What are the benefits of UH Data Support’s DMP services? Four researchers share their views

For many researchers, the the Academy of Finland’s September 2019 Call makes data management planning a topical issue. The University of Helsinki Data Support provides support for the preparation of data management plans (DMP). We asked four UH researchers how well the Data Support services responded to their needs.

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Well-implemented research data management (RDM) is one of the cornerstones of scientific research, and this is now also reflected in funding applications. The Academy of Finland has been requiring a data management plan (DMP) for several years now.

The University of Helsinki Data Support provides two types of support for researchers in data management planning: in DMPTuuli workshops DMPs are refined under the guidance of Data Support experts and DMP commenting service is for UH researchers who wish their DMPs to be checked and commented – plans are handled in arrival order.

We asked the researchers who have used the DMP services how they had benefited from the services and how they would improve them. We asked the following questions:

  1. What kind of needs did you have for the service and how well did the service meet your needs? Would you use it again?
  2. Did the service help you to understand the issue (research data management) better, or was everything clear in advance? Did the service open up new perspectives on data management?
  3. How would you develop the service?

”Some follow-up on plans could be good idea”

Professor Minna Laakso (Department of Psychology and Logopedics) participated in the DMPTuuli workshop in August 2018 and used the DMP commenting service in September 2018.

  1. Minna Laakso

    ”I have a need for extensive data corpus management and archiving and processing of sensitive research data. I received good comments and contacted the IT services for the technical implementation of my archiving. I would use the service again.”

  2. ”Some of the things were familiar, but the service helped me to understand and clarify my DMP. I also got whole new perspectives, especially on how things should be presented in the plan.”
  3. ”As far as plans are concerned, I think everything is fine. But some follow-up on plans and further training in data management, once funding is available, could be good idea to ensure the quality of the data management.”

Data Support answers: ”Further education in research data management as well as following up on the actual execution of the plan would be important and useful. Thus, it would be possible to ensure that the good practices in research data management are and to make sure that research data would be in good shape (e.g. FAIR) for opening it in a data repository. This would most likely increase the reuse potential of the data. Researchers can contact Data Support and ask for help and advice throughout the research life cycle, but at the moment there are no resources for further education in general. However, we are happy to organize some extra training for example together with faculties on subjects of interest.”

”Personal support helped with the details”

Researcher Mette Ranta (Faculty of Educational Sciences) used the DMP commenting service in 2018 to apply for Academy of Finland’s funding. She had attended the DMPTuuli workshop the previous year.

  1. Mette Ranta

    ”I attended the workshop because I did not have a DMP and I started from scratch. When using the DMP commenting service I had a previous DMP done and I needed support to improve and update it. I was really pleased with the personal feedback on my DMP. The service met my needs more than I could have expected, the comments were very helpful in improving the plan. I would definitely use the service again.”

  2. ”The pace of the workshop was unhurried and provided an opportunity to make my own DMP and get help from the experts. In the commenting service, personal support helped with the details of the plan – details are challenging to manage with just the guides.”

”The service definitely helped me to understand issues better”

Researcher Andrea Santangeli (Zoology) has very recent experience with the DMP commenting service: he used it in August. He participated in the DMPTuuli workshop in the fall of 2016.

  1. ”I needed to make sure the information in placed for each field required in the DMP was exactly what was requested, and that was of enough detail. On a scale from 0 to 10 (10 being excellent) I give it a 9 in terms of how well the service met my needs. Yes I would certainly use it again.”
  2. ”The service definitely helped me to understand issues better, especially for some of the questions in the DMP that are a bit unclear in what should be the answer to them. The service helped me think carefully about the data and their management from a practical and pragmatic point of view, and for benefiting the community beyond the research I do through sharing info and data that can be reused efficiently.”
  3. ”Perhaps I would try harder to think of the formulation of the questions, some are a bit unclear, some you feel you respond and then when going to a next question you feel it requests very similar info. Perhaps ways to reduce redundancy in the info required would help.”

Data Support answers: ”We have received got a lot of feedback on national level about the phrasing of the questions and the confusion has been visible in the answers of researchers. We have tried to open to the researchers what is really asked for in each section on our own RDM guide, so that answering the questions would be easier. The questions of the DMP will be rephrased after the Academy of Finland’s September call in a national working group, and UH Data support will take part in this.”

”Data management terminology could be more accessible”

University lecturer Aku Heinonen (Department of Geosciences and Geography) sent his DMP for comments in mid-August: ”I think it was Friday and I received comments right at the beginning of next week. A week later, after a couple of comment rounds, the plan was completed,” Heinonen says.

  1. Aku Heinonen

    ”I wanted to write my DMP according to the guidelines and structure of the Academy, and the templates of the service work reasonably well here. I would certainly use this service again.”

  2. ”I have worked with data management and open science, so issues were familiar beforehand. However, there was a lack of clarity in terminology and data management flow, because things are evolving at a fast pace. Eventually, the comment rounds clarified the matter.”
  3. ”In particular, I would make the terminology of the data management and the (generic?) definitions used in the service a little more accessible to the user. For example, the temporal definition of long-term preservation (more than 25 years) did not appear in the guidelines, and this naturally influences how the plan is written. The use of duplicate guiding templates (Academy of Finland and University of Helsinki) was also so laborious in DMPTuuli that I made a compilation of them, and I followed this compiled guidance outside DMPTuuli while preparing my plan.”

Data Support answers: ”The UH DMP guidance has been written following the  Academy of Finland’s guidance. Hence, it is enough if the researcher follows only our guide. Previously, we have published the guide also in Zenodo to make it easier to follow the guidance, but now the guide can be read on the new RDM pages as well. The sections in the guide follow the same structure as the Academy’s DMP questions. We try to make our guide better every year and all feedback is highly appreciated!”

This article was carried out by Siiri Fuchs, Tanja Lindholm, Markku Roinila, Tuija Korhonen and Juuso Ala-Kyyny.