Save the date: Open Science Trainer Bootcamp 18-20 April

Do you think science should be more open? And would you like to train researchers in your institution about this? Then mark these dates in your calendar: 18-20 April 2018. On these days, FOSTER organises an open science trainer bootcamp in Barcelona. Our host is the Centre for Genomic Regulation

About the open science trainer bootcamp

During an intense 3 day programme, we will help you to become an open science trainer. Topics ranging from funding and research data management to open code and open access will be covered. You will also work on your own training skills and try things in practice. After this bootcamp, you will be fully equipped to provide trainings on open science to researchers in your institute or community.

Who should attend?

We are looking for early career researchers, research support librarians and other stakeholders in Europe who are eager and have the potential to give open science training to researchers and students.

Call for applications in September

We will send out a call for applications in September. Stay tuned for more information about how to apply and what to submit.

In the meantime…

We realise the bootcamp is still some time away. Can’t wait to work on open science? Check the things that are already available:

The next phase of FOSTER – What can you get out of it?

The next phase of FOSTER – What can you get out of it?

We are delighted to announce that the second phase of FOSTER activity kicked off on May 22-23 in Guimarães. Over the next two years we will build upon our initial capacity building activities to raise awareness of Open Science among European researchers and begin to equip them to apply Open Science techniques in their day to day research. During this phase, FOSTER will work closely with representatives of three key disciplines: the life sciences, social sciences and the arts and humanities to co-design advanced-level training. Together, we will continue to strengthen Open Science capacity across European researchers and work towards implementing real changes in working practices.

So what’s in it for you?

  • You can acquire tangible skills on how to select relevant repositories, how to license research data and negotiate EU data protection laws through our practical, outcome-oriented training events.
  • You can access high-quality reusable training resources tailored to address discipline-specific needs and challenges in the arts and humanities, social sciences, and life sciences.
  • You’ll find practical guidance according to your academic profile and areas of interest via our training toolkit which covers key aspects of Open Science.
  • You will be able to hone your Open Science skills through advanced level courses offered in a variety of formats from face-to-face, blended, and e-learning courses.
  • You’ll be better able to browse, contribute, learn, and get credit for taking or providing courses through our optimized training portal.
  • You can find a list of European Open Science advocates and stay up to date about various Open Science activities through our dedicated events calendar and Open Science advocate directory.
  • You can get to know other Open Science multipliers, share your experiences, and learn from your peers via our Open Science trainer bootcamp and network.
  • You will be able to find methods, background information and exemplary training outlines for multiplying Open Science in your organisation through our Open Science training handbook.
  • You can watch interviews with our network of Open Science advocates on our YouTube channel and read Open Science articles on our blog.
  • You can get involved with FOSTER by sharing news, events and experiences through our website.

Stay tuned and don’t miss the start of each activity! Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Twenty people aged 25 to 56 from 11 European partner institutions came together in Portugal to discuss final roles and responsibilities within the next phase of FOSTER.

Twenty people aged 25 to 56 from 11 European partner institutions came together in Portugal to discuss final roles and responsibilities within the next phase of FOSTER.

Facilitating Open Science Training for Europe: Reaching the next level with FOSTER Plus

FOSTER Plus starts now!

This new phase of FOSTER focuses on the practical implementation of Open Science in Horizon 2020 and beyond. In the next two years, eleven partners from all over Europe will collaborate on creating training and e-learning activities targeting academic staff, young scientists and policy-makers. Disciplinary partners from the life sciences, social sciences and humanities have joined the consortium to step up domain-specific materials and training capacities for the practical adoption of Open Science. In particular, a multi-module toolkit, a trainers’ bootcamp and a training handbook will be created collaboratively.

The Open Science Toolkit will provide training materials and e-learning courses which cover all angles of Open Science, including key topics such as responsible research and innovation, research data management, software carpentry, text and data mining, reproducible research and open peer review. Working together with a variety of disciplinary communities, the developed exercises, practical examples and handouts will be tailored to the specific needs of each domain.

The Open Science Trainer Bootcamp aims to build and sustain Open Science training capacities. Trainers from all over Europe will be equipped to deliver FOSTER Plus training modules within their domains, institutions or regions. Holding a high multiplier potential, the bootcamp cohort will provide the basis for the FOSTER Plus trainers’ network. We will continue to use the FOSTER portal for interaction and communication, while improving and extending its functionalities. Gamification, e.g. in form of digital badges and awards, will further encourage valuable contributions and interactions.

