Impact of Social Sciences – Opportunities for ‘data intensive’ social research are growing but funding for data management remains a challenge.
"At some point in the last five years 'research data' acquired capital letters and a 'management' appendage to become Research Data Management, inevitably abbreviated to RDM. This has emerged as funding bodies coordinate policy demands on universities to help researchers do this effectively. It also reflects an international government push towards open data, as illustrated by the G8 Science Ministers statement last year. High-level concerns for RDM also come from the research community as it tries to address a ‘growing crisis of reproducibility’, as the Royal Society’s Science as an Open Enterprise 2012 report put it. High-impact journals including Nature now require published articles to have supporting data available. These are not just STEM disciplinary concerns; e.g. one of the main strands of the ESRC’s National Data Strategy is to implement the Royal Society report’s recommendations on sharing personal information for research. The strategy also sees growing recognition of social factors across disciplines, and consequently more interdisciplinary research. Just as that pushes against domain-based cultural barriers to data sharing, opportunities for ‘data intensive’ social research are growing. These can be seen in the opening up of administrative data, and the growth of ‘research infrastructures’, such as CESSDA, European Social Survey, and SHARE, which expand the scope and richness of reusable data. But much of this isn’t that new. Institutions are already making headway to tap into these opportunities and nurture their local RDM infrastructure. What changes are institutions making now? With what gains for them, their researchers, and for wider society? I’ll declare an interest in these questions; in the Jisc-funded Digital Curation Centre (DCC) we help institutions build RDM support through our tailored support programme. We find that librarians, research office and computing managers have no trouble recognising the basic rationale for developing services; help to exploit data, and to comply with policies requiring public data sharing. Nobody wants to burden researchers with time-wasting tasks. The challenge is to avoid that happening as the unintended outcome of poor design of policies or services, or inadequate resourcing. And resourcing is needed if data management is to gain recognition in its own right, both as a research activity and a career option for support staff. There is already evidence that organisational support encourages researchers to share data by depositing it in a public repository. So what institutional RDM services are taking shape? Many begin with RDM policy (see our list). These are statements of principle and good practice, often making a clear commitment to develop a support service. From our experience with more than 40 institutions through our programme and Jisc funded projects, distilled in a How-to guide, we identified seven ‘core components’ of RDM services to implement policy; business planning, data management planning, active data management, data selection and handover, data repositories, data catalogues, and the guidance and training to build skills in each of these. Many institutions start building such capabilities by providing online guidance ..."