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Research software management, sharing and sustainability

ucyldva23 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

Paul Ayris12 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

The Director’s View: LEARN Workshop no. 2

Paul Ayris8 April 2016

LEaders Activating Research Networks

LEARN is an EU-funded project, led by UCL Library Services, which aims to prepare researchers, research organisations and funders for the data deluge. In new emerging research paradigms, the research data which underpins the research publication can be made available alongside the publication itself (e.g. journal article, book).

Stephansdom, Vienna

The 2nd LEARN Workshop was held in the University of Vienna on 7 April (Stephansdom, Vienna, left). There were just under 50 attenders from a number of countries – Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Italy and Switzerland. The morning session was given over to keynote presentations, setting the scene. I gave one on the importance of research data management and the ambitions of the LEARN project.

The afternoon sessions were devoted to Breakout Groups, where all the attenders were asked to contribute their views on a number of issues. I chaired the session on policy development. Compared to the UK, it was interesting to discover that most research organisations in central and eastern Europe did not have research data management policies. UCL’s is here.

The Workshop was very useful in identifying a number of themes and approaches, which will be reflected in the Toolkit of Good Practice which the project is developing. One obvious area is on policy development, and the routes that institutions have taken in establishing research data management policies. Another lesson learned from the Vienna meeting is that the project outputs, principally the template Research Data Management policy and the Toolkit of Best Practice, need to reflect the actual needs of research organisations and where they are in instituting research data management practices and infrastructures. These will differ institution by institution and the project needs to be aware of this.

The 3rd LEARN Workshop is at the LIBER Conference in Helsinki in the Summer.

Paul Ayris

Director of UCL Library Services


The Director’s View: LEARN Workshop – LEaders Activating Research Networks

Paul Ayris5 February 2016

29 January 2016 saw the first LEARN Workshop take place in Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, London.

LEARN London2 Jan16

LEARN is an EU-funded project, led by UCL Library Services, on the topic of research data management. 83 registered delegates attended the day from the UK, the continent of Europe and Santiago in Chile.  Attenders were librarians and IT staff, researchers, research funders, and research organisations. The LEARN project partners are: UCL, Universities of Vienna and Barcelona, LIBER (Association of European Research Libraries) and the UN Library (CEPAL) in Santiago, Chile.

LEARN has as its ambition to deliver a model Research Data Management (RDM) policy, a Toolkit highlighting Best Practice and Case Studies in RDM, and an Executive Briefing for decision makers on RDM in 5 languages. The London Workshop was the first in a series of Workshops in the next 18 months being held by all the partners.

LEARN London Jan16

The Workshop was introduced by Professor David Price (Vice-Provost, Research, UCL) and the keynote speakers were Professor Geoffrey Boulton (Edinburgh), Dr Paul Ayris (UCL), Professor Sabina Leonelli (Exeter) and Dr Peter Murray-Rust (Cambridge). The keynotes set the tone for the day and helped to explain what the LEARN project is designed to achieve.

The afternoon session was devoted to 4 Breakout Groups, where the participants were asked to identify issues, interests and Best Practice Case Studies in RDM. These were then reported back to the plenary session and will form the bedrock of the LEARN Toolkit, one of the project deliverables.

The plenary sessions were videoed and will be made available on the LEARN website, along with the powerpoints and Reports from the Breakout Groups.

LEARN will return to the UK in 18 months time, as we will also be holding the end-of-project Conference here in London.

Paul Ayris

Director of UCL Library Services

The Director’s View: LIBER 2015 ends in triumph for London

Paul Ayris28 June 2015

24-26 June 2015 saw the 44th LIBER Annual Conference take place in London, organised by Imperial College London, the University of London, UCL and the LSE. DSC09398

480+ attenders from all over Europe were present at the event, with visitors also from Canada, the USA and elsewhere. LIBER 2015 is the largest Conference in LIBER’s history. The theme of the Conference was Towards Open Science – a global movement which sees openness and sharing as crucial themes in the processes involved in research and education.

The two keynote speakers on Day 1 set the tone for the whole Conference. Sir Mark Walport, Chief Scientific Adviser to HM Government and Head of the Government Office for Science UK, gave the opening keynote to a packed audience in Beveridge Hall, Senate House.DSC09189 What is a library in the 21st century? The role of a library is to communicate knowledge, and knowledge is power. New models of doing and publishing science will inevitably alter how results and supporting data are stored and disseminated. Sir Mark Walport discussed how libraries can work to maximise the distribution of knowledge, while protecting the intellectual property of its authors. For Sir Mark, electronic publication is a second Gutenberg moment. Science is not finished until communicated. For Sir Mark, librarians are visionaries who will help deliver the revolution which comes in the wake of the Open agenda.

Immediately after Sir Mark’s keynote, LIBER 2015 invited Dr Jean-Claude Burgelman, Head of the Unit of ScieDSC09200nce Policy and Foresight, Directorate General RTD in the European Commission, to address the Conference. Jean-Claude analysed the findings of his Europe-wide consultation on Open Science. I had been privileged to be a keynote speaker for LERU (League of European Research Universities) at the consultation meeting in Leuven, Belgium. Jean-Claude highlighted that the two main features of the Open Science movement are Open Access to Publications and Research Data Management (with Open Data as a goal). UCL should feel pleased, as these are two areas which are strategic priorities and areas in which UCL Library Services is fully involved.

The 3 days of the Conference provided an unrivalled opportunity for delegates to hear first rate academic papers, and to take advantage of opportunities for networking and for developing new collaborations. Over 5000 tweets were sent to the #LIBER2015 hashtag, and the feedback from delegates on the success of the Conference has been uniformly positive. Over 60 colleagues from the four London organisers made a tremendous


contribution to the successful running of the Conference over the whole week. It has taken 2 years for the Local Organising Committee in London to organise the event, and the contribution of all who generously gave their time has been nothing short of outstanding.

The launch of UCL Press earlier in June forms part of UCL’s contribution to the Open Science agenda, as UCL Press is the UK’s first fully OA University Press. Timed with the LIBER Conference, Waterstones opposite UCL DSC09406has made a display of the first 3 launch titles from the Press for those customers who wish to buy paper copies – digital versions are freely available on the UCL Press website. All members of UCL Library Services can feel proud at the Library’s outstanding achievement in developing UCL Press as an OA press.

One of the Key Performance Areas of the new Library Strategy is Communication, Open Access and Outreach. LIBER 2015 has been a deep and meaningful contribution to this KPA. Open Science has Open Access at its heart. Communication and Outreach across the whole of Europe were at the heart of the academic presentations and the networking and collaborations at the LIBER Conference. LIBER 2015 was good for Europe and good for UCL, because it has enabled us to show the European library world what a fantastic library community we have built here.

All the presentations, and videos from the plenary sessions, will be available via the Conference Programme in the coming days.

Paul Ayris

Director of UCL Library Services

Chair, Local Organising Committee in London, LIBER 2015