Developing informed researchers: a UKGCE workshop

Today I attended the UK Council for Graduate Education workshop: the Digital future of HEIs at the Studio in Manchester. I didn’t make the first opening session but was able to attend two other sessions in addition to my own. I have included my full notes here.

Simon Kerridge, University of Kent

Simon from the University of Kent and ARMA (Association of Research Managers and Administrators), the professional body for heads of research divisions. ARMA have a professional framework of skills for those supporting research. Simon spoke about some of the work research managers do, such as auditing across the institution and making statutory returns, e.g. for the REF. He also talked about open access and the Finch report. From 1st April universities will get block grants from HEFCE to support making outputs available open access. Up to them to decide how to spend it.  Some thought that by Ref 2020 there could be a requirement that everything submitted is open access.

At Kent one department has an open access journal, so might be this an option for HEIs to host more titles? He also mentioned RCUK’s requirement for the use of CC – BY licences. There is some concern this might be too permissive – allows commercial use.

Simon looks at the example of University of Nottingham who set up a fund back in 2006 to support open access. Since this date they have spent £6000 on article processing costs. These vary, but on average the price was £1216, but only 4% of Nottingham’s research output is currently on open access.

He highlighted things like the Sherpa Romeo site for listing OA titles and Juliet which shows funders OA policies. Simon also talked about research management and administration systems and a project Kent have been involved in. This has resulted in a procurement tool which is freely available to other institutions who might wish to get a RMAS. See

Finally he mentioned ORCHID which is the development of a unique identifier for each researcher that helps manage an individuals research output throughout their career.

Moira Bent and Jane Secker, Developing informed researchers

Moira and I were representing the RIDLs (Research Information and Digital Literacy) Coalition. Stephane Goldstein was also attending and spoke briefly about what RIDLs is and then handed over to Moira and I. We introducd ourselves and plugged a few of our books! We then started getting people to consider what researchers do – and the role of information and data in their work. This lively discussion was a good introduction to Moria’s 7 ages of researchers – to show their needs are not the same. We then went on to ask the group what digital literacy and information literacy was to them. Some saw it DL as a subset of IL. We had a discussion about whether there were specific aspects of DL not covered by IL. They overall concluded that if you took a broader definition than librarians might have traditionally then it was all IL! I presented the ANCIL definition of IL, SCONUL 7 pillars and Future lab model of Digital Literacy. We then asked them to think what it was that researchers in their own institution needed. Another lively discussion followed on how we needed to teach researchers to be critical, to be discriminating in their use of information, to realise that Google is not an unbiased source. But also that social media creates all sorts of new issues.

We went on to talk about IL and the RDF – how the IL lens on the RDF might be helpful. But also the various lens of the SCONUL 7 pillars.

Finally we presented a case study from our own institutions on the types of sessions we offer to PhD students and how these map to the RDF. The programmes at LSE and Newcastle are surprisingly similar and cover many of the RDF competencies. We unfortunately ran out of time for the final activity where we had wanted people to think about their own institution, who was doing what, whether there were any gaps and mapping it to the RDF. It was a nice take home piece of work for people to do. We also gave out the various lens and the Informed Researcher booklet. All these resources are also on the Vitae web pages.

A final conclusion from a participant was that information literacy was far broader than he had recognised but that message needed to get out beyond the library community. It was a chance to talk to people who were not librarians, so we were hoping they might help us in the future.

Laurian Williamson, University of Nottingham

Laurian spoke about research data management (RDM) and a Jisc funded project Nottingham were involved in. She looked at what research data is, and who the stakeholders are – its more varied but some groups (e.g. arts and humanities researchers) don’t like it being called data! But the stakeholders are possibly even the general public, but researchers, librarians, ITServices, research office, archivists, funders, publishers – a host of people.

What is driving the sharing of research data is the funders who want this. They want data to be stored appropriately, backed up, shared where possible and ideally published as an output. At Nottingham there was a large Steering Group to oversee the project. The work was then divided into several strands for example to look at developing the service infrastructure and the technical infrastructure. Eprints was straightaway not considered suitable for storing data sets as no repository manager at Nottingham.

It was felt that using the funders were the main way to encourage people to engage in the project. They emphasised the requirement to do this in a leaflet produced for staff. They also logged queries to identify main issues – planning and creating data plans was a big concern. They have a website at

There was an issue over who takes on support – subject librarians were one idea but they were already over stretched. Edinburgh have a freely available tutorial for research students called MANTRA which is worth linking to or adapting. It’s available in Moodle. Edinburgh are really streets ahead of everyone else in this arena.

At Nottingham issues include setting up the technical infrastructure which was very difficult, but also who to own the RDM – library and IT have just de-converged. Finally worth remembering not all data is in digital format.

As part of the project they conducted a survey or researchers about research data and Laurian summarised the findings which were fascinating. Research data takes many formats (spreadsheets, word docs, websites, notebooks etc). It’s often not huge in size but a lot of people are using tools like DropBox to store it. Funders ask for metadata but only around 40% of people provide it, which has implications for finding and reusing data. Backing up data is also not something that happens routinely. Only 25% of people were developing research data management plans despite the requirement to have one! 93% of people had not been on a training course and in terms of sharing data only a few people shared beyond their research group or institution. Most researchers didn’t understand IPR issues and who owned their data and there was no clear picture about whether they were using subject repositories or institutional repositories.

Laurian concluded there were clearly areas in which to develop training and a lot of challenges in managing research data. There were also disciplinary differences, issues to do with staff knowledge, skills and culture aside from the massive resources needed to set up an RDM infrastructure. Challenging times!



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