Authors: Marta Teperek, Yasemin Turkyilmaz-van der Velden, Shalini Kurapati, Esther Plomp,  Heather Andrews, Robbert Eggermont

TU Delft has been leading the way in fostering a good research data management culture to uphold the quality, transparency and reproducibility of research. Since 2017, TU Delft has piloted the Data Stewardship programme with the aim to provide disciplinary specific data management support to TU Delft researchers. The focus on disciplinary support is motivated by the belief that in research data management (RDM), there are no one-size-fits-all solutions.

TU Delft has eight faculties with a wide range of research topics. In order to provide dedicated disciplinary support to researchers, a Data Steward was appointed at every faculty. Each Data Steward has a PhD degree in research are relevant for the faculty.

This is a condensed 2018 annual report describing the progress, activities, achievements and future prospects of the project.


Team building and laying the groundwork for the programme

In 2017 the majority of work focused on the recruitment of Data Stewards at three faculties: Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Sciences (EEMCS), Aerospace Engineering (AE) and Civil Engineering and Geosciences (CEG), and laying the groundwork of the programme. In 2018 Data Stewards were appointed at the remaining faculties, which concluded the team building work and brought the programme to its full speed. Since the beginning of 2019, the team of Data Stewards is at its full capacity, with a dedicated Data Steward per faculty.

The Data Stewards meet weekly for training, information sessions, and knowledge and practice exchange. The weekly meetings focus on the RDM needs of TU Delft researchers and keeping up to date with the most recent trends in RDM such as the FAIR principles, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law, research and software reproducibility. Dedicated experts from TU Delft, as well as national and international scene are regularly invited to these meetings. Communication channels and information sharing spaces have been also created and are now effectively used by all team members. To increase the visibility of the programme and to openly share its progress, a Data Stewardship webpage and a dedicated section on Open Working blog were launched. While the Data Stewards are embedded at each faculty, the Research Data Services (RDS) team operate centrally at the TU Delft library. To establish strong links between these two teams, a joint Away Day is organised once a year. Additionally, members of the RDS team are also attending weekly Data Stewards meetings and participate in some of the joint projects and undertakings (e.g. roll out of a new data management plan template). In addition, connections with faculty secretaries were developed through dedicated meetings to talk about Data Stewardship hosted by the Library and attended by all faculty secretaries. All of these activities were overseen and coordinated by the Data Stewardship Coordinator who is located at the TU Delft library.

Day to day activities of the Data Stewards

The role of the Data Steward at TU Delft is relatively new, so one of the first tasks of the Data Stewards was to become visible to researchers and gather intelligence on the type of support and advice researchers require within the faculty. In the first couple of months, Data Stewards engaged with researchers during faculty meetings, interviews, graduate school seminars, open science roadshows and by sending out a survey on the data management needs (see below for more details).

After researchers were sufficiently aware of the help they could receive, Data Stewards started receiving questions and requests for data management support.  The requests varied across the 8 faculties, but there were a few common topics on which Data Stewards were regularly consulted, such as: advice on data management plans, information about data archiving options, data sharing possibility, GDPR concerns, cross-border data transfers, commercially sensitive data, or data licensing.

Data stewards are also the linking pin to the broader TU Delft research support ecosystem.  Pragmatically speaking, Data Stewards act as general practitioners to all data related questions and issues. If there is a need for a specific intervention from a university wide legal, ethics or ICT specialist, Data Stewards know where to direct the researcher to get the most specific and useful answers.

In addition to advice and consultation, Data Stewards provide and/or facilitate on-request training and workshops on data management topics for researchers and PhD students. Agreements are made with faculty graduate schools to allocate credit points for participation.

At the moment all the Data Stewards are involving in leading the RDM policy development at their respective faculties.

Data Champions

Although embedding Data Stewards at each faculty is a prerequisite for creating awareness and achieving cultural change in RDM, community building efforts are essential to fully accomplish these goals. Additionally, it is impossible for a single Data Steward to have all the necessary disciplinary background to understand and support all types of research carried out in one faculty. Therefore the Data Champions programme was launched in September 2018.

Data Champions are researchers who voluntarily act as local community-based advocates for good data management and sharing practices. In return, they are provided with opportunities to showcase their activities during meetings at the department, faculty and TU Delft level as well as (inter)national conferences to offer increased impact and visibility. Additionally, the Data Champions are offered travel grants to join meetings and conferences to showcase their Data Champion activities, and trainings and workshops to learn new RDM skills to share with their local community members.

