Research data management is now an essential part of the research ecosystem, it not only helps maximise the impact of research but is also increasingly a necessity for compliance with funder data policies. City, University of London, are a university that wants to become more research intensive and provide a more proactive research data service to their researchers.
City was already a user of Figshare for institutions (https://city.figshare.com), an institutional repository for their non-traditional research outputs, but the uptake of the repository had not been as high as they had wanted. Typically they found that data management was not a priority for researchers because, unlike traditional forms of publication, such as articles and book chapters, research data doesn’t count in the UK’s Research Excellence Framework (REF). As most of the researchers had not shared data before, they could perceive little immediate benefit, and it was harder to convince them to do it.
Even when researchers see the importance of making their data discoverable, there are significant practical challenges to overcome for researchers who are increasingly time-poor. They must identify an appropriate repository, organize and describe the data in a useful way, and then must ensure adherence to copyright and licensing restrictions.1
Such practical challenges may be overcome with the help of specialised research data support staff, but like many universities, City didn’t have the expertise in-house. Responsibility for the institutional repository had fallen to Szabi Steiner, Research & Enterprise Operations and Programme Manager at City, who describes himself as an ‘accidental data manager’ rather than a data specialist.
The low uptake of the data repository was expected to continue without specialist data staff, but without a higher uptake of the data repository it was difficult to demonstrate the need for those specialist data staff.
1 Stuart, D. et al. (2018). Practical Challenges for Researchers in Data Sharing. SpringerNature, https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.5975011