First of its kind LERU Summer School on Data Stewardship

From 10 to 15 July 2016, LERU, Leiden University and Leiden University Medical Center organised the 7th LERU Doctoral Summer School. DTL supported the event. The summer school’s theme was ‘Data Stewardship for Scientific Discovery and Innovation’. Jordy Meekes from Utrecht University was one of the participants. “The summer school made me recognise the importance of open data and data generation: it is fundamental to the quality of research across all academic disciplines and the validity of empirical results”, he says.

The League of European Research Universities (LERU) is a prominent advocate for the promotion of basic research at European universities. Every year, its doctoral summer school committee organises a summer school for PhD students of LERU partners. Each LERU partner can nominate two PhD students. “This year’s 38 candidates were well advanced in their doctoral project and keenly motivated to work on data stewardship”, says Professor Barend Mons, one of the organisers and lecturers of the summer school.

Data stewardship
Proper data stewardship is swiftly becoming an essential responsibility of experimental and data scientists, if not all researchers. Adequate data stewardship is too complex to be mastered by a single individual and future leading scientists working in an open science environment must be aware of good data stewardship practices and employ specialists in their teams. Consequently, scientists of the future will collectively solve big data related challenges as respectfully collaborating specialists. The 2016 LERU Summer School prepared its participants for this open science future.

The summer school week broadly followed the data stewardship cycle, starting with experimental design, followed by capture, curation, integration, licensing, and analysis. Internationally renowned speakers and tutors were teaching and discussing interactively with the students. All students also presented data stewardship ‘do’s and don’ts’.

Barend Mons: “The summer school surpassed my own high expectations. The students were excellent. They formed a strong, socially interactive group. And they were also highly interactive with the tutors. Their feedback so far is uniformly positive, so I think the enthusiasm is mutual. I am confident they are strongly motivated to become a future leader of a group where good data stewardship is part and parcel of good research practice, which was the goal of the summer school.”

“We decided to organise several follow-up actions”, says Barend Mons. “Here, dedicated data linking and analysis with ‘own data’ from the students will be used. In addition, the students decided to write a short white paper on their vision after the summer school. Myles Axton, one of the tutors and an editor of Nature Genetics, offered help to shape this into a real publishable declaration.“

Quotes from the summer school evaluation forms

“One sentence: IT WAS WONDERFUl!!! I really enjoyed the general knowledge and experience of the lecturers. We had a good conversion with them.”

“Open science can lead to big knowledge gain, but there can be no open science without open data that is FAIR. I didn’t think so much about the necessity to obey to the FAIR principles before the summer school. I am very keen to make sure my future data is rendered FAIR.”

“It was a fantastic week, filled with interesting topics that felt highly relevant to my future career being discussed by brilliant and passionate people. I have returned feeling inspired to implement many of the changes we have discussed into my own research, and continue the conversation with my own institute.”

“The Summer school went way beyond my expectations. My knowledge and understanding about open data and open science was rather vague. Now I have turned not just into someone who has a better understanding about it, but is enthusiastic to implement concepts into my own work and advertise the use of open data and promotion of the FAIR principles.”

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