The Hullabaloo about Research Data Management

What is research data management?

It is like a shadow in the darkness, a mystery lingering in academic minds. The words themselves have been whispered in the corridors all across campus: What is research data management?

To adapt what legendary investor Philip Fisher wrote in relation to the hullabaloo about dividends in his famous investment classic Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits:

There is a considerable degree of twisted thinking and general acceptance of half truths about a number of aspects of research data management. However, whenever the significance and importance of research data management is considered, the confusion of the typical researcher becomes little short of monumental.

In summary, research data management can be described as a process which consists of two components:

  1. firstly, planning for the manner in which research data will be managed during and after the research process; and
  2. secondly, controlling the collection, processing, analysis, sharing, dissemination, curation and reuse of research data.

So what is the hullabaloo about research data management?

In the past decade the management of research data has taken on a more prominent role in tertiary education institutions around the world. This has been primarily due to the increasingly data-centric nature of academic research. At the same time academic institutions have been influenced by the Open Access movement which advocates for the unrestricted access and use of published research. A convergence of these two developments has culminated in a call for the unrestricted access and use of research data. The move itself is being supported by research funding agencies. In recent years, some of Stellenbosch University’s research funders have required the implementation of adequate research data management practices to facilitate the open access of research data. Such practices should comply with best practices such as:

  1. research data should be managed through the creation and submission of data management plans; and
  2. research data should be findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable.

 What are the implications?

The recent developments relating to Open Access and Open Science have necessitated the creation of a research data management system at the university to facilitate adequate research data management practices. As a leading research institution, Stellenbosch University will address this issue by adopting appropriate data management practices. Thus over the foreseeable future, students and staff can expect a number of developments related to the creation of our university’s research data management system.

Watch this space for future developments!

 Samuel Simango