Tag Archives: RDM

What I wish I’d known at the start – setting up an RDM service

In August, Dr Marta Teperek began her new role at Delft University in the Netherlands. In her usual style of doing things properly and thoroughly, she has contributed this blog reflecting on the lessons learned in the process of setting up Cambridge University’s highly successful Research Data Facility.

On 27-28 June 2017 I attended the Jisc’s Research Data Network meeting at the University of York. I was one of several people invited to talk about experiences of setting up RDM services in a workshop organised by Stephen Grace from London South Bank University and Sarah Jones from the Digital Curation Centre. The purpose of the workshop was to share lessons learned and help those that were just starting to set up research data services within their institutions. Each of the presenters prepared three slides: 1. What went well, 2. What didn’t go so well, 3. What they would do differently. All slides from the session are now publicly available.

For me the session was extremely useful not only because of the exchange of practices and learning opportunity, but also because the whole exercise prompted me to critically reflect on Cambridge Research Data Management (RDM) services. This blog post is a recollection of my thoughts on what went well, what didn’t go so well and what could have been done differently, as inspired by the original workshop’s questions.

What went well

RDM services at Cambridge started in January 2015 – quite late compared to other UK institutions. The late start meant however that we were able to learn from others and to avoid some common mistakes when developing our RDM support. The Jisc’s Research Data Management mailing list was particularly helpful, as it is a place used by professionals working with research data to look for help, ask questions, share reflections and advice. In addition, Research Data Management Fora organised by the Digital Curation Centre proved to be not only an excellent vehicle for knowledge and good practice exchange, but also for building networks with colleagues in similar roles. In addition, Cambridge also joined the Jisc Research Data Shared Service (RDSS) pilot, which aimed to create a joint research repository and related infrastructure. Being part of the RDSS pilot not only helped us to further engage with the community, but also allowed us to better understand the RDM needs at the University of Cambridge by undertaking the Data Asset Framework exercise.

In exchange for all the useful advice received from others, we aimed to be transparent about our work as well. We therefore regularly published blog posts about research data management at Cambridge on the Unlocking Research blog. There were several additional advantages of the transparent approach: it allowed us to reflect on our activities, it provided an archival record of what was done and rationale for this and it also facilitated more networking and comments exchange with the wider RDM community.

Engaging Cambridge community with RDM

Our initial attempts to engage research community at Cambridge with RDM was compliance based: we were telling our researchers that they must manage and share their research data because this was what their funders require. Unsurprisingly however, this approach was rather unsuccessful – researchers were not prepared to devote time to RDM if they did not see the benefits of doing so. We therefore quickly revised the approach and changed the focus of our outreach to (selfish) benefits of good data management and of effective data sharing. This allowed us to build an engaged RDM community, in particular among early career researchers. As a result, we were able to launch two dedicated programmes, further strengthening our community involvement in RDM: the Data Champions programme and also the Open Research Pilot Project. Data Champions are (mostly) researchers, who volunteered their time to act as local experts on research data management and sharing to provide advice and specialised training within their departments.The Open Research Pilot Project is looking at the benefits and barriers to conducting Open Research.

In addition, ensuring that the wide range of stakeholders from across the University were part of the RDM Project Group and had an oversight of development and delivery of RDM services, allowed us to develop our services quite quickly. As a result, services developed were endorsed by wide range of stakeholders at Cambridge and they were also developed in a relatively coherent fashion. As an example, effective collaboration between the Office of Scholarly Communication, the Library, the Research Office and the University Information Services allowed integration between the Cambridge research repository, Apollo, and the research information system, Symplectic Elements.

What didn’t go so well

One of the aspects of our RDM service development that did not go so well was the business case development. We started developing the RDM business case in early 2015. The business case went through numerous iterations, and at the time of writing of this blog post (August 2017), financial sustainability for the RDM services has not yet been achieved.

One of the strongest factors which contributed to the lack of success in business case development was insufficient engagement of senior leadership with RDM. We have invested a substantial amount of time and effort in engaging researchers with RDM and by moving away from compliance arguments, to the extent that we seem to have forgotten that compliance- and research integrity-based advocacy is necessary to ensure the buy in of senior leadership.