During the lifetime of the project we will collect together methods, background information and example training outlines in an open, living handbook on Open Science training. This handbook will support FOSTER Plus Open Science trainers and seeders. Institutions, individuals or communities can use this key resource to implement or intensify the training of Open Science multipliers.

The project partners are:

  • The University of Minho
  • Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
  • The Open University
  • Stichting
  • Digital Curation Centre, University of Edinburgh
  • Digital Curation Centre, University of Glasgow
  • Danmarks Tekniske Universitet
  • Stichting LIBER
  • Agencia Estatal Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas
  • GESIS – Leibniz –Institute for the Social Sciences
  • Fundacio Centre de Regulacio Genomica

We look forward to collaborating with you to develop advanced-level material and promote a change in Open Science culture.
Stay tuned. More information on how you can contribute to these activities will follow soon.

Love research data management

Report from the 5 CESSDA workshops on RDM organised in 2015


Love was at times in the air during our series of training workshops on Research Data Management for Open Data. Five partners from across the CESSDA network of social sciences data archives put their heads and training ideas together for some good cross-fertilisation. Doctoral training workshop at five European universities in 2015 was the result, with trainers from across the team co-delivering these.

Brian, Alexandra and Sebastian kicked off  in May at the Université de Lausanne, captivating the attention of 11 young researchers with their intricate scenario of one self-control and one messy instructor in desperate need of help from the participants to help clean, document and organise some messy data collections to get them into good shape for the archive. A love note had participants searching for a long-lost lover in the survey dataset; disappointed when after day two they were told this was not a true story. At the University of Ljubljana, during the hottest days of July, an international group of 12 doctoral students learnt from Laurence that metadata is a love note to the future, when getting to grips with data management plans. Irena, Sonja, Janez and Veerle enticed them into discussions on the challenges of sharing data in research with people within the different national legal and ethical frameworks. 


The intricacies of managing and sharing qualitative research data proved to be a highlight for 32 doctoral students at the University of Manchester in October, with exercises and discussions based on interviews from a research project on how people in Uganda cope with living with HIV. A wide range of data management and open data topics was brought by Libby, Irena, Martin, Steen and Veerle. In November, 20 researchers at GESIS, Cologne, were seduced by the best practice guidance, discussions, exercises and pitfalls brought by Sebastian, Astrid and Libby. Ultimate aim: sharing the secrets of writing an effective data management plan.

At the University of Southern Denmark in November, Anna Sofia engaged four knowledgeable and inspiring presenters to share their passion for open science and open data with 27 researchers and research management and support professionals. Experiences and examples from across Europe was seen as the perfect introduction into this topic.



One hundred and four researchers in total joined these hands-on training events. Topics covered focused on the critical data management aspects for open data in the social sciences, such as metadata and contextual description, ethical and legal aspects of sharing sensitive or confidential data, anonymising research data for reuse, and writing a data management plan. Across the five events most participants were satisfied (47%) or very satisfied (43%) with the training provided and considered the training materials to be relevant (39%) to highly relevant (49%). Feedback that a diverse range of aspects were considered valuable across the participants indicates that the topics covered were well balanced for the international audience.



Many thanks to the organisational teams: 

- GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences, Germany: Sebastian Netscher, Alexia Katsanidou, Astrid Recker

- National Archives/Danish Data Archive, Denmark: Anne Sofie Fink, Bodil Stenvig, Steen Andersen

- Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences, Switzerland: Alexandra Stam, Brian Kleiner

- Slovenian Social Science Data Archives, Slovenia: Irena Vipavc Brvar, Janez Štebe, Sonja Bezjak

- UK Data Archive, UK: Veerle Van den Eynden, Libby Bishop

Get your feet wet in Open Science!

My own expedition into the world of open science took me to the Faculty of Behavioural Science’s Minerva Plaza on 20 October 2015 during the international Open Access week. Helsinki University Library organised its fourth introductory seminar on new kinds of open access to science in this modern learning environment of the University of Helsinki in the district of Kruununhaka. This time the seminar took the form of an all-day workshop conducted in English.

