Anticipating impact in history data management planning

As part of our project plan we provided our thoughts on the anticipated impact of the project’s work.  Now sometime into the project we reflect on the degree to which the originally anticipated impact is still the case, based on evidence gathered from our interviews with academics.

  • Data management as a support tool for teaching – The University Strategic Plan is strong on the value of research-led teaching and on identifying ways in which this can be embedded.  The explicit use of data within teaching was not immediately apparent in our interviews, although there are good examples of how it has been used in specific cases.  We would, though, continue to anticipate that by making data better managed, and thereby hopefully more accessible, it will be more available for use in teaching.
  • Data management as a stimulus to interdisciplinary research – Another major theme of our Strategic Plan is interdisciplinary research.  There is already evidence that datasets have been used across disciplines within the University, and, again, we would hope that making the data more accessible will foster more of this.  Interestingly, one of the main areas of past activity, the HMAP project, originated as an interdisciplinary undertaking, combining scientific investigation of marine populations with historical examination of what these were in the past.  This highlighted the value that datasets generated for one purpose can have use in very different areas as well.
  • Data management as a means of departmental research coordination – