It has recently become mandatory to submit a data management plan after a research grant has been awarded. As of this year, a new team of data stewards is available to support the THUAS research centres.
‘In addition to a mandatory transparency of the research results, researchers are required to make their data as public as possible so it can be reused. This increases the impact of research,’ explains Marta Kargól, coordinating data steward for the team of data stewards: Niloufar Soekhai, Maria Blix and Leen Liefsoens.
Data management plan
Research data management includes all actions in which researchers organise, store, update and share data. Marta: ‘Grant providers such as NWO now require a written data management plan after awarding funding. This is a document in which you describe all the steps you are taking to collect data and what you will do with it during every research phase. NWO has also made it mandatory to consult a data steward.’
‘Fortunately, THUAS now has a team of data stewards at the library,’ Marta continues. ‘We support and advise researchers on good data management.’ Marta sees raising awareness as one of the first tasks for her team. ‘Researchers still don't always know what data management entails and why it's important.’ Marta also states that good data management can be quite complex. ‘Data has to be stored in specific file formats. In addition, you need to know what data you are allowed to share and how to protect personal data.’
You may be violating the GDPR without even realising it, according to the coordinating data steward. ‘When collecting data, for example during interviews, researchers sometimes still use their mobile phones or send data via non-secure internet connections. Traditional recording devices can easily be hacked. The researcher is ultimately responsible for the security of personal data, also when students are assisting with the project.’ Marta: ‘This means that research groups have to inform their students about good data management. They can also consult the data steward on this.’
Not on the desktop
In addition to it being mandatory, good data management has many advantages, especially if you work in a team. Marta: ‘Imagine that others have access to your computer and everyone is storing different versions of data in random folders. Before you know it, you lose track of information and you cannot see the wood for the trees. With a data management plan, everyone knows where all the data is. You can find everything much more quickly.’
Also, data becomes more valuable when its collected and stored responsibly. Marta: ‘It makes research and researchers more transparent and reliable. Moreover, the data can be put to better use. Well-organised data can be published and used in follow-up research. It not only increases the impact of research, but also the reputation of the researcher.’
Advice and support
The team of data stewards is ready to advise and support all THUAS researchers. Marta: ‘We have developed an online training course, both in Dutch and in English. This is a good starting point for researchers.’ However, Marta points out that researchers should contact data stewards as often as possible. ‘Data stewards help researchers understand what other support is needed and refer researchers to other support providers, such as lawyers, privacy officers or the Ethics Committee. Drop by or send an email if you have any doubts, questions or if you are applying for a new grant.’
The appointment of data stewards is one of the achievements of the quartermaster data stewardship, Saskia Rademaker. Another result is the Research Drive. This tool is now available to all researchers at THUAS. More news about the results of the THUAS Open Science pilot will follow soon.
For more information on data management and other tools for your research, please go to the research support portal. There you will find a link to the online training and the contact information of the data stewards. Researchers don't need to decide who can assist them. All you need to do is send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.