Data stewardship desk in Groningen

Dr Salome Scholtens is a Programme Manager at the University Medical Centre Groningen (UMCG) and community manager at the Genomic Coordination Center at UMCG. Together with her colleagues, she has established a data stewardship service desk and FAIR data management training. She is also involved in DTL’s endeavour to connect similar service desks at a national level.

Scholtens explains: “The UMCG has launched a data stewardship desk to meet the challenges of data-intensive research. Staffed by five persons representing two fte, with different data backgrounds, the service desk acts as a reference point for researchers with questions about research data management. The staff also offers reviewing of data management plans and organises a data management training for PhD students. This is a two-hour training that creates awareness of the fundamentals of research data management. Topics include the FAIR principles, personal data, and more. The training was initially developed by the UMCG library. In September 2017, it became obligatory for all UMCG PhD students, imposed retrospectively from January 2017. We are now offering it every week. In addition to this primer, we organise in-depth courses such as a privacy training for researchers, the BROK, and a course for HPC users.”

Dr Salome Scholtens

National network
Scholtens is actively involved in the ‘Access to experts, training, and support’ work package of the Data4lifesciences programme of the Netherlands Federation of UMCs (NFU). This work package, which is coordinated by DTL, is connecting UMC data service desks such as the one at the UMCG with each other and with other relevant stakeholders. In addition to building a community and a platform to exchange data expertise, the work package aims to professionalise the data steward function, amongst other things by creating a national teaching and training programme.

Expert team
The UMCG service desk collaborates with a broad network of UMCG data management experts from various disciplinary backgrounds and expertises. “This enables us to make use of the existing expertise, tailor solutions, and research at all departments. These experts exchange experiences through a mailing list and meet once every six weeks. They have promoted the inclusion of a data management SOP in the standard UMCG toolkit for researchers. And they are advising us on the appointment of data stewardship contact persons at each department. In addition, we have an active collaboration with the RUG, called the Data Federation Hub, which aims to exchange and collaborate on data challenges.”

It is often difficult to obtain funding for data stewards and data managers. Scholtens: “In general, our dean is highly supportive of data stewardship initiatives. She is constantly putting data stewardship on the agenda. As of January 2018, a CSIO dedicated to research data has been appointed. This person will be responsible for the long-term embedding of data stewardship at UMCG. We are now preparing a plan, addressing what type of extra data steward capacity we need and where. In addition, I think that the budget for data stewardship will increasingly become an integral part of research funding proposals. Combining the budgets of multiple projects will allow research groups to appoint a full-time data steward that can truly make a difference.”

Groningen initiatives
The UMCG data stewardship activities are part of a broader local alliance on human research data and Scholtens is involved in two local data-related programmes: the Human subjects research data programme and the Research IT programme. Scholtens: “These programmes are developing the infrastructure needed to enhance research data handling at Groningen University and the UMCG. We collaborate because all faculties of Groningen University are conducting research involving human subjects. In addition, research data management requires an interdisciplinary approach and each faculty and university service has its own expertise. These programmes will deliver an infrastructure and an easy-accessible data service centre for researchers. In addition to these two local programmes, there are strategic links to national initiatives, including the earlier-mentioned Data4lifesciences programme, FAIR Data projects, and BBMRI-NL 2.0.”

Next generation
Like Daphne van Beek, Salome Scholtens deliberately targets people that already see the value and necessity of adequate data stewardship. “I think a new generation of researchers is advancing. They want to approach science differently. In time, we will be able to easily find research data online, similar to finding information using Google now.”

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