The heading “Get your feet wet in Open Science!”encouraged the novice to test the shallow waters of the sandy beach, while Ivo Grigorov, the speaker from Denmark, was in his element swimming the deep water out at sea.

Before introducing Ivo and the discussion I had with him, a few words about the Open Science Workshop and the reasons why the Library would advocate open science.


The Library as a promoter of open access

The Open Access Workshop was part of a training programme under the two-year (2014–2016) FOSTER project of the EU targeted at researchers, postgraduate students, librarians and others involved with open science. The EU is a strong advocate of open access policies. The FOSTER project aims to promote the openness of European research by means of training.

A library is a suitable organiser for a training event on open access to science. After all, libraries have throughout their history provided access to printed academic publications for anyone who is interested. With digitisation and technological advances, this objective has extended to include making the entire life-cycle of a research project available online.

The University of Helsinki supports the openness of the research conducted under its auspices through what is known as an open access mandate that was included in a 2008 rector’s decision on open access to research publications (Rector’s Decision No 126/2008). The decision states: “Open access to the results of publicly-funded research enhances the visibility and impact of the research of both the University at large as well as individual researchers.”

The University of Helsinki Research Data Policy, approved in February 2015, concludes that “As a rule, research data produced under the auspices of the University of Helsinki and related to published research results are open and available for shared use.”

OAWorkshop Ivo 10.10.2015Ivo and promising prospects on the horizon

Ivo can barely be seen against the horizon now! But not to worry, he brings encouraging news for beginners. Ivo Grigorov was a speaker also last year at the Meilahti Campus Library’s seminar during the 2014 Open Access Week. His presentation then and now focused primarily on the obligation for open access included in the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme of the EU. Horizon 2020 spans seven years (2014–2020) with a budget of nearly 80 billion euros. For example, Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation – describes the objectives of Horizon 2020 on its webpage as follows: “The Commission has the objective to drive economic growth and create jobs in Europe as well as secure Europe’s global competitiveness through the Horizon programme.”

However, my interview with Ivo was not inspired by the EU funding programme, but rather by my own preconception that open science – what is meant by it and what its objectives are – is not an issue familiar to the greater public. In fact, are all researchers even familiar with the concept?

The text below includes some clarifications that I have added in square brackets to my questions or the interviewee’s responses.

Presentation of the interviewee

Please, introduce yourself!

Ivo Grigorov, Research Projects Manager at DTU-Aqua, advocate for Open Science as part of FP7 Foster project (; I have a keen interest in the greater impact of Open Science for individual careers and institutions, which would be better equipped to deal with Societal Impact, and Open Innovation supplied with accessible new research.

[DTU: Technical University of Denmark; FP7 is the name of the previous European Framework Programme for Research and Technology (2007-2013) under which FOSTER is funded]

Definition of open science

How would you define open science?

Open Science is a way of performing research that removes all possible barriers for known and unpredictable actors, so that all can access, read, use, and if they choose to, participate in the process of discovery, or translation of new results in societal context. It is a little dreamy, but dreams get us out of bed in the morning, and drive us to do things better.


Your subject is oceanography. What kind of science is it? How did you become interested in oceans?

(NB: no longer a researcher, just a PhD in Oceanography) - Oceanography is a blanket term, and covers biology, chemistry, physics, geography and geology of the watery (and salty) part of the planet. I would love to tell you that it was a conscious and clear decision to pursue studies in Oceanography, but it wasn’t. It was just curiosity and thirst to know more about something so far away, yet so fascinating.

Spark of interest for open science

At which point did you become convinced of the importance and benefits of open science?

I am a late comer compared to some of my FOSTER collaborators. My first exposure to the concept was in 2005, and totally by accident! As part of my then job, I had to observe and help colleagues (senior scientists) having to digitize datasets from figures in pdf peer-reviewed publications (frequently of poor image quality) that were actually published well after the internet invaded academia; and this was done, just so they could compile databases of valuable results and analyze them in computer models! In the digital age, this seemed like sending a friend a text message by chiseling the letters on a stone plate, and then delivering it on foot, just because (at some point in the past) that was the way things were done!

Researchers online – e-science

In your opinion, should researchers have basic information of the procedures of ‘e-science’ in order to understand the relevance and importance of open science?

