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Data Management Practices in the Social Sciences

Van den Eynden, Veerle and Bishop, Libby and Horton, Laurence and Corti, Louise (2010) Data Management Practices in the Social Sciences. Project Report. UK Data Archive, University of Essex, Colchester.

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Abstract

Evidence has been gathered on existing data management practices and approaches to data management planning amongst researchers funded by the ESRC in its various investments. Data management was evaluated in the interdisciplinary Rural Economy and Land Use programme (Relu) and in the longitudinal qualitative Timescapes programme – two investments where special emphasis has been placed on data sharing which requires good data management practices. With ESRC research centres representing large and long-term research investments, data management practices in a selection of such centres was evaluated by interviews with directors and researchers. Data for individual research awards were compiled from ESDS information. The communality is that all these research investments are bound by the ESRC data policy, which means that data need to be made available to the wider research community for re-use when research projects end. The Relu programme approach is to support researchers to plan their own data management and to implement their own good data management practices through a programme-specific data policy that mandates data archiving and a dedicated support service funded by the research councils. The support service provides best practice guidance and tools for researchers to use. Data are being archived at existing research council infrastructures. Crucial is also the strong emphasis the programme director places on data sharing. This programme piloted data management plans for the ESRC. Valuable lessons have been learnt about the usefulness of such plans. Researchers need clear information on how to plan data management in a meaningful way and often need additional support to develop good management procedures. Especially where research data may be confidential or sensitive, researchers need guidance on suitable informed consent procedures and anonymisation guidelines. Planning data management does not guarantee its implementation, and research funders need to consider how to ensure that good data management intentions are indeed implemented and revisited. Timescapes provides an example of a centralised approach to data archiving and data management procedures at programme level. The programme built its own archive and has provided guidelines and tools for informed consent procedures that take data archiving into account, as well as anonymisation, transcription and documentation guidelines. Even with this central approach, engaging researchers into designing suitable data management and archiving solutions has been crucial to ensure researcher participation and workable solutions. Ultimately researchers have to implement the management procedures, which most of them have done. The nature of the qualitative longitudinal research brings with it highly problematic data in terms of their management and archiving - data are sensitive, confidential, difficult to anonymise and require at times strict access control systems. Even with dedicated project funding, strong leadership and support services, significant challenges arose in creating archive-ready data. In ESRC research centres and programmes the director may coordinate data management as part of research management. In practice most aspects of data management are the responsibility of individual researchers. Although data management is not formally planned, certain aspects are as part of ethical review procedures. Overall data management and data archiving is not costed in or planned much during a centre’s planning stage. Researchers have indicated that they want easy, practical and trustworthy solutions they can embed into research activities, rather than a range of guidelines or suggestions from which to choose. Centres often need solutions for easy file sharing, either for cross-institutional collaborations, or for remote working. For individual grant holders the onus is on researchers themselves to look after data. Support is provided by ESDS via online guidance and a helpdesk answering queries. The main aspects for which researchers seek guidance is dealing with confidential research data, gaining consent for data to be archived, copyright of data and the costing of data management in grant applications. When data are offered to ESDS for archiving, the main limiting factors are found to be lack of consent for data archiving and uncertainty over how to enable the archiving of confidential data.

Item Type: Monograph (Project Report)
Uncontrolled Keywords: research data management
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > ZA Information resources > ZA4050 Electronic information resources
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 15 May 2019 15:02
Last Modified: 15 May 2019 15:15
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/24551

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