Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Post 78: Research Data Management Plans -- the Future of Data Curation

About a month ago, Wednesday, 24 February, found me sitting in the School of Environmental Studies' Dry Lab, a large meeting room in the David Turpin Building on campus. It was a sunny afternoon, and I was waiting with anticipation for my colleagues and the presenters from the on-campus library who were going to tell us about research data management plans.

The presentation seemed timely to me: for my own thesis project I had asked participants to allow me to keep their interview data (the recordings and the transcripts) for 10 years after they'd taken place (until 2024), and now that I'm nearing finishing my thesis, I'm starting to think about where to keep them once I'm finished. Some of my participants opted for full confidentiality to protect their identities, and I take that quite seriously. Once I'm out of academia, how do I best keep/store/move these protected data?

Chaenemeles species, or quince flowers! These ones are quite orange; others are more deep pink in colour. 
Research data management plans (RDMPs) are supposed to help with those questions, and, as I learned, a whole lot more. Our two wonderful presenters delivered a phenomenal talk on Research Data Management plans were Daniel Brendle-Moczuk, the subject librarian for the School of Environmental Studies (and other departments), from the Library References Services, and Kathleen Matthews, from Library Collections Management. Daniel delivered the presentation with input from Kathleen, and both answered questions at the end of the presentation. The presentation covered the what, why, why now, research data life cycle, and components of a data management plan, and I'll cover a brief overview of the presentation here. (In case I don't make sufficiently clear in the post, all of the material I share is from the presentation).

As Brendle-Moczuk and Matthews characterized, Canada is quite behind on its thinking about and thinking through RDMPs. This became quite apparent throughout the presentation, as Daniel's referred and source documents were all either America or out of the UK. For example, "Data Management for Researchers" is written by Krisin Briney, a US-based data management specialist, as are Mark Allen and Dalton Cervo, authors of the text "Mulit-Doman Master Data Management" and "Data Protection and the Cloud: Are the Risks too Great?"by UK author Paul Ticher.  Brendle-Moczuk also frequently cited documents and resources from the UK Data Service and DataONE, or Data Observation Network for Earth (US based).

Backyard Camellia flowers that have fallen. They're beautiful splashes of colour, but they don't last long!

All of this is to say that RDMPs are coming to Canada, and they're overdue. Research data management plans make you think through all aspects of your data: how to gather them, what kinds you want to gather (photos, audio, surveys, questionnaires, interviews, numerical data, geo-spatial data?), how you are going to name your files and organize them (a filename of "Sam's data" is probably only useful to Sam... unless detailed metadata^^^ exist to tell us how to use and interact with the data in the file), what the best formats for them are (remember floppy disks? Or will [proprietary software of your choice] be available in 10 years?), how you are going to treat confidential data and transport them, and how you are going to store and share them. Other questions are also important to consider, such as who has access to my data? And how is it protected if it needs to be?*** What is the researcher's responsibility when it comes to the lifetime of the data, and what are the ethics and legal considerations to take when working with data. The RDMPs make you think about all of these things, and it's very likely that your RDMP is going to need to accompany your grant applications in the future.

***Some of these questions you need to think about when you (if you) complete a Research Ethics Application, which I will cover in an upcoming post.

^^^metadata are the notes and data that tell you about a different set of data. For example, my thesis project is a qualitative research project that collected interviews as the primary data. I also had academic and grey literature that informed my research. The metadata would be a set of notes that are key to explaining my data: where the interviews are kept, how they are kept, which files they are located in, what different acronyms are, where my literature is kept, how that's organized, which program was used to analyze my data, etc. The metadata would be necessary for someone else to understand my data, and how it all fits for my project. Are there organizational responsibilities when it comes to metadata? You bet! Be neat. Be organized. And be consistent with your file names and organizing. And if you ever have the thought "I'll remember this later..." WRITE IT DOWN! I guarantee you, you won't remember.

