Development of FAIR data services and Research Data Management policies critically depends on knowledge of local research data management practices. The move from generic (basic) RDM services to more focused services is predicated upon understanding the local context: What kinds of data are collected and how? How are data processed, analysed, archived or otherwise stored? What sorts of regulations (institutional or otherwise) do researchers have to obey?
The strategy adopted at TU Graz was three-pronged: First, a policy working group was convened to help develop the RDM policy for TU Graz. Through the faculty deans who acted as gatekeepers, researchers were approached by the ORRG concerning participation in the RDM policy working group. In parallel, we began conducting interviews with researchers who either had volunteered for the working group already, had participated in one of the faculty visits alongside their deans or were recruited separately, to gauge researchers’ perspectives on RDM as well as the role of data in their specific research context. Third, a survey was developed based on the interview outcomes and on inputs from working group members starting in May 2019 which was then distributed via email to all scientific staff in mid-September 2019 and left open for 5 weeks to gather as broad a database as possible. This briefing document summarizes the qualitative assessment of the state-of-play of RDM at TU Graz as part of the researcher-led policy development process based on interviews with researchers.
Developing an RDM Policy for TU Graz
In the initiation phase of the policy working group, Chancenfeld Forschung had informal talks with deans of six faculties to introduce the aims of Digital TU Graz in general and CF Forschung’s role in particular, and to request the support of the faculties in convening a working group and assembling a body of knowledge. For these meetings, at least three members of the CF Forschung have been present. Notes have been crafted for most (but not all) of these meetings and were included in the analysis. The main outcomes of the visits are summarized below.
Diversity and Specificity
The initial consultation and interviews with researchers from all faculties have shown that perspectives on RDM are discipline-specific and therefore very diverse. In spite of this diversity, the faculties share many of the same problems
Data relocation is difficult or impossible
Reproducing results is difficult, especially after the originators of data leave the university (due to the high staff turnover rates in academia).
We conclude from this that it will be difficult to attain one-size-fits-all solutions. The strategy for developing the RDM policy has therefore been two-pronged: We started by developing a general framework policy which applies to the entire university, and will in due course back that up by faculty-specific policies to help faculties and departments with implementing the general policy.
Developing a policy: Some considerations of Process
Those researchers that were approached ahead of policy development had mixed impulses regarding possible approaches to policy development. Some expressed a preference for a top down approach as this would give us the opportunity to learn from best practices at other research institutions. Others expressed discontent with imposing regulations and policies on top of an already very diverse structure (Faculties, Departments, Research Groups) and without consultation of those most affected by it. The strategy ultimately agreed upon sought to combine the strengths of both approaches by convening a working group of representatives from all involved stakeholders (one for each faculty, the library, F&T-Haus) to collaborate on developing the policy while learning as much as possible from other institutions.
Dr. Tony Ross-Hellauer Digitale TU Graz-Handlungsfeld Forschung
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