In addition, while trying to move quickly with service development, and at the same time trying to gain trust and engagement in RDM service development from the various stakeholder groups at Cambridge, we ended up taking part in various projects and undertakings, which were sometimes loosely connected to RDM. As a result, some of the activities lacked strategic focus and a lot of time was needed to re-define what the RDM service is and what it is not in order to ensure that expectations of the various stakeholders groups could be properly managed.

What could have been done differently

There are a number of things which could have been done differently and more effectively. Firstly, and to address the main problem of insufficient engagement with senior leadership, one could have introduced dedicated, short sessions for principal investigators on ensuring effective research data management and research reproducibility across their research teams. Senior researchers are ultimately those who make decisions at research-intensive institutions, and therefore their buy-in and their awareness of the value of good RDM practice is necessary for achieving financial sustainability of RDM services.

In addition, it would have been valuable to set aside time for strategic thinking and for defining (and re-defining, as necessary) the scope of RDM services. This is also related to the overall branding of the service. In Cambridge a lot of initial harm was done due to negative association between Open Access to publications and RDM. Due to overarching funders’ and government’s requirements for Open Access to publications, many researchers started perceiving Open Access to publications merely as a necessary compliance condition. The advocacy for RDM at Cambridge started as ‘Open Data’ requirements, which led many researchers to believe that RDM is yet another requirement to comply with and that it was only about open sharing of research data. It took us a long time to change the messages and to rebrand the service as one supporting researchers in their day to day research practice and that proper management of research data leads to efficiency savings. Finally, only research data which are management properly from the very start of the research process can be then easily shared at the end of the project.

Finally, and which is also related to the focusing and defining of the service, it would have been useful to decide on a benchmarking strategy from the very beginning of the service creation. What is the goal(s) of the service? Is it to increase the number of shared datasets? Is it to improve day to day data management practice? Is to to ensure that researchers know how to use novel tools for data analysis? And, once the goal(s) is decided, design a strategy to benchmark the progress towards achieving this goal(s). Otherwise it can be challenging to decide which projects and undertakings are worth continuation and which ones are less successful and should be revised or discontinued. In order to address one aspect of benchmarking, Cambridge led the creation of an international group aiming to develop a benchmarking strategy for RDM training programmes, which aims to create tools for improving RDM training provision.

Final reflections

My final reflection is to re-iterate that the questions asked of me by the workshop leaders at the Jisc RDN meeting really inspired me to think more holistically about the work done towards development of RDM services at Cambridge. Looking forward I think asking oneself the very same three questions: what went well, what did not go so well and what you would do differently, might become for a useful regular exercise ensuring that RDM service development is well balanced and on track towards its intended goals.


Published 24 August 2017
Written by Dr Marta Teperek

Creative Commons License

Strategies for engaging senior leadership with RDM – IDCC discussion

This blog post gathers key reflections and take-home messages from a Birds of a Feather discussion on the topic of senior management engagement with RDM, and while written by a small number of attendees, the content reflects the wider discussion in the room on the day. [Authors: Silke Bellanger, Rosie Higman, Heidi Imker, Bev Jones, Liz Lyon, Paul Stokes, Marta Teperek*, Dirk Verdicchio]

On 20 February 2017, stakeholders interested in different aspects of data management and data curation met in Edinburgh to attend the 12th International Digital Curation Conference, organised by the Digital Curation Centre. Apart from discussing novel tools and services for data curation, the take-home message from many presentations was that successful development of Research Data Management (RDM) services requires the buy-in of a broad range of stakeholders, including senior institutional leadership

Summary

The key strategies for engaging senior leadership with RDM that were discussed were:

  • Refer to doomsday scenarios and risks to reputations
  • Provide high profile cases of fraudulent research
  • Ask senior researchers to self-reflect and ask them to imagine a situation of being asked for supporting research data for their publication
  • Refer to the institutional mission statement / value statement
  • Collect horror stories of poor data management practice from your research community
  • Know and use your networks – know who your potential allies are and how they can help you
  • Work together with funders to shape new RDM policies
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about the problems you are experiencing – most likely you are not alone and you can benefit from exchanging best practice with others

Why it is important to talk about engaging senior leadership in RDM?

