All about RDM

Research Data Management - what are we talking about and how does it affect you? This site is the product of a RDM project designed to gather advice, obligations, and tools in one place for researchers and support staff.

What is RDM?

RDM - Research Data Management - is how you look after your data throughout your project. Planning how you are going to look after your data during your research, share it with your collaborators, and how you're going to preserve it after the project will save you time and money during and after your project.

Why should I plan my RDM?

Firstly, it will save you time as you'll know where you put your data and how it was named, and it will save you money as you will not have useless duplicates of your data taking up valuable storage. We recently saved a clinical trial project 550 MB of space during a move to the Document Management System (DMS) at the University of Hertfordshire, as they had 212 duplicated files (11%). If all projects store a similar number of duplicated files, this amounts to £1000 per year spent on extra copies of files that are not back ups. You could be wasting your research grant on duplicates.

Secondly, the majority of research grants come from public money via research councils, trusts and universities. As such, the public want access to the data produced. It is therefore researchers responsibility to make that data accessible, assessable, reliable and reusable. The funding bodies consequently want to know where you data is and how you plan to share it openly after you have published. They are requesting Data Management Plans (DMPs) as part of your application and the University of Hertfordshire requires one post-award. 

Why should I make my data available to others?

There are numerous benefits for researchers in addition to the requirements from funding bodies and the University. Primarily, with the data available alongside the publication, the results can be verified increasing the prestige of your research. Protecting your data in this manner also reduces the risk of plagiarism. Your data can also be reused in comparisons and as part of larger projects, adding to the citations of your publication and increasing the audience. The data can also be independently cited when it is reused if you are unable to publish from the results. There are already many 'Big Data' projects that can boast of their success utilising open data.

With a move towards Big Data in the future as larger collections of data are gathered and become available, such as the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) and the Genome Sequencing projects, sharing of resources and data is crucial to the success of research. Just imagine what you could do with data from other groups, not just what they could do with yours, especially if you leave research or retire. 

There is also the advantage that if your data is open to review, it is harder to misinterpret. Many a research project has been misrepresented by the media based on scant facts. This risk could be reduced by publicising the data - in time, the media may even reference it. 

But my data is sensitive, how can I preserve it?

There are complications when it comes to sharing sensitive data, and this includes personal information, proprietary data, data that is patent pending, and data that affects national security. You may not be able to even acknowledge the existence of this data, but if you can publicise your data, the data itself can be subject to limitations so that it is not open to abuse.