Five things to think about if you’re holding an introduction to research data management workshop.

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?

About CESSDA Training

CESSDA Training offers and coordinates training activities for CESSDA, the Consortium of European Social Science Data Archives ( Hosted by the GESIS - Leibniz Institute for Social Sciences, our center promotes awareness throughout the research lifecycle of good research data management practice and emphasizes the importance of long-term data curation.
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3 Responses to Five things to think about if you’re holding an introduction to research data management workshop.

  1. Libby Bishop says:

    All very useful points. We are working on being more interactive as well, using exercises. Even simple ones can be very effective. As for the breaks – I would be pretty relaxed about those. It helps to gather info about participants (subject interests) – either when they register or during introductions – then (sometimes) you can find shared interests and use that to encourage mingling. Sounds like a great session!

    • admtic says:

      Thanks Libby, having just “helped out” in previous workshops it was good to actually do a full workshop and see for myself what you and others actually have to put into making an event a success. We did gather info on research interests but didn’t really use it other than for introductions, I think it’s something we could improve upon for next time.

  2. Pingback: Destination: CESSDA Training | Archive and Data Management Training Center

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