[By e-science I here refer to the research process, the different stages of which take place online and which is characterised by cooperation, sharing and openness; also: digital science.
See for example:]

I strongly suspect that most researchers already have an appreciation of the importance of Open Science and its relevance for their career and society. But peer-pressure and lack of career evaluation incentives keeps them moored to habits that may be imperfect, but ones that they know best.

Should we train the future generation of researchers in e-science by default, and as part of their research excellence training? I don't see how else they can be prepared for a future that will be based on: e-science; digital scholarship; dissemination and translation of results in societal context; and research evaluation criteria that are much more diverse and expansive than the current system.

Can they make informed career choices in future without such standard training provided by graduate schools now?

A new kind of openness

What would you say to those researchers who claim that, of course, the results of scientific work are open to all. They might wonder what these campaigns for ‘open science’ stand for. For example many researches in the field of humanities and social science are still not familiar with the process of digitalization. Should they care about ‘open science’ and does it concern them?

Are scientific results already open to all? Well, we all need to ask our own families how many of them can freely read the latest research on their mobile devices, without going into a university library? For most disciplines, the answer will be only one in two scientific publications are freely accessible to non-academics in the EU.

Most researchers may say that this is not necessary, but funders, and practice, says otherwise. Not only does the non-academic public have the capacity to understand research results, but citizen scientists, garage innovators and teenagers with keen Google Scholar appetites fuel a whole Open Innovation industry that funders want to capitalize on. Open Science is the lifeblood for Open Innovation, and the simple flow of new ideas.OAWorkshop 20.10.2015

The power of the crowd

The justifications for open science are convincing. Are there any other ways for researchers to promote collaboration with society?

“Science Literacy” initiatives (cf. Climate Literacy, Digital Literacy, Coding Literacy, Ocean Literacy initiatives) can, and do, melt barriers and divides between academia and society. “Citizen Science” takes it a step further and engages citizens in the discovery process from astronomy to malaria and fisheries research. Such examples are significantly magnified if the basic research results are openly available to all to recombine as they see fit, and use and re-use in foreseeable and totally surprising directions.

[Links:Climate Literacy; Digital Literacy; Ocean Literacy]

Could you tell us an example of how open science has made possible a significant development, maybe a breakthrough in science or had an impact on political decision-making, thereby benefiting our globe?

Just some examples I could quickly dig out:

Open Source Drug Discovery
16 recent project-spanning disciplines (but annoyingly are appended to a joint website )

The work continues…

What is your next destination after Helsinki?

Vienna, Austria, for a quick meeting with the EC’s Joint Programming Initiatives (JPI) to help convince research coordinating initiative on Climate, Agriculture, Health and Oceans, to adopt Open Science by default.

I wish you the best of luck with your open science projects! Thank you!



See the benefits and manage the tools of open science

Open science – two words that are easy to dismiss, for one reason or another.When you stop taking the words for granted, you realise that behind them lies an extensive, hopeful vision of the future, even at the national level.

The aim of the Open Science and Research initiative (2014–2017) of the Ministry of Education and Culture is for Finland to become one of the leading countries in openness of science and research by the year 2017 and that the opportunities offered by open science will be widely exploited in our society. Bold, encouraging visions of the future and their promotion are of the utmost importance in present-day Finland.

The Open Access team of Helsinki University Library’s Research Services – a group of experts with versatile network partners – invested great, determined efforts on organising the international Open Access Week for the eighth time as well as the Open Science Workshop.

Most participants were doctoral students, who, among other things, presented their projects based on open science practices, experimented with storing research data in the data storage services and learned about data description in the afternoon workshops.I believe that the invitation “Get your feet wet in Open Science!” encouraged the participants to at least dip their toes in the water.

The programme designed by the organising team with its engaging workshops and speakers, as well as the relaxed atmosphere of the light-flooded Minerva Plaza, all contributed in their own manner to the idea of open access and its deep meaning in other aspects than just open science.It was a pleasure to be part of this event.

Eeva-Liisa Viitala
Information Specialist
Helsinki University Library, Research Services

Jussi Männistö

The article was first published in Finnish in the journal of the Helsinki University Library 2nd November 2015.













