#jiscmrd – Day 2 – session report on ‘identifying and supporting researcher requirements’

This session was presented by Jonathan Tedds, Senior Research Liaison Manager (IT Services) at University of Leicester and Meik Poschen, Manchester eResearch Centre (MeRC), Requirements and Evaluation Lead from the University of Manchester. Both presentations were interactive, so the key points in this blog are a mixture of points from their slides and from general discussion. The group raised the issue of commonality in terms of approaches and methodologies to identify researcher requirements; an outcome for the programme could be projects sharing what they are doing in this area. The Sustainable Management of Digital Music Research Data project have written a few blog posts about their methodology.


MaDAM Key points

  • researchers themselves were a useful source of information but it was also important to talk to experimental officers, other PIs, other research groups in order to view the institution’s wider picture
  • for user group scoping try and select groups where there could be mutual benefit – researchers should also get benefit from taking part and giving their time
  • they used an iterative approach; developers and users had a lot of meetings; the project team observed researchers’ work practice; then involved them with the evaluation of the technical system and soft infrastructure
  • funder requirements are now clearer – over the course of an 18 month project things change with researchers and funders
  • one of the huge benefits of MaDAM was awareness raising – at the beginning it may have initially been perceived as increasing researchers’ workload but this perception changes over time as funder requirements have changed – now data management is viewed favourably
  • cultural change is needed, high level institutional support is crucial too
  • importance of personal contact and observation of researchers’ day-to-day research practice
  • some questions:
    how much storage will researcher need over time? how long has data to be kept in an active or easy accessible state for re-use or sharing? how will the relationship between new policies and research practices develop? how will dissemination practices and hence scholarly communications be effected?

The group felt that although researchers were getting more engaged in this area, the research councils need to do more to enable cultural change with researchers i.e. there is a sense that the research councils have panicked the institutions rather than the researchers. One institution mentioned that a major grant was rejected on the grounds of the technical appendix; the group agreed that researchers need to know about this.

Research Data Management at Leicester – key points

  • professorial level champions are good, but also good to get those who are more technically engaged within researcher groups – engaging at different levels
  • in the past a project like HALOGEN would have used in-house IT expertise, but would be a one-off solution; they wanted to be able to re-use the infrastructure for future inter-disciplinary and inter-institutional projects
  • Tedds raised the importance of ensuring that requirements analysis is iterative – continuous engagement
  • challenges included: retro-fitting data to make it interoperable (versioning and provenance issues)
  • key thing is to provide something that is less effort for researchers as it is more standardised
  • there was a great slide on ‘direct benefits’, this included 1.3 million pounds worth of funding from the Leverhulme Trust
  • another great slide on ‘indirect benefits’, which included costs avoided
  • Tedds recommended recognising the different cultures and mindsets – the research liaison role helped with this
  • top tip: grab researchers’ attention when they are applying for funding – system now includes some checkboxes they have to select when applying for funding e.g. ‘do you need support?’ – this also provides a record of demand
  • Leicester’s research computing management group will be chaired by the Pro Vice Chancellor for research so this will feed back to senior management

There was some discussion about the use of SharePoint in the group – the educational pricing for SharePoint in the Cloud is not going to be released now until next Summer.

The group talked about the issue of researchers’ understanding of what research data is; terminology and disciplinary challenges. An example was given of a ‘fabrics database’ which was accepted by an institution – however there was a misunderstanding about what constituted a ‘database’ – an articulated lorry of wool fabric samples turned up = ‘the database’.

We need to provide different options for training – not just face-to-face – as time is a big issue even if researchers recognise they need it. It may be that we could also offer a component to plug into existing courses rather than offering something totally new.

The group discussed the importance of extending training beyond researchers themselves in order to provide consistency across the board irrespective of which department the researchers go to – a common language – a shared agreement of what we are all up to in supporting researchers.


3 Comments on “#jiscmrd – Day 2 – session report on ‘identifying and supporting researcher requirements’”

  1. Jez Cope says:

    Hi Marie, thanks for capturing this, and thanks to Jonathan, Meik and the other participants for their insights.

    One of the points that really stood out for me was that “requirements gathering” was valuable not just because we need to know researchers’ requirements (which we certainly do) but also useful as a way for engaging and getting buy-in.

    There have been enough studies through JISC projects and elsewhere that we have a pretty good idea of what researchers’ requirements are in general. But if our own researchers don’t feel listened to then it’s hard to convince them that any solution we come up with is relevant to them.

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