Endorsement of RDM services by senior management is important because frequently it is a prerequisite for the initial development of any RDM support services for the research community. However, the sensitive nature of the topic (both financially and sometimes politically as well) means there are difficulties in openly discussing the issues that RDM service developers face when proposing business cases to senior leadership. This means the scale of the problem is unknown and is often limited to occasional informal discussions between people in similar roles who share the same problems.

This situation prevents those developing RDM services from exchanging best practice and addressing these problems effectively. In order to flesh out common problems faced by RDM service developers and to start identifying possible solutions, we organised an informal Birds of a Feather discussion on the topic during the 12th IDCC conference. The session was attended by approximately 40 people, including institutional RDM service providers, senior organisational leaders, researchers and publishers.

What is the problem?

We started by fleshing out the problems, which vary greatly between institutions. Many participants said that their senior management was disengaged with the RDM agenda and did not perceive good RDM as an area of importance to their institution. Others complained that they did not even have the opportunity to discuss the issue with their senior leadership. So the problems identified were both with the conversations themselves, as well as with accessing senior management in the first place.

We explored the type of senior leadership groups that people had problems engaging with. Several stakeholders were identified: top level institutional leadership, heads of faculties and schools, library leadership, as well as some research team leaders. The types of issues experienced when interacting with these various stakeholder groups also differed.

Common themes

Next we considered if there were any common factors shared between these different stakeholder groups. One of the main issues identified was that people’s personal academic/scientific experience and historic ideals of scientific practice were used as a background for decision making.

Senior leaders, like many other people, tend to look at problems with their own perspective and experience in mind. In particular, within the rapidly evolving scholarly communication environment what they perceive as community norms (or in fact community problems) might be changing and may now be different for current researchers.

The other common issue was the lack of tangible metrics to measure and assess the importance of RDM which could be used to persuade senior management of RDM’s usefulness. The difficulties in applying objective measures to RDM activities are mostly due to the fact that every researcher is undertaking an amount of RDM by default so it is challenging to find an example of a situation without any RDM activities that could be used as a baseline for an evidenced-based cost benefit analysis of RDM. The work conducted by Jisc in this area might be able to provide some solutions for this. Current results from this work can be found on the Research Data Network website.  

What works?

The core of our discussion was focused on exchanging effective methods of convincing managers and how to start gathering evidence to support the case for an RDM service within an institution.

Doomsday scenarios

We all agreed that one strategy that works for almost all possible audience types are doomsday scenarios – disasters that can happen when researchers do not adhere to good RDM practice. This could be as simple as asking individual senior researchers what they would do if someone accused them of falsifying research data five years after they have published their corresponding research paper. Would they have enough evidence to reject such accusations? The possibility of being confronted with their own potential undoing helped convince many senior managers of the importance of RDM.

Other doomsday scenarios which seem to convince senior leaders were related to broader institutional crises, such as risk of fire. Useful examples are the fire which destroyed the newly built Chemistry building at the University of Nottingham, the fire which destroyed valuable equipment and research at the University of Southampton (£120 million pounds’ worth of equipment and facilities), the recent fire at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute and a similar disaster at the University of Santa Cruz.

Research integrity and research misconduct

Discussion of doomsday scenarios led us to talk about research integrity issues. Reference to documented cases of fraudulent research helped some institutions convince their senior leadership of the importance of good RDM. These cases included the fraudulent research by Diederik Stapel from Tilburg University or by Erin Potts-Kant from Duke University, where $200 million in grants was awarded based on fake data. This led to a longer discussion about research reproducibility and who owns the problem of irreproducible research – individual researchers, funders, institutions or perhaps publishers. We concluded that responsibility is shared, and that perhaps the main reason for the current reproducibility crisis lies in the flawed reward system for researchers. 

Research ethics and research integrity are directly connected to good RDM practice and are also the core ethical values of academia. We therefore reflected on the importance of referring to the institutional value statement/mission statement or code of conduct when advocating/arguing for good RDM. One person admitted adding a clear reference to the institutional mission statement whenever asking senior leadership for endorsement for RDM service improvements. The UK Concordat on Open Research Data is a highly regarded external document listing core expectations on good research data management and sharing, which might be worth including as a reference. In addition, most higher education institutions will have mandates in teaching and research, which might allow good RDM practice to be endorsed through their central ethics committees.

