Research Data Management: We Need to Pick Up the Pace
Research data management is one of the major tasks of the future - for all those involved in the science system. But what does it take to master this task sustainably? A workshop with prominent participants recently addressed this question.
by Prof. Udo Kragl, Prof. Anne Lauber-Rönsberg, Prof. Klaus Tochtermann, Dr Oda Cordes and Dr Anna Maria Höfler
On the initiative of the North German Conference of Science Ministers (NWMK), the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture of the State of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern organised in cooperation with the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics the workshop “Shaping Research Data Management at North German Universities and Research Institutions Together” (German) on 15 October 2021. Three top-class panels and 200 virtually connected participants discussed strategic plans for campus-wide research data management at universities, future library services and legal aspects.
This article summarises the main results and is intended to further promote the processes and developments that have been initiated.
Research data is generated on a large scale worldwide, whereby the type and volume of data varies greatly depending on the discipline. The type of storage and, above all, the form of publication determine how and to what extent the data become known and usable within the scientific community, but also by the general public. In Germany, the foundations for comprehensive national research data management are being laid at federal and state level with the funding of consortia in various subject areas.
Strategic plans for campus-wide research data management at universities
In the panel on strategic plans for campus-wide research data management at universities, the existing range in dealing with research data was shown against the background that research data management is playing an increasingly important role in the acquisition of third-party funding. This spectrum ranges from “we don’t do that” to a self-image in dealing with research data. The associated orientation towards the FAIR principles (findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable) is embedded at national and international level in a more general discussion on the use of scientific results under the concept of Open Science: to treat data “as open as possible, as closed as necessary”. For the paradigm shift required for this in the individual disciplines, there are a number of questions and prerequisites that need to be clarified, as the discussion in the panel showed. In the academic institutions, this process has been underway for some time in some places, while in others it is still in its infancy. There are also approaches to a holistic approach. In order to make greater progress in this area, the participants of the panel and the participants at home came up with the following recommendations for all stakeholders in the science system.
- Research data management must be included in the curriculum of higher education and thus in the study and examination regulations, so that the awareness of young scientists is raised at an early stage.
- Research data management requires the staffing of experts in research data management, both for university education and for the support of scientists at universities.
- Research data management requires cooperation between central institutions across universities in the interest of better coordination, including non-university research institutions. The importance of intensive cooperation between institutions with the same orientation at the same location, but also across different locations, was emphasised. In this way, resources can be used effectively and, above all, a contribution can be made to the development of common standards.
Future services offered by university libraries
During the panel on future services offered by university libraries, it was discussed which services university libraries could develop for research data management. These could include consultation formats for finding, citing and documenting research data, dealing with the FAIR principles, offers such as the allocation of persistent identifiers for research data or the role of university libraries in consortia of the National Research Data Infrastructure Germany (NFDI). In the discussion, procedures for the introduction of offers to support research data management by university libraries were exchanged in order to derive the following recommendations for all stakeholders in the science system:
- Training courses should be developed and offered that enable certified further training for library staff in the field of research data management. Training is also needed for researchers, for example, in the design of data management plans, the application of FAIR principles or persistent identifiers.
- The range of tasks of librarians must be expanded to include new services and advice on research data management. Against the backdrop of the efficient use of resources, the services and advice offered by the university libraries should be provided jointly in a complementary and networked manner.
- Cost-intensive and complex infrastructures, such as for the digital long-term archiving of research data, should be established and operated cooperatively, networked and across the borders of federal states.
Legal aspects of research data management
This panel showed that, in view of the complexity of the legal framework, researchers should be relieved as much as possible of the legal assessment of issues related to research data management. This can be achieved by creating legal support and advice services, such as general training and information services, which, however, cannot replace a legal examination of the individual case. Therefore, on the other hand, there should also be the possibility of qualified and comprehensive legal advice in complex cases.