A bouquet of neighbourhood daffodils I picked for my landlady Kathryn, before her trip!
Currently, there are strong indications that RDMPs are going to become required for researchers in Canada in the future. The Tri-Council of Canada issued a draft statement of principles on digital data management in July of last year, that outlined researchers' responsibilities when it comes to data management. These responsibilities include the collection, formatting, preservation, and sharing of their data through out the lifetime of a project and beyond. There's no telling when that statement will no longer be a draft but become a requirement for researchers, but it applies to the hard sciences and social sciences a lot, so I think it's wise to begin thinking through research data management now.

For a very cute video that added some humour to the presentation, check out "Data Sharing and Management Snafu in 3 Short Acts" (I'm so glad that Daniel found this!).

Gorgeous Lower Thetis Lake reflection. Where does the water start and stop?
A quick and flashy reminder: always make backups of your data. Always. Follow the 3-2-1 Rule:
3 copies, in 2 different media, with 1 backup located offsite.

And one last note: a practice becoming more frequent is for researchers or organizations being asked to prove their research impact, which Brendle-Mozcuk and Matthews recommended as being most easily done with a DOI, or a digital object identifier. It is a persistent link that follows the data, and that can be used when citing data that's used. In Canada, the National Science Library provides a service through DataCite Canada that is: "A data registration service that provides Canadian data centres and libraries with a mechanism for registering research data and assigning digital object identifiers (DOIs) to them. These identifiers allow research data to be findable, citable and accessible for replication and further use." So make sure to check this out if this may be applicable to you. 

Good luck, fellow jedi researchers! I'm sure that you will plan and manage your data well after this post, or at least avoid making some very painful errors with your data. Hugs! 

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Post 77: Dealing with Impostor Syndrome, Again

It's always the small things that set of my insecurities.

I've known since the beginning of the semester that this week would be my week to present something in my weekly lab meeting about my work, and I find that since last week I've been worrying, and stewing, and brainstorming. Here's kind of the muddled craziness that I am able to upt together:

What can I present? What do I have that's good enough to present? Am I good enough to present and take up peoples' time? What do I have I can present about? I'm don't want to over-burden my already busy colleagues with extra work, so I can't be sending them things to read ahead of time... If I'd wanted to send them something, I should have done that last week. (I thus, have not sent them anything to read.) Well, if I'm not going to send them anything to read from my current chapter, then how can I adequately present about the writing for a chapter? Do I think that I can?

How does one put together a presentation? I don't know how to put together a presentation, or at least, I am concerned that I've forgotten how to. How did I do it before? Well, if I don't have anything from my current chapter, then how can I put a presentation together? For a presentation, you need to have good content. Right. That's where you start. So what do I have I can present about?

Thanks Becky Barnicoat at BuzzFeed for capturing this so well! 
Haha! So that's some of the worry whirly-gig going on in my brain for the last few days. It's gotten a bit more wild the closer I've gotten to my presentation tomorrow morning. Watching myself go through this silly bit of brain work is a little bit funny, once I start to see what I'm doing, and have an awareness about it, instead of simply being in it. (Writing this post is helping me to laugh at myself, and deal with it, once again.) (I've written previously about the Impostor Syndrome, here.)

It's called the impostor syndrome. And it shows up in all kinds of wacky ways. A colleague of mine shared a post this morning from the blog of Hope Jahren, who thinks she's cured herself of it with the simple solution of getting tenure (which is, admittedly, a big deal in academia). Good for her! At the same time, I hope it doesn't turn out to be a merely temporary solution for her. I'm more inclined to think, Once a worrier, always a worrier (and yes, I realize that worrying and the impostor syndrome done have a perfect overlap in the world of Venn Diagrams, but I think they're pretty close). Also, I am nowhere near getting tenure, and am undecided about whether to pursue that route at this point. I'm just trying to finish my master's thesis, which seems gargantuan enough a task at this point! :)

More beautiful spring flowers to brighten up my room! Much needed to combat the grey!
Ms. Jahren's post is quite funny, and I will be going back to read more of her blog. I've signed up as a follower. :) Finding other women in academia, writing about being in academia is definitely an interest of mine.

