At the end of November, I attended the Planning, Appraising, Ingesting and Documenting Social Science Data training workshop run by the UK Data Archive at the University of Essex.
The day covered a range of topics – including an overview of the work of UKDA and the resources they offer, a data management planning and costing exercise, and some advice on appraising data intended for long-term preservation. Following on from the last of these, the afternoon featured some practical, hands-on tasks where we got to look at some datasets and try out some of the checks that a repository manager might make when assessing the data’s potential for reuse. Being encouraged to see things from the repository’s point of view provided a useful new perspective – one which I’m sure will feed into the advice we provide to researchers who are preparing datasets for curation and sharing.
For me, one of the most interesting parts of the day was Louise Corti’s presentation, ‘How to Make the Case for Data Sharing and Curation’, in which she discussed various ways of encouraging researchers to make their data available. She stressed the importance of building a positive environment: providing researchers with evidence that data sharing is worthwhile (for them and their careers as well as the wider academic community) by highlighting positive outcomes such as increased visibility, possibilities for collaboration, and additional citations. She suggested providing examples of data sharing done well – along with ‘impact stories’ which give concrete illustrations of how making data available can help researchers’ work to reach a wider public. (The UKDA has its own collections of Case Studies and Depositor Stories.) She also talked about the importance of building trust (researchers need to know that the place they are depositing data is safe and reliable), of ensuring that local data-sharing options are straightforward to use, and of addressing the real challenges that researchers may encounter.
Finally, she discussed some of the incentives that might be used to get the data-sharing ball rolling. While there are excellent reasons for sharing data, the benefits promised can sometimes seem a little nebulous or far off. In some cases, however, it’s possible to offer more immediate rewards. For example:
- Being featured as the subject of a case study may provide a research project with valuable exposure.
- Using research data to create teaching datasets (compact data resources which can be used for demonstrating principles to students) can take the fruit of a research project to a whole new audience.
- Documenting the process of going about sharing data may lead to a publication in a digital curation journal.
If there are any Oxford researchers out there who would be interested in working with us on a project along these lines, we’d be very pleased to hear from you.