We are pleased to announce that the Incremental project Scoping study and implementation plan is now available. This report describes our findings from interviews and informal conversations with dozens of researchers and technical support staff across the Universities of Cambridge and Glasgow and outlines our implementation plan for the coming months of the project.
Some highlights from the report:
Simple issues cause serious risks and irritation
Many researchers, across disciplines, are unaware of the best formats and storage media to preserve or share files, and many have no clear naming or file structure conventions. These kinds of relatively simple issues pose the risk of serious data losses in the short and long term, and frequently cost researchers’ time and frustration searching for data or trying to revive old files.
Resources must be simple, engaging and easy to access
Researchers were interested in guidance, simple tools, and support for data management, but this came with several caveats. Information needs to be clear, quick to understand, engaging, and relevant to their circumstances. They are often unaware of existing resources and training and don’t know where to look for support. Many complained that training is often inconveniently timed and not well-tailored to their needs, suggesting online resources, ‘a really smart little leaflet’ or someone to talk to face-to-face would be more helpful.
Our study underscored the need to provide jargon-free guidance – most researchers don’t know what ‘digital curation’ is and humanities researchers don’t think of their manuscripts as ‘data’. Researchers and support staff tended to be suspicious of ‘policies,’ which sound like hollow mandates, but were sometimes receptive to ‘procedures’ or ‘advice’ which may be essentially the same thing, but convey a sense of purpose and assistance rather than requirement.
And so, here are our plans:
1. Produce simple, accessible, visual guidance on creating, storing, and managing data
This will include producing easy-to-navigate centralised webpages at each institution, pointing researchers to existing support and new resources created by the project. We’ll consider the format of guidance and move towards more engaging formats such as illustrated fact sheets, flow diagrams, checklists, and FAQs.
2. Offer practical data training with discipline-specific examples and local champions
We will work with enthusiasts within departments to embed slides and resources within existing training and inductions (i.e. train the trainer). We will also create brief online tutorials and/or screen-casts, and include case-studies from within disciplines wherever possible.
3. Connect researchers with support staff who offer one-to-one advice, guidance, and partnering
We will work with departments and the research office within each institution to make sure that researchers are referred to existing support staff for one-to-one advice during the proposal-writing stage of projects and beyond.
4. Work towards the development of a comprehensive data management infrastructure
This project is part of an overall effort to support data management and preservation activities at both institutions, and will be continued through the broader research data infrastructure and policy development at Cambridge and Glasgow.
Very exciting! For more information, have a look at the report. As ever, we welcome your thoughts and suggestions.