Bottom up approaches to reach the top

The discussion about ethics and the ethos of being a researcher started a conversation about the importance of bottom up approaches in empowering the research community to drive change and bring innovation. As many researcher champions as possible should convince senior leadership about important services. Researcher voices are often louder than those of librarians, or those running central support services, so consider who will best help to champion your cause.

Collecting testimonies from researchers about the difficulties of working with research data when good data management practice was not adhered to is also a useful approach. Shared examples of these included horror stories such as data loss from stolen laptops (when data had not been backed up), newly started postdocs inheriting projects and the need to re-do all the experiments from scratch due to lack of sufficient data documentation from their predecessor, or lost patent cases. One person mentioned that what worked at their institution was an ‘honesty box’ where researchers could anonymously share their horror data management stories.

We also discussed the potential role of whistle-blowers, especially given the fact that reputational damage is extremely important for institutions. There was a suggestion that institutions should add consequences of poor data management practice to their institutional risk registers. The argument that good data management practice leads to time and efficiency savings also seems to be powerful when presented to senior leadership.

The importance of social networks

We then discussed the importance of using one’s relationships in getting senior management’s endorsement for RDM. The key to this is getting to know the different stakeholders, their interests and priorities, and thinking strategically about target groups: who are potential allies? Who are the groups who are most hesitant about the importance of RDM? Why are they hesitant? Could allies help with any of these discussions? A particularly powerful example was from someone who had a Nobel Prize winner ally, who knew some of the senior institutional leaders and helped them to get institutional endorsement for their cause.

Can people change?

The question was asked whether anyone had an example of a senior leader changing their opinion, not necessarily about RDM services. Someone suggested that in case of unsupportive leadership, persistence and patience are required and that sometimes it is better to count on a change of leadership than a change of opinions. Another suggestion was that rebranding the service tends to be more successful than hoping for people to change. Again, knowing the stakeholders and their interests is helpful in getting to know what is needed and what kind of rebranding might be appropriate. For example, shifting the emphasis from sharing of research data and open access to supporting good research data management practice and increasing research efficiency was something that had worked well at one institution.

This also led to a discussion about the perception of RDM services and whether their governance structure made a difference to how they were perceived. There was a suggestion that presenting RDM services as endeavours from inside or outside the Library could make a difference to people’s perceptions. At one science-focused institution anything coming from the library was automatically perceived as a waste of money and not useful for the research community and, as a result, all business cases for RDM services were bound to be unsuccessful due to the historic negative perception of the library as a whole. Opinion seemed to confirm that in places where libraries had not yet managed to establish themselves as relevant to 21st century academics, pitching library RDM services to senior leadership was indeed difficult. A suggested approach is to present RDM services as collaborative endeavours, and as joint ventures with other institutional infrastructure or service providers, for example as a collaboration between the library and the central IT department. Again, strong links and good relationships with colleagues at other University departments proved to be invaluable in developing RDM services as joint ventures.

The role of funding bodies

We moved on to discuss the need for endorsement for RDM at an institutional level occurring in conjunction with external drivers. Institutions need to be sustainable and require external funding to support their activities, and therefore funders and their requirements are often key drivers for institutional policy changes. This can happen on two different levels. Funding is often provided on the condition that any research data generated as a result needs to be properly managed during the research lifecycle, and is shared at the end of the project.

Non-compliance with funders’ policies can result in financial sanctions on current grants or ineligibility for individual researchers to apply for future grant funding, which can lead to a financial loss for the University overall. Some funders, such as the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in the United Kingdom, have clear expectations that institutions should support their researchers in adhering to good research data management practice by providing adequate infrastructure and policy framework support, therefore directly requesting institutions to support RDM service development.

Could funders do more?

There was consensus that funding bodies could perhaps do more to support good research data management, especially given that many non-UK funders do not yet have requirements for research data management and sharing as a condition of their grants. There was also a useful suggestion that funders should make more effort to ensure that their policies on research data management and sharing are adhered to, for example by performing spot-checks on research papers acknowledging their funding to see if supporting research data was made available, as the EPSRC have been doing recently.

