht and Research IT services

Utrecht University has also worked to develop IT Services to support research. This is still a relatively new area of support but has already resulted in some impressive projects. This includes YODA a platform that allows researchers to store, manage and share data on one platform. It leverages iRODS a data management technology which allows researchers or data managers to set rules for how data will be managed. YODA includes options to take snapshots to be archived at particular points in the project, options to share data with collaborators with a range of access permissions and to publish metadata or the full data through a repository. A major advantage of the platform is that it is also suitable for holding sensitive data. This means researchers don’t need to engage with different systems when they are working on projects that contain sensitive data and they can also easily publish metadata only records of projects to allow other researchers to request access to this data.

Digital Humanities support, Open Education Repository and other experiments by the library

The library is also experimenting in a number of other areas related to open science. This includes providing support for digital humanities projects, particularly by providing legal advice for text mining projects and facilitating access to materials. The library is currently launching an open education repository to support the dissemination of potentially reusable teaching materials. Utrecht University Library is also in the process of becoming an early example of a library without a catalogue. Instead, they have moved their collections to WorldCat this approach was taken in recognition of the fact that most researchers and students won’t necessarily begin searching for information through a university library catalogue.

Lessons learned

Attending this Erasmus Staff Exchange was a valuable learning experience, particularly in helping me think about how to link the Research Data Management support within the library to open science. Some of the lessons picked up on the exchange will feed into a course I run on open science and open notebooks.  The approach of developing a programme for a group of visitors meant that experiences of supporting open science could be exchanged between participants and it was particularly interesting to learn about how open science was being approached across different insitutions accross Europe. I hope that the Erasmus Exchange will continue to be available to people based in UK universities in the future and would encourage anyone interested to apply to the scheme. If you have questions about how it works I would be happy to answer them.

 

 

 

 

 

Love Data Week 2018

DanielVan Strien12 February 2018

This week is the 3rd international Love Data Week. ‘Similar to Open Access Week, the purpose of the Love Data Week (LDW) event is to raise awareness and build a community to engage on topics related to research data management, sharing, preservation, reuse, and library-based research data services.’ Several Research Data Management teams from London universities have joined forces to run a series of data related events.

Most events are open to all UCL research staff and research students and library staff are also welcome to attend. During the Love Data Week we will also be publishing a number of data case studies on UCL’s Research Data Management Blog.

You can find an overview of the events below;

A full listing of events is available to share.

For any UCL-specific questions, please contact the UCL Research Data Support officers at lib-researchsupport@ucl.ac.uk.

Text Mining: the role for libraries?

DanielVan Strien2 October 2017

Text Mining: the role for libraries?

Time: 14:00 – 16:30

Date: 23/11/2017

Location: Room 417, DMS Watson Science Library

Text mining – also known as Text Data Mining, Text analytics and Distant Reading – refers to a broad range of processes for extracting information from text. This includes visualization of a single text, finding patterns in large corpora and topic modelling.

Text Mining presents exciting opportunities for researchers across all disciplines.  The expanding volume of literature, the growing interdisciplinary nature of research and the ever-decreasing cost of computing power makes text mining an increasingly powerful tool for researchers. However, despite the potential benefits, the use of text mining in research is still limited.

There are a number of reasons for this; legal barriers, difficulty accessing materials and a lack of knowledge on potential tools and techniques are some of the major ones. Is there a role for libraries to play in overcoming these barriers?

The Research Data Management team have been working with colleagues from the library and Research IT services on a session exploring the potential role libraries could play in supporting Text Mining.

The session will provide:

– an introduction to (potential) uses of text mining in research (Daniel van Strien)

– an outline of some of the legal issues surrounding text mining (Chris Holland Copyright Support Officer at UCL)

– examples of some of the research being done using text mining approaches by UCL researchers in collaboration with Software Developers from Research IT services (Tom Couch, RITs and Raquel Alegre, Research Software Development Group)

The session will allow time for discussion around the potential role of libraries in supporting text mining and present some options for further activities.

If you would like to attend please send an email to d.strien@ucl.ac.uk

How can library staff support Research Data Management?

