UTServicesLISADigital Competence Centre, DCC‘What the BMS Data Steward told me about making data FAIR was highly enlightening’

‘What the BMS Data Steward told me about making data FAIR was highly enlightening’

As an Assistant Professor in the Public Administration Section of BMS Le Anh Long collects, manages and analyses huge amounts of data. Since she has started working at UT, she has learned a lot of new things about managing research data. She is now making her data FAIR and if possible open. BMS faculty’s research data steward Qian Zhang has been a great help to her, and UT’s Research Support service portal is a very valuable resource, she says.

I am enthusiastic about data sharing; I say why not? Because I want my data to be reusable, I have changed the way that I ask research participants for informed consent.

The research that Long conducts often engages human subjects. In many of her research projects she looks at how local governments and local communities solve problems which are (usually) caused by the fact that governmental organisations at the regional or (inter)national level fail to address or acknowledge these issues. She was for example co-researcher in a project that studied how local communities in the United Sates organised to prevent hydrofracking (of gas) in their cities, towns, and villages. 

Studies involving human subjects and sensitive data
‘Currently I have quite a few studies that involve human subjects,’ says Long. ‘That is why I consulted Qian Zhang. For example, I am working on a project with dr. René Torenvlied where we are looking at cyber security in the Netherlands. We study how prepared the “safety regions” are for a cyber-attack. This involves not only human subjects information, but also sensitive data. When we were preparing this research proposal, I asked Zhang for advice for our Data Management Plan.’

Advice for NWO Data Management paragraph and plan
‘Zhang also helped me to submit the data management paragraph for a NWO grant application, and after we received the grant, she advised me when I was making the Data Management Plan that NWO requires. NWO wants to know for example, how you will store your data during and after the study, and how you will make your data FAIR: Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable. Zhang helped me to produce a plan that could be managed within the framework and the best practices of my institution. And when I told her about my PhD student who is coming in September, she recommended the Data Management Bootcamp for first year PhD’s. For other staff this course is available online; I want to take it when I have more time.’

Data transfer agreement
Long is also taking part in an international project funded by the US National Science Foundation that studies the climate-readiness of US cities. ‘The data collected in this project will be exchanged. Therefore, Zhang has guided me in preparing a data transfer agreement with the partnering universities in the US. This is to formalise our data sharing relationship with them. This is a great service, and it helps to lower the liability for all participants concerned.’

Open data require a different form of consent
Long found everything she learnt from Zhang about how to make her data FAIR ‘highly illuminating.’ ‘I had not been managing my data like this before. Now in hindsight I realize that it was quite messy. I am enthusiastic about data sharing; I say why not? Because I want my data to be reusable, I have changed the way that I ask research participants for informed consent. In the past I asked consent for using the data only for my own specific research needs. Nowadays I inform my research subjects that these data could be used by the research community for other research questions as well - and then ask for their consent. This is more complicated, but it is more ethical. I think Open Science has a high potential and I will surely integrate it in all my future projects to the extent that this is possible … It is not always possible because I also work in extremely sensitive areas like cyber security, human health, migration, and climate justice.’

‘Zhang is very easy to work with’, Long emphasizes. ‘One of the things that I really appreciate is that sometimes I won’t even know that I need something, but when I am explaining my challenges, conundrums, and objectives, she is able to identify very quickly a whole host of resources that maybe useful to me and will send me the links.’

UT quite ahead with Open Science
‘Recently I was co-applicant for another big consortium grant, again with the US National Science Foundation. When they asked me what we had to offer I mentioned data science and said that we could consider using Open Data and Open Science platforms in this project. I learned about Open Science by visiting the UT Research Support service portal. This website has a lot of extremely useful information about all kinds of Research Data Management topics, FAIR data, and about the value of Open Science for modern research. I think the UT is quite ahead with Open Science. The website also offers great resources to learn about automated text and data mining, and anonymizing personal data so that they can be used for research.’

FAIR Data Fund
Long considered applying for the FAIR Data Fund grant that enables researchers to make an existing data set FAIR, she tells. ‘When I started publishing articles nine years ago, no one asked for our data. But when I was recently publishing the journal asked for my data set. Making your data FAIR is becoming a prerequisite with a growing number of funders and publishers. Luckily, this data set was already prepared, because I found great guidance on the UT Research Support Service portal website!’

UT’s open access agreements & support
When Long was going to publish and wanted to know if the UT had any open access agreements with journals in her field, she also approached Zhang for help. ‘Zhang referred me to the BMS information specialist Roberto Cruz Martinez who told me all about UT’s Open Access agreements and the OA support we have at the UT. He explained under what conditions I can make use of these agreements; that you must be the corresponding author. At the universities where I worked before, we usually did not have those institutional Open Access agreements - we had to finance publishing OA through our grants -, so it was great to hear about UT’s OA agreements.’

Open Access publishing enhances your visibility
‘At the UT I was involved in applying for two EU Horizon Projects and the fact that we did not have to budget for Open Access publications gave us more room to have a budget that is more reasonable and attractive. So, I am glad that the UT has this OA service! Being able to publish Open access is especially important for us junior scientists because it helps to enhance our visibility. People are more likely to read Open Access publications than articles that are behind paywalls.’

Contact your faculty’s research data steward

All UT faculties have their own dedicated faculty research data steward. On top of that the UT has a central FAIR data steward. The research data stewards can help you:

Find out who is the research data steward in your faculty

Read: What can UT’s FAIR Data Steward do for UT researchers? | Digital Competence Centre (DCC network) (utwente.nl).