Similarly, if funders would do more to review and follow up on data management plans submitted as part of grant applications it would be useful in convincing researchers and senior leadership of the importance of RDM. Currently not all funders require that researchers submit data management plans as part of grant applications. Although some pioneering work aiming to implement active data management plans started, people taking part in the discussion were not aware of any funding body having a structured process in place to review and follow up on data management plans. There was a suggestion that institutions should perhaps be more proactive in working together with funders in shaping new policies. It would be useful to have institutional representatives at funders’ meetings to ensure greater collaboration.

Future directions and resources

Overall we felt that it was useful to exchange tips and tricks so we can avoid making the same mistakes. Also, for those who had not yet managed to secure endorsement for RDM services from their senior leaders it was reassuring to understand that they were not the only ones having difficulty. Community support was recognised as valuable and worth maintaining. We discussed what would be the best way of ensuring that the advice exchanged during the meeting was not lost, and also how an effective exchange of ideas on how best to engage with senior leadership should be continued. First of all we decided to write up a blog post report of the meeting and to make it available to a wider audience.

Secondly, Jisc agreed to compile the various resources and references mentioned and to create a toolkit of techniques with examples for making RDM business cases for RDM. An initial set of resources useful in making the case can be found on the Research Data Network webpages. The current resources include A High Level Business Case, some Case studies and Miscellaneous resources – including Videos, slide decks, infographics, links to external toolkits, etc. Further resources are under development and are being added on a regular basis.

The final tip to all RDM service providers was that the key to success was making the service relevant and that persistence in advocating for the good cause is necessary. RDM service providers should not be shy about sharing the importance of their work with their institution, and should be proud of the valuable work they are doing. Research datasets are vital assets for institutions, and need to be managed carefully, and being able to leverage this is the key in making senior leadership understand that providing RDM services is essential in supporting institutional business.

Published 5 May 2017
Written by Silke Bellanger, Rosie Higman, Heidi Imker, Bev Jones, Liz Lyon, Paul Stokes, Dr Marta Teperek and Dirk Verdicchio

Creative Commons License

2016 – that was the year that was

 In January last year we published a blog post ‘2015 that was the year that was‘ which not only helped us take stock about what we have achieved, but also was very well received. So we have decided to do it again. For those who are more visually oriented, the slides ‘The OSC a lightning Tour‘ might be useful. 

Now starting its third year of operation, the Office of Scholarly Communication (OSC) has expanded to a team of 15, managing a wide variety of projects. The OSC has developed a set of strategic goals  to support its mission: “The OSC works in a transparent and rigorous manner to provide recognised leadership and innovation in the open conduct and dissemination of research at Cambridge University through collaborative engagement with the research community and relevant stakeholders.”

1. Working transparently

The OSC maintains an active outreach programme which fits with the transparent manner of the work that the OSC undertakes, which also includes the active documentation of workflows.

One of the ways we work transparently is to share many of our experiences and idea through this blog which receives over 2,000 visits a month. During 2016 the OSC published 41 blogs – eight blogs each on Scholarly Communication and Open Research, 14 on Open Access,  nine on Research Data Management and two on Library and training matters. The blogs we published in Open Access week were accessed 1630 times that week alone.

In addition to our websites for Scholarly Communication and Open Access, our Research Data Management website has been identified internationally as best practice and receives nearly 3,000 visitors a month.

We also run a Twitter feed for both Open Access with 1100 followers, and Open Data with close to 1200 followers. Many of the OSC staff also run their own Twitter feeds which share professional observations.

We also publish monthly newsletters, including one on scholarly communication matters. Our research data management newsletter has close to 2,000 recipients. Our shining achievement for the year however has to be the hugely successful scholarly communication Advent Calendar (which people are still accessing…)

We practise what we preach and share information about our work practices such as our reports to funders on APC spend and so on, through our repository Apollo and also by blogging about it – see Cambridge University spend on Open Access 2009-2016. We also share our presentations through Apollo and in Slideshare.

2. Disseminating research

The OSC has a strong focus on research support in all aspects of the scholarly communication ecosystem, from concept, through study design, preparation of research data management plans, decisions about publishing options and support with the dissemination of research outputs beyond the formal literature. The OSC runs an intense programme of advocacy relating to Open Access and Research Data Management, and has spoken to nearly 3,000 researchers and administrators since January 2015.

