Tag Archives: RDM guidance

Meet Mildred 5: In the beginning, there was DMP

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.

Mari Elisa Kuusniemi aka MEK. Photo by Jussi Männistö.

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.

Pälvi Kaiponen. Photo by Jussi Männistö.

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.

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.

Building better RDM guidance

The aim of the Mildred M5 group is the implementation of the data management planning tool DMPTuuli which helps you write data management plans. In data management plan you give a brief description of how you will collect, manage and store your data, and how the data can be used now and in the future. Many research funders like Academy of Finland require a data management plans in their funding applications. DMPTuuli links the funders requirements, the guidance and the support services provided by the UH to the same user interface.

In the M5 project the focus is on writing targeted research data management (RDM) guidance to researchers and students in the University of Helsinki. The current guidance in DMPTuuli is generic level instructions for all disciplines. Obviously, on size doesn’t fit for all and so we are planning to create discipline or data type specific guidance to better meet your demands.

First we are planning to make simplified guidance aimed for those who are not so familiar with the data management plans. So far we have defined the principles of the good guidance and benchmarked the available RDM guidance made by other organizations. At the moment we are writing a glossary of terms related to RDM.

In the next phase we will discover the needs for more specific guidance. For example, the sensitive data that needs to be anonymized might benefit of having RDM guidance that would go deeper than the generic level instructions.

But, we cannot write guidance without your contribution. Now that we are working on the beginner level guidance aimed for students for example, we would be happy to have volunteers to help us by giving comments and suggestions on what kind of guidance would be useful for students. And furthermore, if your research group has a need for more specific RDM instructions, please let us know! Feel free to use our feedback form or leave a reply to this post.