Monthly Archives: April 2017

It’s my data, and I’ll share if I want to

By Tegan Darnell

As a Higher Degree by Research student at USQ, by default, you own the I.P. for your research data. Here are some ideas for maximising your research impact by sharing your data openly with a Creative Commons license.

What is research data?

Research data is described by the Australia National Data Service (ANDS) as

The data, records, files or other evidence, irrespective of their content or form (for example, in print, digital, physical or other forms), that comprise research observations, findings or outcomes, including primary materials and analysed data.

In order to share your data, you will need to have thought of lots of things in advance – before you collect your data (or, with human or animal data, before you apply for ethics approval). You will need to be super organised and create a data management plan.

What is data management?

Data management includes all activities associated with data other than the direct use of the data. It may include:

  • data organisation
  • backups
  • archiving data for long-term preservation
  • data sharing or publishing
  • ensuring security of confidential data and
  • data synchronisation

It is important because good data management practices aligns with your responsibilities under the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research.

Planning

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first hour sharpening the axe. – Abraham Lincoln

Develop a Data Management Plan. This is a document that contains details of how you will deal with the data you will be gathering. The process will help you to:

  • Make explicit who owns the copyright and intellectual property of the research
  • Secure the protection of research data by making a plan of when, where, how and who will back up the data
  • Organise data by establishing a version control and/or naming convention system
  • Aid data sharing and gaining data citations – increasing your research impact!
  • Ensure long term access to research data – check out the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research for required retention periods
  • Gain access to existing research data sets to reduce your workload

If you are applying for a grant, you may be required to complete a Data Management Plan as part of your grant application.

The Human Research Ethics Application form will ask questions about how you are going to handle your research data, so before you complete your ethics application, it is an ideal time to do a data management plan.

To assist you to develop data management strategies, USQ has a Data Management Plan template you can use.

Publishing

Data can be published via:

  • sharing information about research datasets through metadata records in repositories, most often at institutions (eg. this record in the CSIRO Data Access Portal)
  • metadata records put into Research Data Australia or listed in discipline-specific repositories
  • online repository services such as Figshare
  • through Data journals
  • informal publication such as via personal or commercial repositories or websites

Most research data is stored and/or described in a research data repository.  We have data described in our USQ ePrints repository.

What to consider:

(information provided by ANDS)

Check out this awesome example of open data from Flinders University, the Australasian Heritage Software database. Kooky!

If you are interested in publishing your data, contact researchlibrarian@usq.edu.au, where a librarian will be able to guide you through the process and refer you to any services and resources you might need.

Why should I bother?

By Tim Pitman

Tim Pitman is a Research Development Adviser in the Faculty of Humanities at Curtin University.

He has worked in research development since 2007. His own research interest is on higher education policy, with a particular focus on increasing the representation of disadvantaged students in universities.

Tim tweet from @timothypitman.

This post was originally published on Research Whisperer  on the 4th April 2017

I’ve been working in research development for a decade now and almost all of that has been focused on the humanities, arts and social sciences (HASS).

Much of the ‘art’ of finding funding is universal across disciplines, but there’s also a need for research support that is more targeted towards HASS researchers.

I feel this especially keenly every year when researchers are submitting applications for Australian Research Council (ARC) funding (roughly equivalent to the National Science Foundation in the USA and the national research councils in other countries).

Often, institutional support processes designed to improve the quality of Australian Research Council applications appear to focus on the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

This can leave HASS researchers scratching their heads, wondering whether that key observation, or sage bit of advice applies to them as well.

Based on my experience, these three issues below are commonly raised by HASS researchers, and I’ve provided the advice that I give in response.

1. Do the national funding agencies value this sort of research?

In any given year, around one-fifth of Australian Research Council project and fellowship funding goes to HASS research. In 2016, this was approximately A$100 million. Now, more than one-fifth of academics employed in our universities are in HASS disciplines, so there’s a proportional issue to be considered. Nonetheless, the funding is significant in its own right.