2.1 Open Access compliance

In April 2016, the HEFCE policy requiring that all research outputs intended to be claimed for the REF be made open access came into force. As a result, there has been an increased uptake of the Open Access Service with the 10,000th article submitted to the system in October. Our infographics on Repository use and Open Access demonstrate the level of engagement with our services clearly.

Currently half of the entire research output of the University is being deposited to the Open Access Service each month (see the blog: How open is Cambridge?). While this is good from a compliance perspective, it has caused some processing issues due to the manual nature of the workflows and insufficient staff numbers. At the time of writing, there is a deposit backlog of over 600 items to put into the repository and a backlog of over 2,300 items to be checked if they have been published so we can update the records.

The OA team made over 15 thousand ticket replies in 2016 – or nearly 60 per work day!

2.2 Managing theses

Work on theses continues, with the OSC driving a collaboration with Student Services to pilot the deposit of digital theses in addition to printed bound ones with a select group of departments from January 2017. The Unlocking Theses project in 2015-2016 has seen an increase in the number of historic theses in the repository from 700 to over 2,200 with half openly available. An upcoming digitisation project will add a further 1,400 theses. The upgrade of the repository and associated policies means all theses (not just PhDs) can be deposited and the OSC is in negotiation with several departments to bulk upload their MPhils and other sets of theses which are currently held in closed collections and are undiscoverable. This is an example of the work we are doing to unearth and disseminate research held all over the institution.

As a result of these activities it has become obvious that the disjointed nature of thesis management across the Library is inefficient. There is considerable effort being placed on developing workflows for managing theses centrally within the Library which the OSC will be overseeing into the future.

3. Research Support

3.1  Research Data Support

The number of data submissions received by the University repository is continuously growing, with Cambridge hosting more datasets in the institutional repository than any other UK university. Our ‘Data Sharing at Cambridge’ infographic summarises our work in this area.

A recent Primary Research Group report recognised Cambridge as having ‘particularly admirable data curation services’.

3.2 Policy development

The OSC is heavily involved in policy development in the scholarly communication space and participates in several activities external to the University. In July 2016 the UK Concordat on Open Research Data was published, with considerable input from the university sector, coordinated by the OSC.

We have representatives on the RCUK Open Access Practitioners Group, the UK Scholarly Communication License and Model Policy Steering Committee and the CASRAI Open Access Glossary Working Group, plus several other committees external to Cambridge. The OSC has contributed to discussions at the Wellcome Trust about ensuring better publisher compliance with their Open Access policy.

We are also updating and writing policies for aspects of research management across the University.

3.3 Collaborations with the research community

The OSC collaborates directly with the research community to ensure that the funding policy landscape reflects their needs and concerns. To that end we have held several town-hall meetings with researchers to discuss issues such as the mandating of CC-BY licensing, peer review and options relating to moving towards an Open Research landscape. We have also provided opportunities for researchers to meet directly with funders to discuss concerns and articulate amendments to the policies. The OSC has led discussions with the sector and arXiv.org, including visiting Cornell University, to ensure that researchers using this service to make their work openly available can be compliant under the HEFCE policy.

A new Research Data Management Project Group brings researchers and administrators together to work on specific issues relating to the retention and preservation of data and the management of sensitive data. We have also recruited over 40 Data Champions from across the University. Data Champions are researchers, PhD students or support staff who have agreed to advocate for data within their department: providing local training, briefing staff members at departmental meetings, and raising awareness of the need for data sharing and management.

The initiative began as an attempt to meet the growing need for RDM training, provide more subject-specific RDM support and begin more conversations about the benefits of RDM beyond meeting funders’ mandates. There has been a lot of interest in our Data Champions from other universities in the UK and abroad, with applications for our scheme coming from around the world. In response to this we have proposed a Bird of a Feather session at the 9th RDA plenary meeting in April to discuss similar initiatives elsewhere and creating RDM advocacy communities.  