So. I have this presentation tomorrow morning, and I think that alongside preparing a slide or two about my current chapter, providing a (short) overview of the Monograph style thesis that I'm using, and explaining what that  means for my current chapter, I also want to take about 15 minutes (half of my time) talking about process. And this is definitely part of it. Struggling with this. And not giving up, even though I can go through intense periods of time feeling like I still don't belong here, still don't know what I'm doing, and still struggle to get words on the page and share them with my supervisor. At the same time, I am still at it! The outline of my final chapter was approved after its fourth draft, so full steam ahead to finish this up, and then revise, revise, revise, which is an ongoing process anyways.

So for today, beating the impostor syndrome is about admitting that I am good enough. I am good enough to take half an hour of my colleague's time tomorrow, to let them know where I'm at, and to have them give some input on how they deal with things. I don't really need inquiries about how my thesis work is going; I need invites to work and writing sessions, at this point. Easter Long Weekend, anybody?

I can definitely put together a summary and overview of the assertions and arguments I'm trying to make in my last chapter. It's my final chapter. I'm almost there. And I'd love my colleagues to share in my excitement about this. It's been a long journey to get here.

Afternoon sun at UVic. Lovely, lovely day!
One sentence at a time. One. Word. At. A. Time. This thesis will get finished. I can do this. And so can you, if you're a grad student reading this, going through your own whirly-gig of worry. You've got this. Worry or no worry. We've got this.


I am aware that I promised a post on Research Data Management Plans, and I have another in the queue about research ethics, both based on extra workshops organized by Dr. Natalie Ban in the department, and those are coming next. I needed to deal with myself and this lab presentation first. :) Thanks for your patience.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Post 76: Sometimes it's okay to take a sick day (or two, or three)!

As the title undoubtedly suggests, I've been ill (again)!! First it was strep throat for 2 weeks in January, where I really was under the weather, and took almost a week off of work, and it's been a solid cold for a good week that really ended this weekend. When you're sick for an extended while, it's just not fun to keep going and to try to be productive, and I found myself in this negative cycle expecting that I would get more done, getting frustrated when I couldn't, and then trying to do more, and get more done, and then not, and so on. One of those things is a blog post on research data management plans, which is coming up next!

Home art project! Cards for loved ones. 
Towards the end of this past week I was exhausted, tired of feeling unwell, and I was feeling quite negative about the fact that I was drafting yet another version of an outline for my last chapter. I couldn't quite get to feeling good about the work that I was producing, because I was drippy and had that head-stuck-in-a-pillowcase feeling and was tired and not. Doing. Well. I met with my supervisor twice this week, and meant to have a third version of the outline done on Thursday, but went home early hoping I would feel better in the evening (which I did not), and then Friday was not substantially better either.

So I took Friday off, and helped my landlady trim the heads off the hydrangeas that line the front walk, and generally enjoyed getting a bit of sunshine and doing something tactile. I got into the spirit of doing easy-going tactile work and for the first time in a long while undertook an arts and crafts project where I made a few home-made cards. SO MUCH FUN! Picture above. (Mum -- I hope you don't see this post before Dad checks the mail! You should be getting your card today!)

Look at that colour! So lovely!
Yesterday (Saturday) I also took a day off to spend time with my partner and with friends, and I walked in the sunshine along the inner harbour, took in the tulips (below), and loved the feeling of my black pants getting very warm from the direct sunshine. And, for the first time this year, I worried about getting a sunburn, and not having packed sunscreen. This is a wonderful thing.

Today I spent the morning at work with my friend Karen, and in 2.5 hours I rewrote entirely and sent off what I think is a decent interim draft of my chapter that my supervisor and I can discuss in a meeting this week. I felt positive about my work, I was focused, and engaged. And I felt very good for the rest of the day.

So here's to taking a day (or two) off when you need it. There is no sense in pushing yourself when you're already running on fumes. A solid break to get well is a great idea.

Stay healthy!!

Also, here, some complimentary white and lovely cherry blossoms from my View Royal neighbourhood. :)
This tree was buzzing busy with honey bees and other pollinators!