The starting point for Project Mildred was the need to improve the quality of research data management (see the University of Helsinki research data policy). Funders, for example the Academy of Finland and the EU, require proper data management. A data management plan (DMP) is the basis on which all Mildred services are built. And in turn, the Mildred services provide researchers with the tools to implement a DMP in practice.
Mildred’s Sub-project 5 focuses on data management planning. The tool designed for researchers’ data planning, DMPTuuli, connects all Mildred services.
“DMPTuuli will market and provide links to other Mildred services. For example, data management during the research process requires Mildred 2 and Mildred 4 services,” says Mildred 5’s Project Manager, Mari Elisa Kuusniemi, also known as MEK.
DMPTuuli has been in use since the autumn of 2016. Currently, Mildred 5 focuses on developing discipline-specific guidance for the use of DMPTuuli, in co-operation with researchers (see DMP hackathon for historians).
“The tool itself is easy to use and doesn’t really need development. User ratings have been positive (see DMPTuuli user survey data in Figshare). Our challenge is the content. Research data management is a new issue for many researchers, and a researcher must take into account how the data are managed, collected, described and organized, already during the research. Then they need to know what is required to publish the data, and how to preserve it. Research data management involves all kinds of processes and agreements. This isn’t an easy task, even though the tool is easy to use,” says MEK.
Research data management practices vary by discipline, and various organisations within the University of Helsinki also provide guidance. The problem is that this guidance is scattered; legal advice is located in one place, research funding advice in another. DMPTuuli tries to serve all research data management guidance in one place.
“We are about to begin co-operation with Ethics Committees in order to provide guidance for the management of sensitive data. This is important, because legislation is about to change (see General Data Protection Regulation, GDPR),” says MEK.
DMPTuuli has been implemented in close co-operation with the Academy of Finland. In the autumn of 2016, the Academy received 1000 applications from the University of Helsinki, 800 of which were made via DMPTuuli.
“The strength of Project Mildred lies in the fact that it has involved research funding organisations right from the beginning. And every time the funder is involved, the researcher’s interest is aroused. This enables us to market university services,” says Mildred 5’s Project Owner, Pälvi Kaiponen.
A year ago, Academy funding made DMP better known among researchers and also provided information on the development of DMPTuuli. For example, researchers wanted to be able to log in using their organisation IDs, a wish which has now been granted. Exemplary DMPs are also published.
The DMP is part of the transformation process of research culture, in which proper research data management plays a significant role.
“It’s important to increase researchers’ understanding of why a DMP is relevant. A DMP is not only for the Academy of Finland; it’s for the researcher him/herself to better manage data,” claims Pälvi Kaiponen.
“Once the DMP has been made, its significance is usually understood. More and more, researchers ask for help with the matter itself, that is, managing the data, instead of asking for help to meet the funder’s requirements. Eighty per cent of the researchers who participated in the DMP workshops in the spring of 2017 did so because of data management. The change has been pretty quick,” says MEK.
DMPTuuli is also suitable for teaching purposes, and the goal is that the tool will be used in teaching already at the bachelor level. This would foster an open data culture at the University of Helsinki. Research data management is one of the key points of open science.
“Teachers could use DMPTuuli in various courses; for example, in courses related to research methodology. Proper data management skills are also important in working life. You need to know where to save your files, you need to understand the importance of backing up, version control, and description. Such basic skills are needed in all academic professions,” says MEK.