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Research Data Management Plans (RDMPs) are failing to create the cultural change they are meant to inspire


Completion of an RDMP is now compulsory at many Australian Universities. Largely driven by Australian funders’ response to the growing number of overseas funding agencies’ explicit requirements.

Despite this, researchers are generally sceptical about the value-add attributed to RDMPs.  For most, it is just another intrusive and painful administrative hurdle that gets in the way of actually doing research.  The purpose behind some requests for information is often unclear, as are what responses will pass muster.  Academic confidence in the process is further eroded because compliance is being imposed on the research community from outside and is rarely monitored.  Researchers are now questioning what evidence there is that RDMPs actually improve their research and data management processes.  Indeed, poorly conceived and managed RDMPs may even encourage bad practice.

Yet no-one would deny that good data management is very important.  The loss of data can be catastrophic, and every opportunity should be taken to leverage and repurpose research findings.  Administrators and data curators feel that, without RDMPs, it is impossible to adequately provision services and resources or ensure that data ends up in repositories.  Current mechanisms may not be perfect, but RDMPs raise awareness, alerting researchers to data management issues they may face downstream.

The debaters, Gareth Denyer and Kathryn Unsworth, play the roles of the sceptical researcher and bureaucratic administrator (not necessarily respectively), teasing out arguments on both sides.

A number of questions will be posed to the audience by the protagonists, including: Are RDMPs the answer?  If so, how can we improve the current crop to provide tangible benefits to all parties? If not, then by what other mechanisms can full-lifecycle data management issues be addressed, and culture change be achieved to enhance the research process as well as meeting funder requirements?

The session will include real time interactivity via an audience response technology.