Meet Mildred 1: Data support from a one-stop shop

The goal of Mildred’s Sub-project 1 (there are four others) is to make data services easily accessible to researchers on the ThinkOpen website. This happens in two ways: by gathering the University of Helsinki’s existing data services onto one online service channel, and by designing self-service functions for researchers.

Eeva Nyrövaara and Aija Kaitera. Photo by Jussi Männistö

The service concept is more or less the same as that in Book Navigator: the services currently provided by several service providers are all available in a one-stop shop. Aggregation is sorely needed, as researchers are unaware of the university data services available to them.

“The idea is to bring together services such as storage and data publishing, to make it easier for a researcher to find them. At the same time they can get the required service for themselves,” says Mildred 1’s Project Manager, Aija Kaitera.

As well as single services and service packages (e. g. Storing confidential data, Sharing data), the researcher can use the search engine or the guidance wizard for service searching. The wizard also teaches the user basic data management. Aija Kaitera believes that typical service needs are related to data protection, data publishing and long-term storage.

“The question of personal data is of interest to many researchers, and we have to help them manage personal data properly. This service may include expert consultancy and technical solutions related to security; for example, specific storage,” Kaitera explains.

Now it is clearer what the university can offer and how these services are offered to researchers. The university’s data services were described and listed during the summer, and the online service channel will be introduced in the autumn of 2017. The website is ready to be tested, and researchers have been invited to take part in the piloting.

“This autumn, we have to decide how to maintain the services. How can we ensure that they are kept up to date? And how can we add new services to what we already have?” asks Mildred 1’s Project Owner, Eeva Nyrövaara.

Project Mildred is a unique venture, because it can cut across organizational boundaries. The Data Support team, part of Mildred’s Sub-project 1 illustrates this: via Data Support, researchers can access data management specialists in the Helsinki University Library, IT Services, Central Archives, Research Affairs, Personnel Services, and Legal Affairs. What is important is that the researcher does not need to know anything about the organizational structure behind Data Support.

“Our challenge is to present services with different backgrounds in a coherent, comprehensible way to the researcher. The services must be understandable from the perspective of the research process,” stresses Aija Kaitera.

Jussi Männistö, Eeva Nyrövaara and Aija Kaitera. Photo by Juuso Ala-Kyyny

The first phase involves only the services provided by the University of Helsinki. But co-operation with different service providers is under negotiation.

“We aim to provide services from external service providers as well; for example, a service request to CSC (IT Center for Science) could be sent through our online service channel,” says Kaitera.

In the future, the online service channel may include automated self-service functions (e.g. acquiring disk space) and various personalization features (e.g. a shopping cart, suggestions based on the discipline).

“We can’t quite get there this year, but these features would offer researchers really good added value,” claims Kaitera.

Embedding and marketing the online service channel among researchers is a major challenge, and support from researchers is welcome.

“Of course, it’s not enough for the online service channel to be on ThinkOpen. Researchers won’t find it. The data service channel must be integrated into project guidance, and everywhere else where the data is mentioned,” Aija Kaitera emphasizes.