When I break this issue down further, usually the real question being asked is, “Will the national research council value my research?”. This angst is often driven by them reading the most recent funding outcomes, generating despair that their specific field of research was not represented.

However, the success rate across the main Australian Research Council schemes averages around 20%. So, in purely statistical terms, a grant application needs to be submitted five times to be successful. And if you look at the Australian Research Council data over a five-year period, you’ll find that pretty well every field of research receives funding (at the Australian and New Zealand Field of Research four-digit level, for those who like to be specific).

At the same time, there’s no point in denying that certain fields of research get small amounts of funding. Visual arts and crafts for one, and tourism for another. But the same is true of certain technical disciplines, such as automotive engineering, forestry sciences, or environmental biotechnology.

Worrying about your specific field also ignores the fact that the Australian Research Council only reports the primary field of research code against grants awarded, which hides the multidisciplinary nature of many projects. HASS researchers in Australia are on a lot of projects, they’re just not visible in the way that the national research council presents the information.

My advice, always, is to forget about being a ‘HASS researcher’ and concentrate on the issue or problem that you want to address. When this can be framed in a way that speaks to the goals of a national funding agency, then it has the potential to be funded.

2. Scientists work in teams. Researchers like us don’t, right?

As one literary scholar once told me, “I don’t need a team to read Shakespeare for me. I need to do it myself”. Point taken. And I, too, get occasionally frustrated when I’m at a university workshop and the person leading it instructs everyone to “collaborate, collaborate, collaborate” without qualification.

At a basic level, there is some truth to the argument that HASS researchers are less collaborative than others. For example, around four out of five (80%) of STEM projects funded under the Australian Research Council Discovery scheme in the last five years involved more than one chief (or principal) investigator. For HASS projects, it was three out of four (75%). When you break the fields of research down even further, the differences are even more marked. Almost all of commerce, management, tourism and services grants are collaborative, compared to only a quarter of philosophy and religious studies projects. Education researchers tend to work in teams, historians less so.

There is a kick to this, however, when you find out that two-thirds of the sole-investigator grants are awarded to senior researchers. That is, professors, associate professors, or emeriti.

So, when a HASS researcher asks me whether they should be put in an application by themselves, I certainly take into account their discipline. And I point out that the single most important assessment criterion – track record – falls solely on them.

3. The elite universities control the bulk of the research funding. Why bother?

Anyone in research development has heard this statement repeated ad infinitum. And it’s easy to understand why, since two-thirds of Australian Research Council grants are awarded to the elite universities in Australia, the Group of Eight (Go8).

There are four things I could say here.

First, I could say that things are actually slightly better for HASS researchers than STEM researchers. It’s only a few percentage points, but it’s a difference. But that’s not the real answer.

My possible second response means going deeper into the data. I could observe that certain disciplines in HASS do quite a bit better than average. For example, more than half of Education research in Australia is headlined by non-elite universities, and in disciplines like Built Environment and Design, and Language, Communication and Culture, it’s approaching half. But that’s not the real answer either.

My third response might be that, as I said earlier, the Australian Research Council only announce the university administering the grant, not all those involved. So, involvement from universities outside of the elite is actually much higher than you might think. But that’s still not the real answer.

The real answer is:

Data analysis is extremely important to people like me, but close to meaningless for individual researchers or research teams. I look for patterns and trends across hundreds or thousands of grants. At this level, the patterns and trends are quite clear.

In contrast, researchers are focused on one piece of datum: their project. It’s no good to them if their grant, statistically speaking, has a high chance of success if it still isn’t funded. Conversely, who cares if it displays certain superficial characteristics of an uncompetitive grant (e.g. only one researcher, not in an elite university, coming out of a rarely funded discipline) as long as it gets up?

It’s very important that researchers don’t let data analytics drive behaviour. Don’t make your application only look like a good application; actually make it a good application. The basic strategy is the same across all disciplines (win the grant) but the tactics employed need to be specifically designed. That’s why there’s a need for research development staff who have a particular understanding of, and affinity for, HASS research.