Many universities, university libraries and non-university research institutions have already established advisory services on research data management. However, there is a need for clear regulation on the extent to which these should also provide legal advice. This goes hand in hand with the question of quality-assured training and further education offers and the creation of corresponding career paths and job profiles for the staff working there. In addition, sufficient legal resources should be available at universities and non-university research institutions to provide qualified and comprehensive legal advice. Furthermore, it was emphasised how important the exchange between the staff of advisory institutions on research data management and the legal offices and data protection officers of the universities and non-university research institutions is.
With regard to specific legal issues in the respective discipline, reference was made to the responsibility of the corresponding NFDI consortia. The panel discussion showed that with regard to (co-)decision-making powers on the handling of research data, arrangements and agreements made in advance or the definition of general framework specifications of the research institutions are particularly useful. Since research data management raises a large number of still unresolved legal issues, research funding organisations should take into account the time and effort required to clarify legal issues in funding lines for project proposals.
Recommendations for a future-oriented approach to research data
In summary, the following core statements can be derived from the panels, which apply as a mandate to all participants in the science system:
- Sustainable structures – first and foremost sustainable, financial staffing – are needed to establish research data management in all subject cultures in the long term.
- Measures for a paradigm shift – both in the mindset of (early career) researchers and among infrastructure service providers – must be expanded and promoted accordingly.
- Both the competences at the level of the German federal states and nationally distributed competences and responsibilities must be made visible.
Ultimately, the introduction of research data management is both a task and an opportunity to make more sustainable use of the research results obtained and, above all, to be able to draw more far-reaching conclusions. With the workshop, the northern German states – according to Bettina Martin, Minister for Education, Science and Culture in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in her welcoming address – have set an active sign of scientific cooperation across borders. This will be continued to build upon, because there was broad consensus among the discussants about the topicality and necessity of dealing with this issue on an ongoing basis and, above all, of creating sustainable, viable structures with the involvement of science policy in order to establish effective research data management for researchers.
This text has been translated from German.
This might also interest you:
- Programme of the workshop “Shaping Research Data Management at North German Universities Together” (German).
- Quick start: “Making research verifiable with Open Data” at the Open Economics Guide (German).
- Research Data Management Project bw2FDM: Best Practice for Consultations and Training Seminars.
- Wikidata and Open Science: A Model for Open Data Work.
- Guidelines: Electronic Lab Notebooks in Research Data Management.
- Research Data Management: Toolbox for Successful Institutional Services.
- FAIR Data: Many Paths Lead to the EOSC.
- Research Data Management: Over-Reliance on the Lifecycle Metaphor – and Alternatives.
This text has been translated from German.
About the Authors:
Prof. Udo Kragl is currently Prorector for Research and Knowledge Transfer at the University of Rostock. His responsibilities there include research data and Open Science. He is chairman of the German Catalysis Society (GeCatS) and a DFG review board member for Technical Chemistry, where these topics are also currently being discussed intensively. He holds the chair of Technical Chemistry and is head of division at the Leibniz Institute for Catalysis, Rostock.
Portraet: ITMZ University of Rostock©
Prof. Anne Lauber-Rönsberg is Professor of Civil Law, Intellectual Property Law, Media and Data Protection Law at TU Dresden. She led the BMBF-funded project “DataJus” on the legal framework of research data management and published a handbook on the subject with colleagues in 2021.
Portraet: Anne Lauber-Rönsberg©, photographer: J. Gilch
Prof. Klaus Tochtermann ist Direktor der ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft. Seit vielen Jahren engagiert er sich auf nationaler und internationaler Ebene für Open Science. Er ist Mitglied im Vorstand der EOSC Association (European Open Science Cloud).
Portraet: ZBW©, photographer: Sven Wied
Dr jur. Oda Cordes is a policy officer for research and research funding at the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture of the State of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.
Portraet, photographer: Anne Jüngling©
Dr Anna Maria Höfler works as a Science Policy Coordinator at the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics as part of the Open Science research group. She is mainly concerned with the topics of research data and Open Science.
Portraet, photographer: Rupert Pessl©
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