Suitable candidates for the programme are identified by faculty Data Stewards and are encouraged to become Data Champions. The general communication with the Data Champions is carried out by the Data Steward at the Faculty of Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering (3mE), who took on the role of the Data Champions Community Manager. The first meeting to officially kick off the programme was on 14 December 2018. This meeting took place in an informal setting to encourage interactive discussions, knowledge exchange and networking. Overall, it was very well received by the Data Champions as well as the research support professionals.  As of December 2018 we already had 27 Data Champions (at least one Data Champion per faculty) and this number is still growing. The AE Faculty, as well as the Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management (TPM), already have at least one Data Champion at every department.

The Dean of the Faculty of Applied Sciences (AS) has recognised the importance of Data Champions for advocating for good data management and sharing practices and aims to also have at least one Data Champion per department. The AS faculty already has six Data Champions and two of them, Anton Akhmerov and Gary Steele, took the lead in creating a dedicated policy on Open Data for their department (Quantum Nanoscience). The importance of the Data Champions programme has been recognised also at a strategic level at TU Delft, evidenced by the wish of Prof. Rob Mudde, the Vice Rector Magnificus of TU Delft, to attend the next meeting of the Data Champions.

RDM Survey

To be able to offer dedicated RDM support, it is necessary to first define the problems and the needs of the researchers. Our survey on research data management needs, which was initiated in 2017 at three faculties (EEMCS, CEG and AE), has been extended and completed in three other faculties in 2018 (TPM, 3mE, AS). The survey gathered 680 responses in total and the data visualisation is publicly available. The survey provided important information on the state of data management practices at TU Delft. The survey will be repeated yearly and this way the results will serve as a benchmark to indicate the effects of the work of Data Stewards on data management awareness and practices at the faculties.

The joint presentation summarising survey results at LIBER conference in July 2018 by the Data Stewards from LT and 3mE faculties was very positively received by the community and downloaded 187 times. Based on this presentation, we got invited to submit a paper about the survey results to LIBER Quarterly. The survey will be run at the two remaining faculties (Architecture and the Built Environment – ABE, and Industrial Design Engineering – IDE) and re-run at the other faculties in 2019.

Data Stewardship in numbers

Summarising, in 2018 the Data Stewards have received at least 245 requests for help with data management (note that not all the requests are recorded, given that it involves manual copy-pasting of the requests received by emails). In addition, in 2018 Data Stewards conducted 68 dedicated interviews with researchers about their data management practices. Notably, the Data Steward at the AE Faculty has met with all the full professors at the faculty, which was positively received by TU Delft’s ex-Rector Magnificus Karel Luyben.

In addition, Data Stewards adhere to the principle “practice as you preach” and therefore share their work as openly as possible. In 2018 the team published 29 blog posts and other publications on the Open Working blog. Our top viewed blog post in 2018 is by the Data Steward at EEMCS, describing the results of the RDM survey (viewed 844 times).

Furthermore, the team have attended 46 national and international conferences and meetings in 2018, including 33 occasions were Data Stewards were presenting as invited speakers or keynote speakers. The Data Steward from the 3mE Faculty was awarded the competitive Research Data Alliance Early Career Researcher Grant to attend the International Data Week 2018 conference in Botswana in November 2018. Again, in adherence with the openness principles, all presentations are publicly shared in a dedicated Data Stewardship at TU Delft community in Zenodo.

Data Stewardship event

On 24 of May 2018 the team has organised a dedicated event “Engaging researchers with research data – Data Stewardship in practice” to showcase the work of Data Stewards at TU Delft and to exchange views and practices on Data Stewardship with other universities. The event was attended by over 120 individuals (with 35% of the participants  from countries other than the Netherlands). All participants judged the event as “good” or “excellent” and responses to open questions were overwhelmingly positive.

All the photos (taken by Jan van der Heul from the RDS team, our Chief Photographer), videos and presentations from the event are publicly available. In addition, three participants wrote blog posts with their reflections and take-home messages (Marjan GrootveldDanny Kingsley and Martin Donnelly).

Projects

Data stewards have also been involved in many diverse projects. For example, the Data Stewards from the AE and CEG faculties took part in developing domain data protocols, which aim to provide researchers with disciplinary standards for data management in their research domains. The Data Stewards from the 3mE and AS faculties are part of the Electronic Lab Notebooks working group, which, following up on the successful Electronic Lab Notebooks event in March 2018, is now setting up a pilot to test Electronic Lab Notebooks at TU Delft in 2019.

Data stewards from the faculties of TPM, 3mE, AS and CEG have been involved in providing support for researchers working with software in order to improve code management practices and to make software more reproducible. Several workshops on software sustainability were organised, which resulted in a dedicated research paper that got accepted to be presented during the IEEE eScience 2018 conference and got published in the conference proceedings. The preprint of this paper is already downloaded 227 times.

