31 January 2012

RDM Roles and Responsibilities

An important precursor to completing and implementing a DMP is the establishment of RDM roles and responsibilities among the researchers on a project. These are often not implicitly considered by the researchers, or are assumed on the basis of long-term working relationships.

Guidance from funders seem to focus on the roles and responsibilities of the Principal Investigator (PI), the researchers’ organisation, data archive organisations and the funder themselves. Roles of other researchers (and possibly PhD students and other types of staff in large projects) are not listed.

The UK Data Archive lists the people who may be involved in data management:
  • principal investigators designing research
  • research staff or students collecting, creating, processing and analysing data
  • external contractors with a role in data collection, collation or processing, e.g. transcribers
  • support staff managing and administering research
  • institutional IT services providing data storage, security and back-up services
  • external data centres or archives who facilitate data sharing

The Medical Research Council’s (MRC) guidance for example gives the role of the PI as including, among other activities:
  • ... ensuring confidentiality in accordance with ethical and legal requirements
  • As custodian of the research data, they are responsible for making best use of the participants’ data, including through sharing, and for the integrity, security and quality of research data management, in accordance with institutional policies and recognised data standards

We have developed an initial idea of what RDM roles and responsibilities within a research team might comprise: we would welcome feedback and comment on this.

Principal Investigator
The PI’s role and responsibilities are to:
  • Set the RDM culture and practice (based on good practice guidance) and delegate responsibilities as appropriate
  • Make decisions (after consultation within the team) about issues such as data access, data sharing, long-term retention of data
  • Develop (in consultation with the team) new RDM protocols/procedures and/or use/amend existing protocols: a team member could be delegated to scope and write these documents
  • Ensure a DMP is developed and maintained: a team member could be delegated to do this
  • Ensure that all RDM requirements (legal, funder, institutional, etc.) are included in the DMP
  • Monitor RDM practices and ensure RDM requirements are met
  • Manage and/or devolve responsibility for the project level documents and records i.e.
    • proposal, action plan etc.
    • reporting
    • financial
    • presentations, publications, outputs
  • Obtain the necessary resources to conduct RDM, e.g. IT, allocation of responsibility for a team member to be a data controller
  • Follow the University policy and recommended best practice on RDM on an individual basis
  • Follow good RDM practice on an individual basis
  • Follow the project’s RDM practices for project activities (e.g. collecting/creating data, analysing data, producing outputs)
  • Raise RDM issues with the PI for resolution
The EU Project Team have raised the issue of allocating one member of the project team to be a ‘data controller’. This is not strictly a data controller in the Data Protection sense, but a person who would see that the research data was managed in accordance with ethical requirements; that access controls were applied (as appropriate); that audit trails between the different stages of data processing/analysis, and version control, was maintained; that migration to accessible formats was undertaken (where necessary); that data was destroyed (where applicable, e.g. raw data), retained securely for the required retention period, or placed into the public domain.

08 January 2012

Data Management Plan

The Data Management Plan (DMP) template used for the DATUM in Action project was the one we developed for our previous DATUM in Health project (see http://www.northumbria.ac.uk/sd/academic/ceis/re/isrc/themes/rmarea/datum/health/materials/session1/ for a copy), which was in turn developed from the Digital Curation Centre’s (DCC) template (see https://dmponline.dcc.ac.uk/documents). As we worked with the EU Project researchers we made further amendments to our DMP comprising:
  • developing further guidance and making this available as a separate document linked to the template
  • cutting down on duplication within the template by cross referencing, so information only needed to be recorded once
  • cutting down on duplication with other researcher activities (e.g. ethics approval forms) by asking for the locations of relevant documents held in paper/electronic form rather than repeating this information within the DMP
  • providing space for noting actions that needed to be taken: making the DMP a living document

The first version of the EU Project’s DMP has now been completed, and further versions will be produced as the EU project develops over time. The data requirements identified in the first action cycle of DATUM in Action have been embedded into the DMP.

A major concern expressed by the EU Project researchers was that completing a DMP was a demanding task, and that for many projects researchers would feel that the effort and time required for a DMP could be better spent on conducting the research itself. Projects are funded from a range of sources (most of which do not currently require DMPs), and vary in size from small scale, single researcher projects to large scale, multiple-researcher projects. They therefore need different levels of data management. If data management is to be promulgated for all researchers and all research projects than DMP-lite templates will be necessary. We have added a front page to our DMP template so the sections can be seen at a glance, and it will be easy for the researcher to identify the sections that are relevant / not relevant to a specific project. Automation of a DMP would also be helpful to achieve this.

However, the EU Project researchers have already benefitted from the DMP process as they have learnt new aspects about managing their research data and records.