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‘Data stewards can learn a lot from each other’

30 March 2016

'At the Radboud University Medical Center I already work with research protocols’, says doctoral candidate Jorien van der Laan, who also conducts research at the Poverty and Participation research group at the AUAS. 'There is much that still needs to be finalised at the AUAS.'

'But there are many developments, such as the central UvA/AUAS Research Data Management guidelines. At the moment, work is being done on data protocols and data stewards are being engaged in various places.'

Knowledge centre-wide data protocols

'I took the Research Data Management (RDM) introductory workshop of the Library and I may become a data steward. Together with the Library’s RDM information specialist, I’m investigating how we can draw up a data management plan format for our research group. There is a need at our Amsterdam Knowledge Institute for Social Innovation (AKMI) for a protocol that is used across the institution. We will be meeting with the 10 research groups to identify the various research programmes and work out how we can design a single protocol for all of them.'

Time-saving 

'The data management plans encourage you to think ahead. That may sound like a lot of work, but it actually saves you time. If you want to publish, much of what you need to describe in your methodology section you will also put in your data management plan. Because you assume that you and your colleagues handle research data carefully, RDM can perhaps feel like nitpicking: Have you come to check on me? Don’t you trust me? You just can’t imagine that people are not careful. Nevertheless, it’s important to make clear RDM arrangements. The last thing we want is fraudulent schemes à la Diederik Stapel.'

Personal information

'At the AKMI we work with highly personal information of very vulnerable groups. As a researcher you have a duty to handle that kind of data with due care, though we must also ensure that a data protocol doesn’t become a paper tiger or straitjacket. It needs to support different types of research.'

The role of the data steward

'We can fulfil the role of data steward ourselves. As far as I’m concerned, a data steward is not a police officer but rather plays a mostly facilitating role: explaining things to colleagues and engaging in dialogue about ethical dilemmas. Every researcher should feel responsible for handling research data with due care. It’s a matter of integrity and professionalism. Ideally, we want a world where researchers keep checks on one another.'

Advantages of a central RDM storage system

'I see advantages in a central RDM storage system, such as automatic archiving and software updates. For me, it’s important to be able to define the extent to which data is public per research project.'

Learning from one another

'Exchange and dialogue should be stimulated more. There is so much we can all learn from each other. I am inclined to seek dialogue and exchange at our own or other AUAS faculties, but perhaps it would make more sense to make contact with psychologists of the UvA’s Faculty of Social and Behavioural Science (FMG).'

Interview: Ellen Stoop

Published by  RDM support