DanielVan Strien4 August 2017

The Research Data Management (RDM) team recently ran two training sessions on RDM aimed at library staff. The first of these sessions was aimed at subject liaison librarians. The second was organised by Angela Young as part of the series the Summer School and was primarily aimed at library staff working in biomedical libraries.

Both sessions aimed to provide an introduction (or reminder) of the aims behind RDM, the services available at UCL to support researchers and to discuss how library staff can support RDM. As part of our ongoing work to develop the services we offer to support researchers with RDM, we are trying to increase the amount of subject specific resources and guidance available. Different disciplines can have very different types of data, different approaches to working with data or a perception that they don’t work with data. Working with colleagues in the library who support researchers across the disciples represented at UCL should help us develop better support for researches.

As part of both of the sessions, we had a number of different exercises. One of the exercises involved mapping out the interactions library staff and services have with researchers at different stages of the research lifecycle. We asked participants to work in groups to discuss whether the lifecycles accurately reflected the research process and decide on their preferred model. We then asked participants to annotate their chosen lifecycle with points where they may have interactions with researchers.

lifecycleOne of the challenges for the RDM team is trying to engage researchers earlier in their research process so we can help advocate for good practices in storing and collecting data which in turn makes data sharing easier at the end of a project. Mapping out the lifecycles with colleagues from the library gave us useful insights into where potential opportunities may be available for RDM advocacy. During the sessions, we also discussed how existing activities carried out by library staff (training, open access advocacy, signposting, research support…) and the existing skills of library staff can complement RDM advocacy.

We are planning to collate the research lifecycles produced during the sessions and turn it into a resource for us to use when planning advocacy. If you are interested in contributing to developing a lifecycle model with us send an email to lib-academicsupport@ucl.ac.uk.

The Pro-Vice-Provost’s view

PaulAyris6 May 2017

LEARN End of Project Conference

5 May saw the final Conference in the 2-year EU-funded LEARN project on research data management (RDM), which has been led by UCL. This attracted 128 registrations in Senate House from 21 countries, with 95 institutions represented.

Deliverables IMG_4286The day opened with a keynote presentation by Professor Kurt Deketelaere (Secretary General of LERU, the League of European Research Universities). Kurt gave a challenging presentation on the need for universities to get serious about RDM. He noted the leadership role that Europe is playing in delivering RDM solutions. Further keynote addresses in the Programme from Spain and Finland amplified the theme from the point of view of research-intensive universities and infrastructure suppliers. Panel sessions with guest members answered questions from the audience on RDM and debated with each other the validity of current approaches and views.

After lunch, the Conference broke into 4 parallel Tutorials, for which UCL led 2. I gave a tutorial on how to use the 200-page LEARN Toolkit of 23 Best Practice Case Studies. June Hedges, Myriam Fellous-Sigrist and Daniel Van Strien also gave a tutorial on engaging early career researchers in RDM issues.

The final keynote was delivered by Dr Claudio Gutierrez of the University of Chile, illustrating with an apple and two books  that research data has become the new currency of the research environment.

The Conference marked the end of the LEARN project, which officially finishes at the close of the month. Twitter postings underline how valuable attenders found the event. CODATA and EUDAT have commended the Toolkit of Best Practice Case Studies. In one of the video podcasts from the day, a North American visitor commented that (as a result of his attendance) he felt Europe was more advanced than the USA in tackling RDM issues. This, and other podcasts, will be available on the LEARN website (along with videos of all the plenary sessions). The podcasts can currently be seen via Twitter and are discoverable under the hashtag #learnldn.

The LEARN partners have enjoyed working together so much over the last 2 years that we are already planning a LEARN II – this time focussed on the whole area of Open Science.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost

12th International Digital Curation Conference

DanielVan Strien10 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.

Edinburgh_Castle_Rock

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.

Research software management, sharing and sustainability

DanielVan Strien23 January 2017

Two weeks ago I attended ‘research software management, sharing and sustainability’ at the British Library. The event organised by the Software Sustainability Institute (an organisation promoting best practices in research software development) and JISC and hosted by the British Library aimed to explore some of the challenges that researchers faced in developing, maintaining and sharing software they produce as part of their research. In my role as one of the Research Data Support officers one of my responsibilities involves helping foster best practices around research data management. This includes issues around data collection, organisation, storage and sharing – increasingly activities aided by the use of software. For many data collections, analysis and reuse is difficult, if not impossible, without access to the software that was used to generate, process or analyse the data.  As a result of this close relationship between data and software, it is important that research data management activities considers software alongside data.

