I’m spending most of this week at the DCC’s 10th International Digital Curation Conference in London. Research data management (RDM) is a key subject throughout the conference, but I have a particular interest in the Islandora software, covered by a poster, demonstration and finally a workshop on Thursday. The Digital Humanities site at St Andrews is an Islandora site, and I’ll come back to it in another post following the workshop.
On the wider subject of RDM (or Digital Curation, if you prefer), a number of key themes kept cropping up. There has been a lot of talk about carrots vs. sticks (and, at one point, carrot sticks) – having funders require researchers to undertake data management tasks and make certain commitments is effective in getting things moving in the right direction, but there is a real need for a change of culture so that good data management practices are embedded within research processes because they deliver real benefits to researchers. Part of achieving this is providing suitably usable services that a cost/benefit analysis makes good practices attractive and change behaviours and attitudes. However, sustained funding is required to provide those services, whether at institutional or cross-institutional levels. Meanwhile, project funding needs to allow for data management costs.
While it would be wonderful if providing suitable incentives were sufficient in engendering good practices, a particular example emerged in discussions around funder requirements for data management plans. The EPSRC is unusual in the UK in not requiring researchers to submit a DMP (funders may use other terminology, e.g. technical plan) with their bids. They do expect a DMP to exist, but do not ask to see it and it is incumbent on the institution to make sure that it is in place. The upshot is that it can be difficult to get researchers applying to the EPSRC to write DMPs – it doesn’t affect whether or not their bid will succeed, so why bother? While having researchers do this as a box-ticking exercise to ensure compliance with funder requirements is less than ideal, it is better than it not being done at all and can help to create good habits.
The sessions have ranged widely, and presentations are available from the programme page. The posters are also available online. Watch out for papers in the next edition of the International Journal of Digital Curation.
A couple of positive observations – they may seem faint, but are worth bearing in mind for those of us trying to move things forward:
- Slow progress is still progress
- Poor metadata is better than no metadata
Finally, I’d like to give a plug to DMPonline partly because I was a developer working on it before coming to St Andrews but mainly because it is the best way to draft a DMP (even if you’re EPSRC-funded!), with templates based on funder requirements and guidance from both the University and the funder.