Towards a Unified University Infrastructure: The Data Management Roll-Out at the University of Oxford

James A. J. Wilson, Paul Jeffreys


Since presenting a paper at the International Digital Curation Conference 2010 conference entitled ‘An Institutional Approach to Developing Research Data Management Infrastructure’, the University of Oxford has come a long way in developing research data management (RDM) policy, tools and training to address the various phases of the research data lifecycle. Work has now begun on integrating these various elements into a unified infrastructure for the whole university, under the aegis of the Data Management Roll-out at Oxford (Damaro) Project.

This paper will explain the process and motivation behind the project, and describes our vision for the future. It will also introduce the new tools and processes created by the university to tie the individual RDM components together. Chief among these is the ‘DataFinder’ – a hierarchically-structured metadata cataloguing system which will enable researchers to search for and locate research datasets hosted in a variety of different datastores from institutional repositories, through Web 2 services, to filing cabinets standing in department offices. DataFinder will be able to pull and associate research metadata from research information databases and data management plans, and is intended to be CERIF compatible. DataFinder is being designed so that it can be deployed at different levels within different contexts, with higher-level instances harvesting information from lower-level instances enabling, for example, an academic department to deploy one instance of DataFinder, which can then be harvested by another at an institutional level, which can then in turn be harvested by another at a national level.

The paper will also consider the requirements of embedding tools and training within an institution and address the difficulties of ensuring the sustainability of an RDM infrastructure at a time when funding for such endeavours is limited. Our research shows that researchers (and indeed departments) are at present not exposed to the true costs of their (often suboptimal) data management solutions, whereas when data management services are centrally provided the full costs are visible and off-putting. There is, therefore, the need to sell the benefits of centrally-provided infrastructure to researchers. Furthermore, there is a distinction between training and services that can be most effectively provided at the institutional level, and those which need to be provided at the divisional or departmental level in order to be relevant and applicable to researchers. This is being addressed in principle by Oxford’s research data management policy, and in practice by the planning and piloting aspects of the Damaro Project.

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The International Journal of Digital Curation. ISSN: 1746-8256
The IJDC is published by the University of Edinburgh
and is a publication of the Digital Curation Centre.