3.3 Professional development for the research community

The OSC provides the research community with a variety of advocacy, training and workshops relating to research data management, sharing research effectively, bibliometrics and other aspects of scholarly communication. The OSC held over 80 sessions for researchers in 2016, including the extremely successful ‘Helping researchers publish’ event which we are repeating in February.

Our work with the Early Career Research (ECR) community has resulted in the development of a series of sessions about the publishing process for the PhD community. These have been enthusiastically embraced and there are negotiations with departments about making some courses compulsory. While this underlines the value of these offerings it does raise issues about staffing and how this will be financed.

The OSC is increasingly managing and hosting conferences at the University. Cambridge is participating in the Jisc Shared Repositories pilot and the OSC hosted an associated Research Data Network conference in September. In July 2016, the OSC organised a conference on research data sharing in collaboration with the Science and Engineering South Consortium, which was extremely well received and attracted over 80 attendees from all over the UK.

In November, the OpenCon Cambridge group – with which the OSC is heavily involved – held a OpenConCam satellite event which was very well attended and received very positive feedback. The storify of tweets is available, as is this blog about the event. The OSC was happy to both be a sponsor of the event and to be able to support the travel of a Cambridge researcher to attend the main OpenCon event in Washington and bring back her experiences.

Increasingly we are livestreaming our events and then making them available online as a resource for later.

3.4 Developing Library capacity for support

We have published a related post which details the training programmes run for library staff members in 2016. In total 500 people attended sessions offered in the Supporting Researchers in the 21st century programme, and we successfully ‘graduated’ the second tranche of the Research Support Ambassador Programme.

Conference session proposals on both the Supporting Researchers and the Research Ambassador programmes have been submitted to various national and international conferences. Dr Danny Kingsley and Claire Sewell have also had an abstract accepted for an article to appear in the 2017 themed issue of The New Review of Academic Librarianship.

4. Updating and integrating systems

The University repository, Apollo has been upgraded and was launched during Open Access Week. The upgrade has incorporated new services, including the ability to mint DOIs which has been enthusiastically adopted. A new Request a Copy service for users wishing to obtain access to embargoed material is being heavily used without any promotion, with around 300 requests a month flowing through. This has been particularly important given the fact that we are depositing works prior to publication, so we have to put them under an infinite embargo until we know the publication date (at which time we can set the embargo lift date). The huge number of over 2,000 items needing to be checked for  publication date means a large percentage of the contents of the repository is discoverable but closed under embargo.

In order to reduce the heavy manual workload associated with the deposit and processing of over 4,000 papers annually, the OSC is working with the Research Information Office on a systems integration programme between the University’s CRIS system – Symplectic – and Apollo, and retaining our integrated helpdesk system which uses a programme called ZenDesk. This should allow better compliance reporting for the research community, and reduce manual uploading of articles.

But this process involves a great deal more than just metadata matching and coding, and touches on the extremely ‘silo’ed nature of the support services being offered to our researchers across the institution. We are trying to work through these issues by instigating and participating in several initiatives with multiple administrative areas of the University.  The OSC is taking the lead with a ‘Getting it Together’ project to align the communication sent to researchers through the research lifecycle and across the range of administrative departments including Communication, Research Operations, Research Strategy and University Information Systems, termed the ‘Joined up Communications’ group. In addition we are heavily involved in the Coordinated and Functional Research Systems Group (CoFRS) the University Research Administration Systems Committee and the Cambridge Big Data Steering Group.

5. Pursuing a research agenda

Many staff members of the OSC originate from the research community and the team have a huge conference presence. The OSC team attended over 80 events in 2016 both within the UK and major conferences worldwide, including Open Scholarship Initiative, FORCE2016, Open Repositories, International Digital Curation Conference, Electronic Thesis & Dissertations, Special Libraries Association, RLUK2016, IFLA, CILIP and Scientific Data Conference.

Increasingly the OSC team is being asked to share their knowledge and experience. In 2016 the team gave four keynote speeches, presented 18 sessions and ran one Master Class. The team has also acted as session chair for two conferences and convened two sessions.

5.1 Research projects

The OSC is undertaking several research projects. In relation to the changing nature of scholarly communication services within libraries, we are in the process of analysing  job advertisements in the area of scholarly communication, we have also conducted a survey (to which we have received over 500 respondents) on the educational and training background of people working in the area of scholarly communication. The findings of these studies will be shared and published during 2017.

