Making Sense: Talking Data Management with Researchers


  • Catharine Ward
  • Lesley Freiman
  • Sarah Jones
  • Laura Molloy
  • Kellie Snow



Incremental is one of eight projects in the JISC Managing Research Data programme funded to identify institutional requirements for digital research data management and pilot relevant infrastructure. Our findings concur with those of other Managing Research Data projects, as well as with several previous studies. We found that many researchers: (i) organise their data in an ad hoc fashion, posing difficulties with retrieval and re-use; (ii) store their data on all kinds of media without always considering security and back-up; (iii) are positive about data sharing in principle though reluctant in practice; (iv) believe back-up is equivalent to preservation.

The key difference between our approach and that of other Managing Research Data projects is the type of infrastructure we are piloting. While the majority of these projects focus on developing technical solutions, we are focusing on the need for ‘soft’ infrastructure, such as one-to-one tailored support, training, and easy-to-find, concise guidance that breaks down some of the barriers information professionals have unintentionally built with their use of specialist terminology.

We are employing a bottom-up approach as we feel that to support the step-by-step development of sound research data management practices, you must first understand researchers’ needs and perspectives. Over the life of the project, Incremental staff will act as mediators, assisting researchers and local support staff to understand the data management requirements within which they are expect to work, and will determine how these can be addressed within research workflows and the existing technical infrastructure.

Our primary goal is to build data management capacity within the Universities of Cambridge and Glasgow by raising awareness of basic principles so everyone can manage their data to a certain extent. We will ensure our lessons can be picked up and used by other institutions. Our affiliation with the Digital Curation Centre and Digital Preservation Coalition will assist in this and all outputs will be released under a Creative Commons licence.






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