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Tag: Research Data

Research data management planning @ SU

Research data is the cornerstone of all scientific research and refers to the recorded factual material that is commonly accepted within the scientific community as evidence that may be used to validate research findings. As such, managing research data has become an essential part of every research endeavor. This has created the need for research institutions to develop systems to appropriately manage their research data with the aim to ensure more productive and efficient science as new knowledge is created by building on previous scientific discoveries.

In this context, SU through its Library and Information Service had to conceptualise Research Data Management (RDM) with the aim to provide an array of RDM services to SU Library clients. For the purpose of this article, the primary focus will be limited to SU research data management planning as a service. A Data Management Plan (DMP) is a document that describes the manner in which research data will be treated during and after the completion of a research project. Amongst other things, this entails comprehensively describing research data beginning from its type, how it is going to be collected, processed, analysed and shared during a research project, as well as the manner in which research data will be published and/or preserved beyond a research project. SU researchers are expected to, beforehand, write a plan on how they will collect, analyse, and outline the conditions under which data may be shared and/or disseminated. DMPs often vary from one research project to another.

The Research Data Management lifecycle

The SU Library provides support on how to write DMPs for researchers. This is to ensure that all contemporary research done at the institution complies with the RDM regulations that are already in place. Some external research funders also mandate researchers to provide DMPs as part of their grant requirements. In this context, the Library may recommend RDM planning tools that are openly available. These tools enable researchers to clearly describe the type of data, format, volume and how they intend to collect such data, and or how the currently existing data would be reused if conducting secondary research. Liaising with the SU research data services librarians during the planning phase, researchers may receive guidance on how to write documentation for and organise research data. The RDM planning phase also presents an opportunity for the SU library to encourage researchers to share their research data through outlets that are supportive of the FAIR Data Principles. The SU Library does provide a platform supportive of the previously mentioned principles for researchers in the form of SUNScholarData, which is a research data repository that is managed and controlled by the Library. SU researchers enjoy exclusive rights to openly publish their research data to the repository, subject to third-party contract terms and conditions should the research project be externally funded. The Library remains a natural partner in the research process and RDM planning is one of the various research support services provided that are instrumental for the scientific research process.

Author: Sizwe Ngcobo

From Open Access to Open Data

Image source: JulieBeck

In the past decade, the management of research data has come to take on a more prominent role at tertiary education institutions around the world. This has been primarily due to the increasingly data-centric route that academic research has taken. At the same time, academic institutions have come to be influenced by the Open Access movement which advocates for the unrestricted access and use of published research outputs. A convergence of these two developments has culminated in a call for unrestricted access and use of research data. The term commonly reserved for data that can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone is: ‘Open Data’.

The move to make research data more openly accessible is being pushed through by research funding agencies as well as academic journal publishers. In recent years, some of Stellenbosch University’s research funders have instituted mandates that require the implementation of adequate research data management practices in order to enable the open accessibility of research data. Such practices should comply with certain best practices, such as the following requirements:

  1. research data should be managed through the creation and submission of data management plans; and
  2. research data should comply with the FAIR Data Principles by being findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable.

As a leading research institution, Stellenbosch University sought to address this issue by setting up an institutional research data repository known as SUNScholarData. SUNScholarData is a multidisciplinary institutional research data repository that was launched in August 2019. The repository is used for the registration, archival storage, sharing and dissemination of research data produced or collected in relation to research conducted under the auspices of Stellenbosch University. SUNScholarData creates a medium through which Stellenbosch University’s research data can be made findable and accessible. It also facilitates the interoperability and re-usability of the university’s research data.

SUNScholarData was not set up in isolation. Instead, it was set up as part of a broader implementation which also included the formulation of a governance framework and the development of supporting research data services that are provided by dedicated staff members at the University’s Library and Information Services. Such services include data curation, client consultations and related training sessions. The use of SUNScholarData is supported by the SUNScholarData Library Guide. This is an online resource that provides a wealth of information about the repository in an easily digestible manner.

For more information about how you can make your research data openly accessible please contact the Research Data Services division at: