Network Meeting with a Focus on Sharing Experiences between HEIs

Published: 2021-06-09

What can we learn from one another? That was the theme for SND’s network meeting on 7 June, which focused on some aspects on the HEIs’ work to build and operate research data support units (Data Access Unit, DAU). In four presentations, members of the SND Network shared fruitful collaborations, storage strategies, and large-scale e-infrastructure projects.

The first to present their experiences were Ulrika Nyman and Per Nyström, representatives for Mälardalen University. Their DAU work is still fairly new, and they shared their insights into starting a research data support unit. At first, that meant to get acquainted with the organization and to analyze its needs. Ulrika Nyman spoke about the process where they talked to research managers, posted a survey to the researchers at the university, and initiated a collaboration with a local research group in order to find out what types of research data that were produced at the university, and in what quantities, They also wanted to find out what forms of support the researchers lacked, and what gap a DAU could fill.

Another part of their work focused on how to create the DAU as a group, and how it can find its place in the organisation. Ulrika Nyman mentioned how beneficial the cooperation with the local IT services has been. Together, they have created administration documentation that clearly shows which IT processes and systems coordination activities that are present at the university, and what the division of work between IT services and the DAU looks like. This cooperation has also brought the functions closer together.

—It’s important to get to know the organization. This may sound obvious, but you cannot take it for granted. For one thing, we must have a common and understandable terminology. Words that a librarian thinks are perfect may be too vague or misleading for someone from another profession. We need to understand and accept our organizational differences and different prior knowledge, said Ulrika Nyman during SND’s webinar.

Collaborations give advantages to smaller HEIs

The representatives for Mälardalen University stressed the importance for a smaller HEI to nurture their network and to dare to ask for advice from those who have come further in their work. And networking and collaborating was the theme for the joint presentation held by University of Borås, University of Skövde, and University West. Elisabeth Näverå (University West) talked about how the universities collaborate in research data-related matters, the result of a joint decision of their respective university boards.

It started when they took SND’s BAS Online training together. Next, they hired a coordinator to organize the collaboration, and formed a group with representatives from the three universities. The group, called “the Core” (Kärnan), meet monthly and work together on texts, intelligence activities, and training initiatives. They discuss real-life cases connected to research data support, exchange experiences, and organize network meetings around various topics.

The three universities wanted to develop a common research data policy. This resulted in a basic structure, which was then developed and implemented according to local conditions.

—Of course we have local differences, but the collaboration is based on the things we have in common. You can then finalize the work on a local level, said Henrik Levin from University of Skövde.

Slide from the presentation given by University West, University of Borås, and University of Skövde.
Elisabeth Näverå talked about how the DAU at University West, University of Borås, and University of Skövde collaborate.

Solutions need to be useful and easy to use for researchers

During SND’s event ”Webinar on API for indexing research data” on 3 March, Per von Bahr presented the Sunet Drive storage solution, which has been developed in collaboration between Stockholm University and Sunet. On this occasion, he elaborated on the background and some of the ideas behind the initiative.

—Stockholm University has had storage for specific purposes, but we haven’t had a good general solution. There was an obvious need for a broad solution for all researchers that would meet with legal requirements and be useful in the medium to long term, said Per von Bahr during the network meeting.

The work began locally in the university library, but the intention was to create a storage solution that could become useful on a national scale as well. They wanted to make it easier for researchers to store data, and to store them in a correct way throughout the research process. The storage should be in demand, easy to use, connected to the SND system DORIS, and should simplify e-archiving. It should also support automated workflows for data management and tools for data management plans, and operate according to the guidelines for the FAIR data principles.

Just like Stockholm University, Chalmers University of Technology works on a broad solution that will make it easier for researchers to manage research data. Chalmers are developing the eCommons platform, which will become an entirely new e-infrastructure that will meet the demands for storage, dissemination, management, and analysis of large datasets and large-scale simulations.

—Research is being digitized, which means new types of research results, resources, new ways of sharing and disseminating data, and new types of research collaborations. It fundamentally changes research and its processes: how you measure quality, publish, assign merit, and so on. This is a central challenge to research and nothing specific to IT, the libraries, the legal departments, the research funders, or just a political issue, said Sverker Holmgren, who presented eCommons during the event.

The eCommons framework will merge existing e-infrastructures, but it also contains the recently established Chalmers Data Office. This function will provide support throughout all parts of the research data life-cycle – not just data sharing – and manage questions regarding storage, data management plans, archiving, and how to make data FAIR.

Sverker Holmgren commented that the platform will provide resources, both at and outside of the university, as well as qualified advice. It is also going to be an interface to national and international infrastructures, such as SND, SNIC, Sunet, and EOSC.

—eCommons builds on almost four years of extensive preparation. It’s got a clear location in the organization and has been established by the president as a Chalmers infrastructure, which also gives it a clear mandate, he said.

After the four presentations, the almost one hundred participants had an opportunity to delve deeper into one of the topics. They divided into smaller groups to ask questions, discuss the topics, and compare experiences.