Research councils, teams and researchers are under pressure to make publicly funded research data freely available; the publication of data is increasingly required by funders. However, by its very nature, research in the arts is highly complex and varied, often comprising a wide variety of outputs and formats which present researchers, repository managers and technology teams with many discipline specific issues. Large, complex, multimedia data and datasets are common in the visual arts and humanities; data is often created and managed by visual arts researchers on a largely ad hoc basis, with few tools available for systematic management
It has been more than 7 years since the RDIVA Partners went on to develop the Kultur Plugin providing a platform to the Arts and Humanities Research sector. Now, building upon experience in other successful Jisc funded projects and with the valuable help of CREST (providing an overview picture from other arts and non arts institutions), Arkivum and ULCC (providing technical expertise in development of EPrints tools) the project team aims at creating a pilot system that works independently regardless of any plugin installed within the RDM System area.
On May 14th 2015, the RDIVA partners together with representatives from CREST and ULCC met at the CREST main offices at Woburn House, London to discuss requirements that researchers in the Arts and Humanities sector have in terms of Research Data Management. The main objective of this session was to specify the particular requirements from the partners and convert them into a useful set of tool’s specifications, which can be developed in line with the Jisc Data Spring project Phase 2.
The day started with an introduction from each RDIVA partner providing an overview of the existing technologies used in each institution. Speakers included Amy Robinson (UCA), Stephanie Meece (UAL), Robin Burgess (GSA), Andrew Gray (Goldsmiths) and topics included things that have worked, things that need to be changed and things that could be developed to enhance the researcher’s experience when managing research data in the sector.
Although the presentations focused on EPrints as the main system (currently being used by all the RDIVA partners) discussions about other research data management tools and applications which can co-exist together with EPrints were pointed out.
During the presentations a series of different topics emerge, including:
Researchers engagement (or lack of engagement) – The partners agreed that it is currently very difficult to engage researchers in their already busy agenda, however acknowledged the importance of Research Data Management and its implications in the overall Research cycle. It is clear that the different departments across each institution need to be working together supporting the specific needs of researchers at different times during the academic cycle, providing a combined and streamlined approach where researchers are able to make better use of existing resources at the right time in their research work.
Ease of use – it was agreed that any RDM System that the partner institutions provide need to be easy to use minimizing data input from the researcher when possible and providing a clear and neat visual presentation.
Improving design in the overall system – Since our institutions provide world class leaders in art and design, it is just expected that systems used by our researchers will be designed to a certain standard and comply with W3C and accessibility standards.
Standard metadata fields – discussions around the area of metadata were inevitable and it was agreed that mapping across each institution was going to take place. So far, we have collected information from three partner institutions and the overall objective of this exercise is to map our existing RDIVA data structure against an RDM system metadata profile to see which data could be reused, needs to be added and/or is redundant.
The presentations followed by a demo from Digirati, a commercial company working on a universal viewer to enhance the user experience while looking at online data, documents and images. The viewer also provides features like zoom, search and highlight; it has already been used by EPrints to enhance some of its client’s user experience. Goldsmiths University is also considering adopting this technology within their institutional repository.
The workshop concluded with the technical partners from ULCC looking at the specific technical requirements needed from the sector and divided the session in five different areas:
1. Research data obligations – looking at fulfilling funder mandates. This helps in particular to avoid project scope creep, focusing resources and development in the areas where there will be most impact in RDM.
2. Workflow for the RDM System – it is important to define well in advance the metadata profile and metadata extraction needed for the Arts and Humanities sector. Looking at the standardization of metadata fields as described above, the team will be looking at verifying, preloading from other services, local directories and the website.
3. Storage requirements – although at the moment specific amount of storage requirements are not possible to define, it is important to specify the protocols for upload. Discussions about the ability to drag and drop files and create a better user experience to the researcher were explored.
4. Presentation and design requirements – based on the feedback from the RDIVA partners, special attention needs to be put on the design elements, this includes thumbnails displaying correctly, adopting other Web 2.0 and more up to date technologies and complying with international standards and processes.
5. Sharing requirements – looking at complying with copyright regulations and data protection measures ie. service location, data compliance, FOI, etc.
From here we will be looking at listing all the different technical requirements, allocate a ranking and a specific cost in order to be developed by ULCC during phase 2 of the Jisc Data Spring project.
Additional updates on the current progress of the project
On the dissemination side, on Tuesday 19th May 2015, the team presented at the Community of Practice open discussion on Research Data at the University of the Arts London, the even focused on current research data systems and a demonstration of a current UAL RDM repository.
Furthermore, a couple of RDIVA partners will be attending The CERN Workshop on Innovations in Scholarly Communication (OAI9) in Geneva next week (17th to 19th June 2015) and it was decided to include a poster presentation of the Jisc Data Spring SAS project showcasing the project goals and objectives.
Finally, the team is making progress on the pilot system and a separate EPrints instance have been developed by ULCC, the technical team has worked on a solution to the main issue around incompatibility of one of the plugins with the Kultur plugin. The results and pilot repository will be made available before the end of Phase 1.
Carlos Silva, UCA