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Eating the Research Data Management Policy Elephant: Effecting Culture Change in a Diverse Research Community

Research Data Management is a fast-evolving field where policy is struggling to inform and regulate research practices within the research community. In this talk, I discuss our team’s approach to resolving how we can engage our research community with best management practice while enhancing research experience and output.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How do you implement a complex Research Data Management policy framework in a large university? Similar to the elephant example, we have found that a large indigestible chunk of policy needs to be tackled piece by piece.

Implementation of policy is usually delivered as a ‘top-down’ directive from Executive management, but experience shows that this approach is limited in its reach and effectiveness. This is of immediate concern; in our current research environment, data integrity, access and privacy are of paramount importance, and the ecosystem in which they exist is evolving rapidly. New policies are being developed in an effort to address these issues, but have low visibility in the research/academic community. A different approach is needed to encourage our research community to improve data management practices and outcomes (and ultimately ‘engage’ with policy).

At the University of Sydney, we are instigating this change by also adopting a ‘bottom-up’ approach via a range of strategies that will encourage researchers to better manage their research data environment. Researchers are placed ‘front and centre’ of consideration when developing these strategies, with their research needs scoped, analysed and accommodated. In partnership with ICT and Library research data management teams, the Research Data Strategy team from the Research Office provides specialised support and training of best available research management tools (such as the eNotebook), develops implementation strategies within Faculties and works individually with researchers to achieve best practice research data management outcomes.

In our review of the under-utilised and unpopular Research Data Management Plan (RDMP), we consulted widely with the academic community to develop an active management tool that will be widely adopted among researchers and drive positive research data management outcomes. In turn, these strategies will not only fulfil the existing RDM policy requirements for all researchers but will positively feed back into further improvements in RDM policy.