Data Stewardship @ WUR: A FAIR helping hand

By: Saskia van Marrewijk · 6 September 2019
Category: Data management, Data Stewardship

Researchers are increasingly required to manage their research data safely and sustainably and are confronted with an overload of information on data handling. Funder requirements, global academic discussions on FAIR data, the new WUR data policy, Code of Conduct for Research Integrity and developments in Open Science. How to see the wood from the trees? Read this blog to find your way in the WUR Data Support Landscape.

Present support organization

Currently WUR has a Data Desk (at the Wageningen Data Competence Center- WDCC) with a well-trained Data Management Support (DMS) unit from the Library, IT and Legal. This unit supports researchers with data management plans, safe data storage during research and data archiving and registration after research. Most of this support is generic, and therefore not specific for the different scientific domains within WUR. More tailor-made services are required to achieve WUR’s ambition (as presented in the strategic plan 2019-2022), to focus on FAIR data handling and remain efficient as a leading scientific institution.

We already observe in many research units, that research staff or laboratory staff take on data management tasks, in order to support their fellow researchers. Thus, filling the gap between the more generic support available at the Data Desk and the discipline-specific support sometimes required by the researcher. This role is currently filled on a “voluntary basis”.

Where to go?

In 2018 the Wageningen Data Competence Center (WDCC), RIKILT (WFSR) and the Library initiated a program “Data Stewardship @ WUR”. One of the first actions in the program was to bring together staff members with data tasks in the first Data Steward Network meeting. One of the recommendations from the meeting was to define roles, tasks and responsibilities for Data Stewards at WUR.

In January 2019 a small working group began working on this recommendation. They used the preliminary outcomes of the ZonMW project and the LCRDM Task group as a basis for their discussions. Another point of departure was that Data Stewards operate  at the level of the chair group(s) (WU) or business unit (WR). The working group came with a minimal scenario (based 0.1 fte per 30 researchers) of Data Steward tasks which could be performed by an appointed Data Steward within a group or clustering of groups. The working group divided the Data Stewardship tasks in four categories: (1) Policy implementation & compliance, (2) Services, (3) Archiving & Registration and (4) Infrastructure and tools. Overall the most important role for the Data Stewards is to give embedded data management and advice within their own research groups. The Data Steward is the bridge between the research community and generic data management support.

How to achieve FAIR Data Stewardship @ WUR?

The working group defined a set of recommendations for the implementation of the Data Stewardship organisation at WUR. You can find the full version of the advice and the full list of recommendations here.

The most important recommendation concerns the acknowledgements of the Data Stewardship organisation and the emerging role of the Data Steward at the group levels. The advisory group recommends the appointment of a Data Steward in each group (or cluster of groups) and attribute approximately 2 days per month for a minimal scenario of tasks.

The Data Steward operates under the responsibility of the group leader, who (of course) remains the final responsible for all research output in the group, now also including the research data.

FAIR data handling is still a rather new element in research practices, therefore we should realize that Data Stewardship is dynamic and new developments will influence the role, tasks and required time investment. With the introduction of Data Stewardship @ WUR, the role of DMS remains one of generic support, and it is of great importance that the link between the generic Data Management Support unit, the WDCC and the DataSteward@WUR network remains strong. Data Stewards actively participate in the DataSteward@WUR network organized by the WDCC. The purpose of this network is to exchange knowledge, discuss new developments and provide input for new data policy developments. Network events are to be held twice a year. Given the high dynamics and fast changing developments in data management requirements from society, funders and WUR itself, we recommend that participation in this network become a task of the Data Stewards.

We expect that the organization will benefit from data stewardship, with and due to better reproducibility and traceability of research, more efficient data handling and use of organizational resources, new opportunities for data reuse, and reduced risks of losing data.

WUR is serious about data

This blog post is the first in a series on WUR Data Stewardship @ WUR. We will give you practical information on how our organization work on the implementation of the Data Stewardship and present use cases from within WUR. Please also read the blogposts to come .

 

Data Management Support?
Any questions? Please contact the Data Desk and join the Data@WUR group on Intranet to stay informed.

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Saskia van Marrewijk

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