Much of November has been spent interviewing academics in Hull’s history department. The purpose of each interview has been several-fold, including: to find out what datasets they have been/are/will be involved with; to discover the types of data these encompass; to learn how they look after such data in the short and long term; and to ask if they would be prepared to help us create a checklist so that best practice can be shared and used to shape future data management.
On the whole, the response has been extremely positive. A few of our colleagues have been defensive about giving others access to their data and we have had to reassure them that ‘managing’ the data does not necessarily mean sharing it with the public (and thus, importantly, rival researchers!).
Our interviews have uncovered a range of management practices ranging from the carefully thought out and commendable to the, frankly, risky. There has been a general consensus that a checklist reflecting best practice, and targeted at historians, would be useful – especially if it contained pointers to local sources of advice on specific points. Time and again we have heard comments along the lines of “I would have liked advice but didn’t know who to ask.”
We are starting to turn our attention to constructing the first draft of a new checklist taking on board the points raised in these interviews. In parallel we are starting to think about technology solutions, both existing and new, including those integrated with the University’s digital repository, with which to support it – the repository already has somewhat basic support for datasets, we are beginning to understand how that might usefully be enhanced.
We have realised, too, that whilst our primary focus might be on digitised/digital datasets, there is a clear need for the checklist also to cover appropriate management of paper-based data.