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Promoting effective research data management (RDM) practices through integration of institutional RDM tools and platforms

While many researchers acknowledge the importance of engaging with research data management policies and practices, their compliance is often hindered by the lack of user-friendly platforms that meet RDM requirements and/or their specific research needs. Building additional functionality into these platforms, including streamlining the way they interact with additional tools/platforms allows for less time to be invested in curating research data. This improves user experiences and removes one of the barriers to researcher engagement with effective RDM.

Effective research data management (RDM) is increasingly mandated from government bodies, funders and publishers. The University of Sydney is committed to providing tools to aid researchers in meeting policy guidelines and obtaining maximum value from their research efforts. However, RDM systems which run the gamut of institutional requirements for domestically-located servers, secure data transfer/storage, effective intellectual property control, ease-of-use, accessibility and external collaboration controls, are few and far between.

A variety of tools/platforms that meet some or all of these requirements have been acquired by the University. These include a cloud-based electronic notebook platform provided by LabArchives (eNotebooks), a secure web application for managing research data and online surveys called REDCap (Research Electronic Data Capture) and a general purpose petascale storage facility called the Research Data Store (RDS). While all feature rich, no single one of these platforms is able to meet all the requirements of researchers with complex research data needs and workflows, and lack of integration between them can mean researchers are reluctant to engage fully with the effective RDM practices enabled by these platforms.

To improve the user experience of engaging with multiple University approved RDM systems, we developed integration between the eNotebook and RDS. We a champion user base of these two tools and utilised their feedback to build a widget that operates within the eNotebook to access the RDS. In the eNotebook, users can record contextual information about the collection and processing of data. Meanwhile, the RDS can be used to store research data that is incompatible with cloud-based storage (very large data files, file series with hundreds/thousands of files, and identified sensitive data). With the integration, users are able to insert references/links to directories or individual files in the RDS onto eNotebook pages. Metadata about those files is recorded permanently in the eNotebook and the links open files directly from the RDS providing easy accessibility to the research data.