These efforts eventually resulted in 4TU.Center for Research Data joining in December 2018 The Carpentries which is a non-profit organization teaching foundational coding, and data science skills to researchers worldwide. On 29 and 30 November, the first Software Carpentry workshop took place at TU Delft. The tickets got sold out just in a matter of days and we had around 30 researchers participating and another 45 on the waiting list, showing the huge interest and need for such training. Two more Carpentry workshops will take place in TU Delft in 2019. In addition, the Data Steward from the CEG faculty took the lead in the organisation of walk-in coding consultations for researchers wishing to get tailored support on their code management practices, which, due to its success and positive feedback from researchers, will continue to be organised on a regular basis. Moreover, a meeting with TU Delft researchers took place to discuss community building efforts for good programming practices. To this meeting, a representative from the Carpentries and a researcher from the University of Amsterdam was invited to learn lessons from their community building efforts.

Data Stewards have been also instrumental in driving forward the Open Science agenda. Dedicated Open Science roadshows (information sessions on research data management and on Open Access) have taken place at AE, TPM, IDE and CEG faculties. In addition, the TPM faculty organised a dedicated workshop on Open Science to their PhD students. The presentation “Open Science in a nutshell: what’s in it for me?” which was uploaded to Zenodo, has been downloaded 324 times and viewed 1,815 times.

In the current changing funding landscape where the researchers are expected to publish their papers and data openly, it is not feasible to evaluate researchers based on high impact journal publications alone for funding and promotion criteria. This is why, the TPM Faculty was also actively involved in discussions about academic rewards and how to make open sciencecount in academic careers. Prof. Bartel Van De Walle was the keynote speaker at the event on Open Science skills which was co-organised by the Data Stewards, 4TU.Centre for Research Data and the EOSCPilot. There were two separate blog posts highlighting the key aspects of the event (one blog post about the event as a whole and another one about the interactive workshop).

Following the principle that good data management should start as early as possible, the Data Steward from the AE Faculty opiloted the use of Dataverse for keeping research data of master students. Valuable and curated datasets can be subsequently easily published with 4TU.Center for Research Data.

Recognising the need for disciplinary support and for community building, Data Stewards from the ABE and IDE faculties identified the need for Digital Humanities community at TU Delft and are currently discussing with researchers across TU Delft to scope their interests and needs. A bottom-up approach is taken to encourage researchers to take lead in forming their own communities and exchange research ideas, resources and challenges. The first community-driven meeting will take place in early January 2019 at ABE faculty.

Since 25 May 2018, GDPR has came into effect in Europe. In August, two events dedicated to GDPR and its implications for research data were co-organised by the Data Stewards and the Research Data Netherlands. An important aspect of these two events was that representatives from multiple institutions and countries were present to talk about their individual approaches and considerations.

Policy Development

On 26 June 2018, the TU Delft Research Data Framework Policy was approved by TU Delft’s Executive Board. The Framework Policy is an overarching policy on research data management for TU Delft as a whole and it defines the roles and responsibilities at the University level. In addition, the Framework provides templates for faculty-specific data management policies. It is important to develop the faculty policies according to discipline specific RDM needs of the researchers, so they can use this policy as a roadmap for good RDM practices.

Currently, the deans and the faculty management teams, together with the Data Stewards, are busy with the development of faculty-specific policies on data management which will define faculty-level responsibilities. Any interested researcher and research supporter will be invited to give feedback and therefore contribute to the development of the faculty policy. In AS and 3mE faculties, which have around 1000 researchers each, a single meeting would not be feasible, therefore the Data Stewards of these faculties will join to the meetings of every individual department to introduce the policy and ask for feedback. The Data Champions are particularly encouraged to get involved in the development of the policy in their faculties in order to fine tune the policy based on their disciplinary needs.

Future Prospects

As can be seen in this report, 2018 has been a very fruitful year for the TU Delft Data Stewardship programme and with a full team of Data Stewards from the beginning of 2019, we expect 2019 to be even more productive. The faculty policies are expected to be rolled-out and published 2019. As one of the requirements of the policy is all PhD candidates starting from 2019 to attend data management training, currently the Data Stewards are busy with the development of a dedicated training suitable for the disciplinary needs of the PhD candidates. For this, the Data Stewards are in close contact with the central and faculty graduate schools, PhD councils and colleagues from TU Delft Library.

We already have three events planned in 2019: a seminar titled as Limits of Reproducibility: Strategies for Transparent Qualitative Research which will be followed by a hands-on workshop about Managing Qualitative Data for Sharing and Transparency on 28 January, open science seminars kick off on 27 February and a seminar on publishing reproducible research on 16 May. 

Additionally, we will also have a one-day event for all TU Delft’s Data Champions, 
one workshop on working with software and High Performance Computing (HPC), a conference on collaboration with industry and open science and two more software carpentry workshops.

In addition, a dedicated blog post about out plans for 2019 is going to be published soon, so watch this space!