"Experts on Open Access" and "Science-Openness-World" interview series now available on FOSTER portal


FireShot Screen Capture 059 - Otwarta Nauka - otwartanauka pl is a web portal dedicated to Open Science. Two sets of their interview series are now available through the FOSTER portal: "Science-Openness-World" and "Experts on Open Access".
Science - Openness - Worldcollects interviews with representatives of different scientific and non-scientific institutions from across the globe that have adopted OA policies. They present state of Open Science in a number of countries (i.e. Latin America), Open Access policies implemented on institutional as well as on national level and projects that foster openness in science.
FireShot Screen Capture 058 - Data sharing is just another part of scientific communication I Foster - www fosteropenscience eu content data-sharing-just-another-part-scientific-communication
The section “Experts on Open Access” contains video interviews with international experts on Open Access and Open Science, who represent different institutions and whose 
views may vary, but who all opt for openness in scientific research.

Two other interviews are also available via the FOSTER portal: John Willinsky  and Nicholas Canny (ERC) 

Both series are not finished. New material will be added in the future.




Report: CESSDA Research Data Management for Open Data doctoral training, July 2015, Ljubljana

CESSDA picture 1The presentations and video recordings for the CESSDA RDM for Open Data doctoral training that took place in Ljubljana in July 2015 are now available on the FOSTER portal and on the event webpage







cessda logo solid


The main goal of the event was to promote open data in the research community and raise awareness about sharing research data and using existing research data. The course is designed for doctoral students from the field of social sciences and humanities.

The trainings were delivered by Laurence Horton, Veerle Van den Eynden, Janez Stebe, Sonja Bezjak and  Irena Vipavc Brvar . They consisted of 


lectures and hands-on sessions focused on good Research Data Management practices and issues related to data sharing within the current EU frameworks, which foster open science.

Topics to be covered:

  • Research Data Management
  • Legal and Ethical Issues
  • Depositing and Using Data

Registration now open for 'Software skills for your research' in Potsdam, Germany

refraktor 8217 web e0

"Software Writing Skills for Your Research
Develop, Publish, Cite, and Get Credit for Scientific Code "

Registration now open for this course organised by  GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences and Software Carpentry. September 23-25 2015 in Potsdam, Germany



Objectives: The workshop addresses the passing of software writing skills to young scientists, the next generation of researchers in the Earth, planetary and space sciences. The writing of code in science following minimal but vital software engineering rules, best practices and processes shall be imparted as fundamental skills. So the workshops addresses young scientist with no or little experience in writing software for their research work. The lessons will cover:

  • The Unix Shell - Get used to the Bash and learn how to automate repetitive tasks
  • Distributed revision / version control - Get used to Git and GitHub and learn how to track and share work efficiently
  • Programming with Python - Get used to Python with first hands-on experiences
  • Looking beyond the basics - Using databases, automation and Make
  • Open Access, Open Data, and Open Science - Why bother in research
  • Publishing scientific software - Release code as Open Source in the context of Open Science

Registration: Registration closes one month before the workshop takes place and thus is open until August 23, 2015. For registration please use the form at It is expected that participants register with shortly describing their research and specifically their need of writing software in their own work and how the workshop will help them to perform future tasks.

Seats: 24 workplaces with computer plus 12 additional workplaces for participants with own laptop

Prerequisites: None but the need of programming and developing software in your own work


  • Olav Vahtras: Olav received a MS degree in engineering physics and PhD in quantum chemistry, both at Uppsala University. His work at the Minnesota Supercomputer Institute as a post-doc, and at Linköping University as a research associate has included research on molecular properties and electronic structure theory. Then he worked at PDC, the Center for High Performance Computing at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, as an application specialist in the field of computational chemistry. Now he is a professor of theoretical chemistry at the KTH. His research involves development of quantum chemical methods for prediction of molecular properties and he teaches Python in a national program for computational sciences.
  • Malvika Sharan: Malvika is a PhD student in the University of Würzburg, Germany, where she is carrying out projects that deal with characterization of RNA-binding proteins by means of bio-computational techniques and high-throughput sequence analysis. As a part of Doctoral Researchers' council of her graduate school, she tries to promote the usage of bioinformatics tools and programming skills among the experimental scientists in order to increase the efficient exchange of data. She has recently completed software-carpentry (SWC) instructor's course.


  • Krzysztof Siewicz
  • ...