Image result for british library creative commons

The first session of the day was run by Neil Chue Hong of the Software Sustainability Institute. Neil’s talk framed the rest of the day with the title ‘is my research right? Surviving in a post-expert world’. Neil began by discussing research projects where software (or more specifically the way humans used software) has resulted in incorrect results being published. Many of these mistakes were later discovered by other researchers demonstrating the importance of making underlying data and code available for others to interrogate. Having introduced some of the problems Neil outlined some of the things that researchers can do to address these. Suggestions for best practices were presented in a paper, ‘Best Practices for Scientific Computing’  include using version control, unit testing your code and using a continuous integration service. A subsequent paper recognised that some of these best practices could be intimidating to researchers so a set of ‘Good Enough Practices in Scientific Computing’ was subsequently published.

Following Neil’s session there were a range of group discussions and exercises alongside sessions by Torsten Reimer, Angela Dappert and Rachael Kotarski covering institutional support, software preservation and crediting software. There are already a range of UCL services which support researchers in these areas. Research IT Services provide training, consulting on software development and a research software dashboard which helps researchers get credit for software they produce as part of their research by linking it to IRIS profiles and making it easier for others to cite this software.

"Citation needed" CC BY 2.0 Image by 'futureatlas.com' on Flickr https://flic.kr/p/8PhzKc

“Citation needed” –  CC BY 2.0 image by ‘futureatlas.com’ on Flickr

Many of the sessions mentioned potential roles libraries could have in supporting software sharing and sustainability, these included hosting sessions on best software practices for researchers, incorporating considerations around software and code in open access and research data management services and working to shift practices and cultures of academic recognition (not a simple task!).  A simple step is to encourage students and academics to cite software used as part of their research. The Software Sustainability Institute offers guidance on citing software in academic papers. Currently researchers do not often receive the same level of academic recognition for software they write when compared to other academic outputs. Projects like Depsy are playing a part in trying to shift this lack of recognition by tracking contributions researchers have made to software, and the subsequent use of that code in other software or published outputs. Librarians can also support researchers by offering them support in making their own code citable.

Although there were no simple solutions to the issues raised during the sessions it was useful to share ideas with other people working in similar and different contexts and to begin to think about projects that would help address these issues. The Software Sustainability Institute host regular events and has a great range of resources which I would recommend if you are interested in these issues.

The Director’s View: European Open Science Cloud

PaulAyris12 October 2016

Sharing in an Open environment

One of my duties in UCL Library Services is to represent this university in LERU, the League of European Research Universities. In that capacity, I am a member of the European Commission’s High Level Expert Group on an exciting new initiative – the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC).

11 October saw the publication of our first Report, which can be found here. The  Recommendations provide a solid starting point for further reflection and engagement of scientific user communities, research funders and Member States in the making of this global initiative. This is important for UCL Library Services because research data management  and support for open access to publications are a big new agenda in how we can support our users.

EOSCEOSC aims to accelerate and support the current transition to more effective Open Science and Open Innovation in the Digital Single Market. It should enable trusted access to services, systems and the re-use of shared scientific data across disciplinary, social and geographical borders. The term cloud is understood by the EOSC High Level Expert Group as a metaphor to help convey both seamlessness and the idea of a commons based on existing and emerging elements in the Member States, with light-weight international guidance and governance and a large degree of freedom regarding practical implementation. The EOSC is indeed a European infrastructure, but it should be globally interoperable and accessible. It includes the required human expertise, resources, standards, and best practices as well as underpinning technical infrastructures. An important aspect of the EOSC is systematic and professional data management and long-term stewardship of scientific data assets and services in Europe and globally. However, data stewardship is not a goal in itself and the final realm of the EOSC is the frontier of science and innovation in Europe [Realising the European Open Science Cloud. First Report of the Commission’s High Level Expert Group on the European Open Science Cloud, p. 6].

Now the Report is published, the Expert Group is following up with how we make this Cloud a reality. Exciting and challenging times.

Paul Ayris

Director of UCL Library Services