Research Data Spring green shoots: fresh thinking this autumn

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Jisc’s Research Data Spring project has been making waves in the research community since it kicked off last November, writes Daniela Duca.

It’s an initiative we’re running to create new and innovative partnerships between researchers, librarians, publishers and developers to work on new solutions to common research problems.

Starting out in November last year, we’ve whittled 70 potential ideas submitted online down to the technical tools and solutions with the potential to make an impact in the research data management workflow - and now, 11 are in the throes of a second intensive period of development. Once this has been completed we will be looking to roll out solutions out as shared services, so they can support research as a whole.

Since our last update in March, we’ve been impressed by the progress the teams have made, most of them achieved as much or sometimes more than they aimed for.

So what exactly are the teams working on? Let’s take a look at two projects in more depth:


The view from above: Data Management Administration Online

The problem

Many research managers will be familiar with the problem this project is tackling: how do you find out which projects within your institution have adequate Data Management Plans (DMPs) or how much storage space has been used for depositing the data without extensive checks? It’s often hard to see the wood for the trees in amongst all the sources, software platforms and data.

The solution

Lancaster University is developing an administration system called DMA Online to help research managers visualise the datasets published within their institutional repository or Current Research Information System – and drill down into storage requirements and costs, availability of a DMP and access compliance with the Research Councils UK (RCUK) research data policy.


The benefits

The DMA Online dashboard intends to provide the information you’d need to run a research office, automating processes as much as possible to save time and make things more accurate and efficient.

In the current phase of development, the project team is working with the Data Management Plans Online to get data into the dashboard via an Application Programming Interface. They are also hoping to enhance further the live dashboard at Lancaster, with information ingested from csv files and automatically fed in from EPrints and PURE. By December, the team aims to test this with three other institutions.

Clipper: smoother sailing in the choppy waters of video files

The problem

Researchers increasingly need to store, archive and share video and audio files. It takes time to figure out whether you have the copyright permissions to clip, annotate and share the files, as these vary so much from source to source. Video and audio files can also take up lots of storage; researchers and research managers may often underestimate the amounts they will require before they start their project.


The solution

The City of Glasgow College and The Open University, with help from ReachWill Ltd, are developing a tool called ‘Clipper’ which will make working with video files easier.

It will allow researchers to clip videos, and to organise and share video clips, on the fly – editing, sharing and collaborating easily via a web-based system. If you’d like to see it in action for yourself, there’s a quick demo video up on YouTube that’s well worth a look.


The benefits

The project team hope that being able to clip just the sections of video files needed and doing that online and even on live audio/video streams (if necessary) will save on storage space, make working on video collaboratively more easy, save time currently wasted swapping between software and file types, and ultimately serve as a good tool for long-term preservation.

The team have already spotted that people outside of academia and research might have use for this tool. To that end, they’ve already been engaging with all sorts of places including the National Library of Scotland, the BBC Archive, Manchester School of Art – It’s an impressive set of feedback to draw upon and it seems all kinds of institutions are already interested in finding out more about what this system could do for them.


Quick tips on more projects to watch

With so many projects underway, there are plenty of sources of inspiration and work to keep an eye out for. Here’s a quick run-down to highlight some of the projects in Jisc’s Research Data Spring initiative that might pique your interest:

Artivity – this solution will automatically capture research data for artists. What they’re developing has the potential to provide incredibly detailed information about how art is conceived and put together, and shine a new technological light upon the artistic process and the data associated with it. Taking visual art as a starting point, they are automating a system to capture a complete log of everything the artist saw, accessed, and edited online and on their computer. Some argue that this is part of the inspiration, or even the nature of, the artistic process – it will be fascinating to see how artists, librarians and research managers will use the outputs.

DataVault – the joint Manchester-Edinburgh University team are developing an easy way for researchers to manage the transition of active data into longer-term archiving systems (such as Amazon, Glazier, Arkivum and other local solutions), preserving it with integrity for years to come. This is a unique interface built specifically for researchers and with research data in mind.

CREAM – forget the band; forget the club; it’s now an ambitious project to capture and package metadata as research is being generated. The team hope to banish the days of trawling back through research to produce, or extract, metadata – and make this a process an integral, automated part of research itself. Very smooth.

Filling in the digital preservation gap – increasingly more researchers find it difficult to re-use data because of the inability to read files in old software formats or for expired licenses. This project addresses this digital preservation gap by tailoring an existing tool, Archivematica, to the needs of UK research. It aims to remove the technical complexities and make long-term preservation easier and faster for researchers, archivists and librarians.

Software RRR – You remember them from school, but now the three Rs mean something different: Reuse, Repurpose and Reproducibility. The software RRR project is looking at ways to assign persistent identifiers to software. It will allow users to access the code, but will also have a nifty ‘play-it’ function to run the software. Next time you want to see if a piece of software will help your project, you will be able to check how it works and whether it’s what you need – without having to install the whole thing.


What’s next?

We are running one more ‘sandpit’ workshop in December, when the projects will be getting together to show what they’ve developed and some will even demonstrate their products in use. A preview and synthesis of the projects and their outputs is in the pipeline, and we are working on it in collaboration with the DCC, SSI and DPC. The projects are already sharing their learning, and lessons from their work, across the sector and would welcome your inputs.

Now we’re in the second development phase, do check our blog for regular updates. In fact, we’ll be sharing quite soon a comprehensive reading list of the reports and outputs the projects have published so far, which you can already find on their own blogs and websites. We hope to disseminate the outputs further and reach out to all kinds of people across sectors as we go on, so we’d welcome the opportunity to engage with you. We’re a friendly bunch and the projects are working on some fascinating new solutions – look us up!

We’re also producing a series of podcast interviews with the project teams. As a taster, here’s an interview with Fiona Murphy, one of the team working on a project to give researchers credit for their data.

Daniela Duca is senior co-design manager at the technology charity Jisc and lead on the Research Data Spring project