  • The GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ, is Germany’s premier institute for the geosciences, with strong links to leading institutes across Europe. Its research ranges across the full breadth of the Earth Sciences from the dynamics of Earth’s deep interior to remote observation of its active surface. GFZ combines all solid earth sciences encompassing the fields of geodesy, geophysics, geology, mineralogy, geochemistry, geochronology, geomorphology, physics, mathematics, biology and engineering in a multidisciplinary scientific and technical environment. GFZ is part of the Helmholtz association of German Research Centres, the official mission of which is to solve the grand challenges of science, society and industry. The GFZ organizes, hosts and accompanies the workshop run by SWC instructors and FOSTER speakers.
  • The Software Carpentry (SWC, is a volunteer organization whose goal is to make scientists more productive, and their work more reliable, by teaching them basic computing skills. Founded in 1998, it runs short, intensive workshops that cover program design, version control, testing, and task automation. In October 2014, the Software Carpentry Foundation (SCF) was announced to act as the governing body. The SCF is a non-profit membership organization devoted to improving basic computing skills among researchers in science, engineering, medicine, and other disciplines. SCF’s long-term goal is to ensure that every researcher learns the skills that Software Carpentry teaches early in their career. Activities in UK are led by the Software Sustainability Institute (SSI) which will help sufficiently to run the intended series of workshops. The SWC supports this workshop with trained volunteering instructors and successfully tested teaching materials.

FOSTER seminar 'Embracing Data Management - Bridging the Gap Between Theory and Practice' June 4th 2015, Brussels

20150510 repository-3This post is written by Inge Van Nieuwerburgh (UGent, OpenAIRE) and originally appeared on the OpenAIRE blog 

The Flemish Interuniversity Council, VLIR, organized a Foster workshop on Open Science and Research Data Management. The conference lived up to its name covering a wide variety of topics on Open Data and Data Management, ranging from policies and legal aspects to case studies, researcher’s experiences and useful applications.

After a general introduction, in which Stefanie Van der Burght, Ghent University, underlined the importance of data management in a research environment and how this influences current practices, Daniel Spichtinger and Jarkko Siren from the European Commission highlighted the EC’s commitment to Open Science, explaining the implementation of Open Access to publications and the Research Data Pilot for Horizon 2020 projects.
To handle the complex issue of intellectual property rights, Joris Deene gave a practical overview of questions to answer to know how to manage data legally. Gwen Franck provided an update on the Creative Commons licences, the easy way of indicating how you can use copyrighted material, without harming the rights of the rights holder. She stresses that these licences can only work properly if you use them correctly.
Inge Van Nieuwerburgh provided an insight on how OpenAIRE can facilitate complying with the mentioned European policy. The OpenAIRE infrastructure collects, disseminates, enriches and links research output of European projects, and creates statistics and easy reporting tools. Veerle Van den Eynden, UK data archive, presented the UK view on data management through the policies of UK research funders. Several data centers support the UK policy, UK data archive is one of them, handling digital data in the social sciences and humanities .

To bridge the gap between theory and practice, much attention was given to firsthand experiences. Researchers disclosed the current challenges and opportunities in the professional field. Lennart Martens enthusiastically reported on the first steps in building the PRIDE repository, in the proteomics field, back in 2009. He stressed the importance of standardization in an open ecosystem. Johan Verbeeck noted the administrative and sometimes financial burden of Open Access. He saw however a possibility in publishing preprints as a means of complying with Open Access demands.
Niel Hens saw a slow evolution towards good data management in the field of epidemiology giving us “The good, the bad and the ugly” examples.

More and more tools are in place to handle data with care. Jan Ooghe & Hannelore Vanhaverbeke, in the middle of a roadmap towards a research data policy at KULeuven, explained how a data management tool, DMPonline, is used in their institution. Next up was the challenge of finding a good data repository, a crucial step in making data available and searchable in a safe and sustainable way. Robert Ulrich from Re3data was present to guide us through the field of different data repositories, making it easy to find the right data repository One of the providers of such a repository is DANS. As Marnix Van Berchum explained, they do not only provide a sustainable data repository but they are also committed to data re-use. He stressed the importance of investing in training and consultancy. Geert van Grootel presented the FRIS portal: it integrates Flemish research information and places research in a broader context for stakeholders. To conclude Raf Guns provided various tools for version control of research data.

In all, the conference provided a useful overview of the developments in Open Data and Data Management. The applications and tools presented were particularly handy for anyone involved in data management. It was interesting to see how different persons, institutions and fields came together on one subject. Key messages taken from the conference was to reach out and this workshop surely was a step in the right direction.

