Tuesday, 18 February 2020

What does it mean to manage your data? (Hannah Buttery)

Photo by Luca Colapinto | unsplash.com

My name is Hannah, and I am a Senior Officer for Research Data Outputs at La Trobe University based on the Bendigo campus. I help academics with their research data management plans, assess these as part of ethics applications and provide help with Researchdata.latrobe.edu.au (powered by Figshare).

Before I worked in the library, I was an orthoptist, an allied health profession involved in the screening and management of eye disease and vision problems. I’ve been involved in eye related clinical drug trials. This work sparked my interest in the use and requirements around data generated through research.

Research data is exactly what it sounds like: data generated through research projects, clinical trials and research higher degrees.

You may not be sure what is included as research data, but it can be almost everything that researchers study.

If there are audio or video materials , interview transcripts and paper surveys, or blood and tissue samples generated by or related to your research, these items and the records created by them fall into the category of research data.

Because so much information can be generated, it is important to plan how you will manage your data well before themes are analysed or a thesis is written. You will need to think about where you will store it and how long you are required to keep it. The different forms of research, the type of information that is being collected, as well as the age of any participants, can have a significant impact on these requirements.

The library has a comprehensive Data Ready guide to help you with these issues.

How you store your data depends on how it has been collected. For example:
  • If it’s a hardcopy survey, it requires a secure physical location.
  • If it’s digital data, it requires a digital location, which has servers based within the country and is secure, encrypted and gets regularly backed up. Your computer or portable hard drives can be convenient to use but they are not recommended as primary locations for storage because they aren’t considered secure.
No matter what type of data you’re collecting, you’ll need to make provisions for keeping it securely for as long as it’s required. These processes and details will need to be stated clearly within a research data management plan, which is a requirement of an ethics application.

Including all the relevant detail you can within the data management plan is important because you can save yourself the time of having to correct or revise it after submission to the ethics review committee. Some of the most common follow-up questions for a reviewed data management plan include:
  • What type of recording device will be used?
  • If recording interviews online, what program will be used?
  • Which storage drive will you be using?
  • What online survey tool is being used?
There are distinct requirements on what’s considered acceptable, so giving clear information about your data collection process and management can make a big difference!

Basic analytics from Figshare platform
While I’m here, I’d like to tell you a bit about Figshare. Figshare is used by the university for research data that is shareable or open access.

Examples of material stored in Figshare include modules developed for training health providers, slide decks from conference presentations and data sets from disciplines as diverse as ecology, sociology, nutrition, and mathematics.

To start exploring what this platform has to offer for yourself, have a look at researchdata.latrobe, or take a look at how Figshare can help your research.

Once an item is uploaded, and made public, Figshare will also gather some basic statistics. These metrics can be used in tracking the impact and use of your data, including monitoring how many people are looking at, downloading and directly citing the information.

Figshare also generates a DOI (digital object identifier), which is a unique persistent identifier for your research or data, to make it findable and easily identifiable.

For grant applications that require independently verifiable information or data, Figshare is worth considering. Please contact the library research team for advice and support. We can help you work through your requirements for making the data available, and to determine if this location meets those needs.

If you have any questions about data management planning, you can contact the library research team here.

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Hannah Buttery is a Senior Officer Research Data Outputs, within the research team in the La Trobe library, with a background in clinical and research work as an orthoptist.

She currently is involved in advising around research data management, both in relation to ethics applications and making research data accessible through the Figshare platform.

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