Last week we hosted our first workshop research data management here at our home in central Cologne. Many thanks to seventeen who signed up to participate; we hope you found the event useful.
Because it was our first time, the event was as instructional for us as I hope it was for participants. What I want to talk about here are some of my general impressions on organising and providing a two-day introductory workshop in research data management for social scientists.
I have focused on five areas I think we as providers need to improve upon, because overall I thought we presented what we promised – an introduction to RDM – and early review of the assessment forms seems to support the view that participants also felt we delivered what we promised.
- So first, think about the length of sessions. Specifically, think about what topics encourage discussion and questions, and what topics require greater instructional components. We gave equal time to (almost) all our sessions which is something we will need to adjust for next time (yes, there will be a next time!)
- Secondly, think about exercises and how to stimulate learning activities. My sense was that on reflection we did too much lecturing. Instruction is important, especially at an introductory level like this because you are introducing unfamiliar concepts, or shifting emphasis in other concepts onto archiving and reuse. However, we need to think much more about interaction and methods of getting people talking and learning through shared experience. However, this is easier said than done. Ideas are welcome.
- A third point. I feel it would be good if in every session we gave people arguments to take back to their institution/project to justify data management or an aspect of data management. We gave them the reasons why it is a good idea, but they need arguments they can present to administrators and finance people who may not be researchers themselves, as to why a bit of investment in RDM has good rewards.
- Fourth, our workshop was open to researchers across Europe and I am pleased to say we attracted a range of nationalities to our event. However, as a European training centre it can get problematic dealing with the range of European national and sub-national variations in laws on copyright and collecting personal data. There is for example, a lot of difference between what constitutes as personal data in the Netherlands compared to, say, Hungary.
- A final thought on session breaks. We planned plenty of session breaks to get people out of their chairs, out the room, and mixing. I was wondering though if they should have an additional purpose. Should we as organisers actively use them as extensions of discussions and work the room a bit more to stimulate talk about data, or are they breaks from the whole workshop and an excuse NOT to talk about data management? What do you think?