Dr Lauren Cadwallader was the first recipient of the Altmetrics Research Grant which she used to explore the types and timings of online attention that journal articles received before they were incorporated into a policy document, to see if there was some way to help research administrators make an educated guess rather than a best guess at which papers will have high impact for the next REF exercise in the UK. Her findings were widely shared internationally, and there is interest in taking this work further.

The team is currently actively pursuing several research grant proposals. Other research includes an analysis of data needs of research community undertaking in conjunction with Jisc.

5.2 Engaging with the research literature

Many members of the OSC hold several editorial board positions including two on the Data Science Journal, and one on the Journal of Librarianship and Scientific Communication. We also hold positions on the Advisory Board for PeerJ Preprints. We have a staff member who is the Associate Editor, New Review of Academic Librarianship . The OSC team also act as peer reviewers for scholarly communication papers.

The OSC is working towards developing a culture of research and publishing amongst the library community at Cambridge, and is one of the founding members of the Centre for Evidence Based Librarianship and Information Practice (C-EBLIP) Research Network.

6. Staffing

Despite the organisational layout remaining relatively stable between 2015 and 2016, this belies the perilous nature of the funding of the Office of Scholarly Communication. Of the 15 staff members, fewer than half are funded from ‘Chest’ (central University) funding. The remainder are paid from a combination of non-recurrent grants, RCUK funding and endowment funds.

The process of applying for funding, creating reports, meeting with key members of the University administration, working out budgets and, frankly, lobbying just to keep the team employed has taken a huge toll on the team. One result of the financial situation is many staff – including some crucial roles – are on short-term contracts and several positions have turned over during the year. This means that a disproportionate amount of time is spent on recruitment. The systems for recruiting staff in the University are, shall we say, reflective of the age of the institution.

In 2016 alone, as the Head of the OSC, I personally wrote five job descriptions and progressed them through the (convoluted) HR review process.  I conducted 32 interviews for OSC staff and participated in 10 interviews for staff elsewhere in the University where I have assisted with the recruitment. This  has involved the assessment of 143 applications. Because each new contract has a probation period, I have undertaken 27 probationary interviews. Given each of these activities involve one (or mostly more) other staff members, the impact of this issue in terms of staff time becomes apparent.

We also conducted some experiments with staffing last year. We have had a volunteer working with us on a research project and run a ‘hotdesk’ arrangement with colleagues from the Research Information Office, the Research Operations Office and Cambridge University Press. We also conducted a successful ‘work from home’ pilot (a first for the University Library).

7. Plans for 2017

This year will herald some significant changes for the University – with a new Librarian starting in April and a new Vice Chancellor in September. This may determine where the OSC goes into the future, but plans are already underway for a big year in 2017.

As always, the OSC is considering both a practical and a political agenda. On the ‘political’ side of the fence we are pursuing an Open Research agenda for the University. We are about to kick off of the two-year Open Research Pilot Project, which is a collaboration between the Office of Scholarly Communication and the Wellcome Trust Open Research team. The Project will look at gaining an understanding of what is needed for researchers to share and get credit for all outputs of the research process. These include non-positive results, protocols, source code, presentations and other research outputs beyond the remit of traditional publications. The Project aims to understand the barriers preventing researchers from sharing (including resource and time implications), as well as what incentivises the process.

We are also now at a stage where we need to look holistically at the way we access literature across the institution. This will be a big project incorporating many facets of the University community. It will also require substantial analysis of existing library data and the presentation of this information in an understandable graphic manner.

In terms of practical activities, our headline task is to completely integrate our open access workflows into University systems. In addition we are actively investigating how we can support our researchers with text and data mining (TDM). We are beginning to develop and roll out a ‘continuum’ of publishing options for the significant amount of grey literature produced within Cambridge. We are also expanding our range of teaching programmes – videos, online tools, and new types of workshops. On a technical level we are likely to be looking at the potential implementation of options offered by the Shared Repository Pilot, and developing solutions for managed access to data. We are also hoping to explore a data visualisation service for researchers.

Published 17 January 2017
Written by Dr Danny Kingsley
Creative Commons License