We recently returned from a week in the lovely city of Bilbao. As great as the food, weather, and spectacular Guggenheim inspired cityscape was, we were there for a reason: promoting research data management. Our kind and generous hosts were University de Deusto and the Tuning Educational Structures project, which is partly based in Bilbao.
What struck me from speaking to researchers who attended our sessions is an old lesson that we in the RDM community must, on occasion, gently remind ourselves. It’s that many researchers already practice some good research data management, without calling it research data management (RDM). Instead they have a cute old term called “research”. Research involves doing a lot of things around data analysis that we ourselves would identify as RDM. For example, the Tuning project already creates extensive documentation underpinning its data, how could it not after all? What they realized they don’t do is organize it in such a fashion that it is collated and accessible. What we need to do best as a service is nudge, where all but a gentle nudge is needed, and to fill in the gaps that often emerge in addressing the legal, technological, and long-term usage aspects of research data management.
This got us thinking about a strategy to assist them. Essentially, there are three approaches projects would need to take for retrospective action and handily enough, (just as in Sesame Street), they all begin with the letter C.
- Collate: existing material already existing, but centralized or readily accessible.
- Clarify: existing understandings or agreements that may not be written down.
- Create: resources or policies that don’t exist but where there is a demonstrable need to codify aspects of data management practice.
Obviously the extent and nature of action will vary from project to project, but all projects that are retrofitting data management strategies into their work will need to do one of these three things.