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'The huge data volumes from science research are hard to store long-term'

3 June 2016

According to head of ICT Boy Menist, the Faculty of Science (FNWI) has a faculty data protocol and there is an active RDM coordinator at each of the science institutes.

Menist is coordinating efforts to make the faculty ‘RDM-proof’, in addition to acting as the Research theme’s central information manager. ‘Eighteen months ago, FNWI started assessing the various requirements and preferences with respect to Research Data Management (RDM) in response to the increasingly stringent requirements placed on research data management by the government, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), journals such as Science and Nature and the UvA/AUAS central guideline.’

Huge volumes of data

‘The entire faculty is keenly aware of the importance of meticulous data storage and replicability. We also want to be able to share and publish data, if and when we so choose. However, some of the requirements, such as saving research for a ten-year period, are difficult to fulfil for researchers in certain science disciplines such as astronomy and molecular chemistry. This is due to the huge quantities of data produced – up to several terabytes on a daily basis. To store it for that long, you’d need an extra building and power station.’

Keeping measuring equipment

‘Science data also takes a great many forms. The measuring equipment must also be saved in order to precisely replicate the research. It would be extremely expensive for science faculties to save such large volumes of data for a full ten years. There have been no extra funds allocated for this purpose. Our impression is that the UvA/AUAS and NWO RDM guidelines are mainly based on humanities research. This issue is currently being discussed with NWO and the UvA central organisation.’

RDM support and services

‘We are happy with the University Library’s RDM support and services, such as the helpdesk, and the functionalities to be offered by the central RDM storage system, such as publishing, file sharing and archiving. Some of them are of great use to us, while others are not due to science research’s highly specific character.’

Data management planning templates

‘While most of the FNWI research institutes prefer to arrange much of their RDM matters themselves and reach their own agreements with journals and other parties, they also want support in these areas. So the central organisation and FNWI-ICT are also working on science-specific tools to unburden our scientists, wherever possible. For instance, we are currently developing an application with data management planning templates which are easy to fill in and save. We are also working on RDM templates for NWO research proposals, and on effective links to other systems.’

Based on user needs

‘Most importantly, we must now closely examine the functional requirements in practice, including at FNWI, in order to meet the RDM requirements and find the right solutions to do so. You really must base the offering on the users’ needs. For some science institutes it is not crystal-clear what being RDM compliant actually means: in other words, exactly which requirements must be met. The coordinators are still working to bring these matters into focus. Some of them will also go on to become data stewards.’

‘In addition to the faculty data protocol, the Van ‘t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences (HIMS) now also has its own data protocol. Individual data protocols are being developed at the other institutes, too. Some are creating very strict, unique protocols, while others mostly model them after the faculty protocol.’

Interview: Anneke de Maat

Published by  RDM support