By Michael Dao
On March 28th, 2019, the University of Ottawa hosted the Shifting Horizons: Managing Your Research Data Conference, a day-long series of workshops for researchers. I had the privilege of attending the conference on behalf of Open Air. My blog will discuss two of the presentations given during the workshop, namely those about the digitization of data as well as the resources available for the storage and management of this data.
Why Share Data?
The first workshop presentation, given by Professor Béatrice Craig alongside research support librarians Felicity Taylor and Sarah Simpkin, explained the benefits of digital data management and resources to digitize and share data with other researchers. During the presentation, Prof. Craig explained the benefits of digitizing and sharing data. Indeed, disseminating data can help one discover other people who would be interested in collaborating or in engaging in a dialogue on the topic. In essence, it is a tool to network and find colleagues working on the same subject area. In other cases, some grants and journals require uploading data into repositories as a necessary condition. For example, the Canadian Tri-Agency Council has issued statements supporting digital data management and sharing within repositories with other researchers. Data-sharing is now taken into consideration when the Tri-Agency grants research funding.
The presenters also offered tips on how to make your shared data in a repository more accessible and ethical. First, obviously, is the issue of copyright. In Canada, raw data itself is not typically protected through copyright, however, if the data has been formatted or processed, the labour input may copyright protect the data. Guidelines by the University of Ottawa for the copyrighting of data can be found here. Second, if one has opted to digitize their data, ensure that the 3T1 Rule is followed. What is the 3T1 Rule? That there are at least three copies in two different locations and that there is more than one backup copy available. This ensures that one’s data is protected against any possible issues.
How to Manage and Publish Data
The presenters indicated that there are many options available for digital data management, however, it is useful to first start with a guideline. A guideline plan for research data management can be found here and provides an overview for developing a data strategy as well as information on managing digital data.
The presenters then indicated that the University of Ottawa (uOttawa) has two available repositories. The first is through the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), a digital repository managed by the University of Michigan. The second is through Dataverse, which is a database shared among Canadian researchers. Each university – including uOttawa – maintains a dataverse repository for researchers to upload to. More information on uOttawa’s Dataverse can be found here.
Each of the two uOttawa-available repositories has different advantages, which is why developing a digital management strategy is ideal before deciding the platform. ICPSR may not be a good choice when one works with sensitive data, or when cross-border data sharing has some inbuilt IP-protection. Since Dataverse is located in Canada and managed by Canadian universities, data sharing may encounter less jurisdictional, copyright, or privacy issues. On Dataverse, settings permit users to either leave data open or to restrict access. This also allows researchers to know who is viewing the files because gaining access to restricted files requires a person requesting access explicitly.
Finally, for researchers who wish for their data to be more easily searchable by other researchers, records for metadata should also be filled. This provides better search capacities for interested researchers.
Research Tools for Computation
The second presentation I attended covered available resources for data storage, backup, and high-end computation. This was given by Dr. Jarno van der Kolk, who heads the Information Technology department at uOttawa, which provides computational support for researchers. In this presentation, we were told about the various computer research tools available for researchers at uOttawa.
First, the University of Ottawa provides free hosting at a data centre located on campus, which can provide a back-up source for data. The physical servers themselves must be provided by the research group, but the storage and maintenance of the data servers are free and in controlled climatic conditions that are continually monitored. Information about this can be found here.
Second, for faculty researchers, they have the option to create a Google Drive File Stream with the University of Ottawa, which provides unlimited cloud-based back-up and storage. Team-drive can be created by a Faculty Researcher for use by a research group, and Google Drive File Streams have additional security and data protection built in to handle more sensitive data. More information can be found here.
It was also interesting to learn about computation options for researchers. Faculty Researchers have the option of using the networked computers available through Compute Canada, which is funded by federal and provincial R&D spending. More information on this resource can be found here.
The first half of the Shifting Horizons workshop was both insightful, interesting, and, for me, helpful in better understanding some aspects of research I otherwise would not have been exposed to. I was very delighted to learn about all the available tools and capabilities the University of Ottawa provides to its researcher faculty and students.