Universities face similar challenges in data management and open research data

Published: 2018-12-19

How do Swedish universities work with data management? What do we need in order to achieve a future where the standard is open research data? These were the main questions for the recent SND network meeting on the 4th of December at the Swedish University of Agricultural Studies in Uppsala. The theme of the meeting was “Establishing a DAU – Challenges, Solutions and Inspiration”, and it gathered 72 participants from 28 universities and two research conducting government agencies. In the course of the day, six presentations were held by representatives from the Swedish University of Agricultural Studies, Karolinska Institutet, Halmstad University, Örebro University, and Karlstad University.

The landscape for research data is changing. That much was evident when the universities in the SND network shared their experiences from data management and open research data. While they are in different stages of the process of establishing a DAU –­­ some are only just getting started and focus on internal training, while others have already developed researcher support functions – they have similar experiences from the needs and challenges they have identified along the way.

Communication, training, organisation – three central themes

A central theme that emerged from the presentations was the importance of communication. The participants discussed challenges in how to create awareness of the work with open research data and in how to communicate the benefits of this work to the research community, as well as to their own organisations. In other words, the challenge in communication is to give satisfactory answers to what, how and why, or as Leif Hallenbäcken from the Swedish University of Agricultural Studies put it: "If there's no dialogue, we won't get anywhere”. Another important aspect of communication that was commented on is the language we use when we talk about data management and open research data. The presenters agreed that we need an established vocabulary for how to talk about data management, but we also have to adapt that vocabulary to the current target group in order for the information to take hold.

All of the universities could agree on the importance of training in data management. This training should be aimed at researchers as well as the staff that will support the researchers. Several universities presented local needs assessments that were made by means of e.g. interviews and survey questionnaires. Sofia Andersson presented the results from Karlstad University’s assessment and noted that there is a big need for support in data related matters.

–We have got to teach, to get information out there, to host workshops and put information online. We have to be accessible as support, because it’s obvious that there’s not enough knowledge about the coming demands from our funders and journals.

A final common theme from the represented universities could be summarised in one word: organisation. The participants pointed to the increasing need for resources in terms of competency, time, and funding. Several people also emphasised the need for co-ordination of their operations in order to create agile and useful services; from gathering information in one place to creating integrated technical solutions for researchers.

Status update from SND

Apart from the presentations from the universities, SND also presented a status update. Elisabeth Strandhagen, deputy director of SND, presented the ongoing work with adapting SND’s research data description form to various research disciplines, the upcoming DAU Handbook, and the rollout of SND’s new graphic profile. Director Max Petzold briefly summarised national news in the research data field, for instance the Swedish Research Council’s pending requirements for data management plans, which created some discussion among the participants.

Olof Olsson, IT architect, and Johan Fihn Marberg, head of IT, presented SND’s coming pilot project, where they will test a work process where SND and a group of researchers from pilot universities make research data accessible and arrange local storage solutions with the universities.

You can find some of the presentations (in Swedish only) here.