JISCMRD Programme Workshop (24th-25th October 2012)

The JISCMRD programme workshop had several tracks covering the current state of MRD.

Highlights included:

  • data.bris providing 5Tb per project for 20 years – it will be interesting to see how data usage actually pans out in the future. Does providing “large” storage encourage more data, or is it just large enough that people don't have to worry about what to do with their (much smaller) quantities of data ?
  • Learning about the CKAN data portal used by data.gov.uk, and possibly suitable for a public-facing service for data publication. Nice features include visualisations, geospatial data, grouping etc.
  • Academic DropBox interfaces came up (again) and always seem to focus on “the cloud” as the storage layer. However, the discussion isn't usually about where the data is actually stored - rather it is that users want: (i) their data to be backed up automagically; and (ii) their data to be available wherever they want to use it (largely home or lab). There is no reason that DropBox type functionality can't be provided using a standard institutional shared network drive. The focus on the technology (“the cloud”) rather than the user experience seems to be a flaw in current discussions.
  • In the Repositories and Storage session, it was interesting to learn more about Hydra.
  • The RDM Training session was split into two parallel sessions as there were so many people interested in presenting – which meant that I could only attend one of the two most relevant sessions in the workshop. However, in that session there were many useful take-home points:
    • Jez Cope, U. of Bath, pointed out: the difficulties in getting researchers to attend training sessions; that a lack of specific RDM processes can be an issue; and that getting researchers to create a RDM plan was a successful training activity;
    • Gareth Cole, Open Exeter, reminded us that bibliographies are data and that although students like discipline-focussed training they happily identified common themes for data management for a RDM survival guide;
    • the discussion session also raised many good points: peer-to-peer training of new students by old-hands; the different training needs of support staff; RDM as an inter-disciplinary activity (research, library and core IT); embedding RDM training with other staff training requirements (e.g. training researchers in creating data management plans as part of training on creating grant proposals); RDM acceptance varies with the experience of the researchers.

All-in-all, there was lots of interesting content, and a good view of the state-of-RDM. The big issues seem to be user-experience related - and largely around submission interfaces. Partly, this must come from data management moving towards individual researchers as curators of their own data rather than relying on a central curator / data manager. Many of the current smaller projects (including ourselves) are largely catching up with this current state, hopefully we will soon see a more concerted push to move things forward into what people need.