Ruthie Boycott-Garnett, PhD Candidate, ESRI
Last month ESRI launched a new series of seminars focusing on everything to do with research ethics. The series aims to provide a space to share best practice and open up discussions around the complexities in navigating all of the frameworks, conflicting ethical principles, and managing data.
The series kicked off with an introduction to data management with Nicki Hargreaves, Information Records Manager, Jacqueline Vigilanti, Research Support Librarian, and Ben Goddard, Deputy Data Protection Officer.
Nicki discussed the life cycle of the research project and the data that goes with it. The main tip was to keep all data together as much as possible and tidy it up as you go along. Did you know, for example, that short term notes that are no longer relevant in your data can be discarded leaving only that which will be useful? Nicki cautioned that there are risks of under and over retention!
Jacqueline introduced us to the FAIR principles of data which ensures your data is findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable. The library holds a wealth of data management guides and offers workshops that are open to staff and students. They can offer support on data management throughout the research process, for example, they offer one-to-one support on writing a data management plan. The library guides on data management can be found here.
Ben‘s presentation focused on data protection and the handling of ‘personal data’. This included consideration of how we share data, particularly if we are working in collaboration with colleagues at other organisations, using external suppliers (e.g. transcribers) and using online application service providers, such as MS Teams for our research.
This final section led into a discussion that focused on virtual data collection, something that has become a focus for many researchers over the last year, and how to navigate data management practices from different online platforms. There is a list of pre-approved services that have been assessed by the data management team as acceptable for us to use. It is clear that more attention is needed to ensure that research can be carried out online in the fairest and safest way for participants.
There were also a number of questions about data retention and Nicki provided links to some webpages under Records Management that can be accessed here: https://mmuintranet.mmu.ac.uk/Interact/Pages/Section/Default.aspx?Section=4434. There was agreement that when it comes to data retention it can be difficult, and it really can vary from one project to the next (depending on contractual or legal requirements) but Nicki is happy to help Principal Investigators work out which retention period applies.
Finally, Ben acknowledged there are challenges when working with audio and visual data; it can be difficult making the data anonymous unless it is transferred into written form. The key, Ben explained, is to be transparent with research participants about how the data will be managed.
All three presenters said that they are very happy to be contacted directly for any queries around data management for research, which was very reassuring to many of us struggling to adjust to all of the new procedures. Thank you Nicki, Jacqueline and Ben!