The full program and the presentations given at the conference can be found on the Foster website.

Fostering open science in social science

FOSTER logo 200On 10th of June, the Data Library team at the University of Edinburgh ran two workshops in association with the EU project FOSTER (Facilitate Open Science Training for European Research), and the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science.

The aim of the morning workshop, “Good practice in data management & data sharing with social research,” was to provide new entrants into the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science with a grounding in research data management using the online interactive training resource MANTRA, which covers good practice in data management and issues associated with data sharing.

The morning started with a brief presentation by Robin Rice on ‘open science’ and its meaning for the social sciences. Pauline Ward then demonstrated the importance of data management plans to ensure work is safeguarded and that data sharing is made possible. Rocio von Jungenfeld introduced MANTRA briefly, and then Laine Ruus assigned different MANTRA units to participants and asked them to briefly go through the units and extract one or two key messages and report back to the rest of the group. After the coffee break there was another presentation on ethics, informed consent and the barriers for sharing. The morning session finished with a ‘Do’s and Dont’s exercise where participants asked to write in post-it notes the things they remembered, the things they were taking with them from the workshop: green for things they should DO, and pink for those they should NOT. Here are some of the points the learners posted:

– consider your usernames & passwords
– read the Data Protection Act
– check funder/institution regulations/policies
– obtain informed consent
– design a clear consent form
– give participants info about the research
– inform participants of how we will manage data
– confidentiality
– label your data with enough info to retrieve it in future
– develop a data management plan
– follow the certain policies when you re-use dataset[s] created by others
– have a clear data storage plan
– think about how & how long you will store your data
– store data in at least 3 places, in at least 2 separate locations
– backup!
– consider how/where you back up your data
– delete or archive old versions
– data preservation
– keep your data safe and secure with the help of facilities of fund bodies or university
– think about sharing
– consider sharing at all stages. Think about who will use my data next
– share data (responsibly)

– unclear informed consent
– a sense of forcing participants to be part of research
– do not store sensitive information unless necessary
– don’t staple consent forms to de-identified data records/store them together
– take information security for granted
– assume all software will be able to handle your data
– don’t assume you will remember stuff. Document your data
– assume people understand
– disclose participants’ identity
– leave computer on
– share confidential data
– leave your laptop on the bus!
– leave your laptop on the train!
– leave your files on a train!
– don’t forget it is not just my data, it is public data
– forget to future proof

Robin Rice presenting at FOSTERing Open Science workshop

The main message was that open science will thrive when researchers:

  • organise and version their data files effectively,
  • provide comprehensive and sufficient documentation for others to understand and replicate results and thus cite the source properly
  • know how to store and transport their data safely and securely (ensuring backup and encryption)
  • understand legal and ethical requirements for managing data about human subjects
  • Recognise the importance of good research data management practice in their own context

The afternoon workshop on “Overcoming obstacles to sharing data about human subjects” built on one of the main themes introduced in the morning, with a large overlap of attendees. The ethical and regulatory issues in this area can appear daunting. However, data created from research with human subjects are valuable, and therefore are worth sharing for all the same reasons as other research data (impact, transparency, validation etc). So it was heartening to see a group of mostly new PhD students, keen to find ways to anonymise, aggregate, or otherwise transform their data appropriately to allow sharing.

Robin Rice introduced the Data Protection Act, as it relates to research with human subjects, and ethical considerations. Naturally, we directed our participants to MANTRA, which has detailed information on the ethical and practical issues, with specific modules on “Data protection, rights & access” and “Sharing, preservation & licensing”. Of course not all data are suitable for sharing, and there are risks to be considered.

In many cases, data can be anonymised effectively, to allow the data to be shared. Richard Welpton from the UK Data Archive shared practical information on anonymisation approaches and tools for ‘statistical disclosure control’, recommending sdcMicroGUI (a graphical interface for carrying out anonymisation techniques, which is an R package, but should require no knowledge of the R language).



Finally Dr Niamh Moore from University of Edinburgh shared her experiences of sharing qualitative data. She spoke about the need to respect the wishes of subjects, her research gathering oral history, and the enthusiasm of many of her human subjects to be named in her research outputs, in a sense to own their own story, their own words.



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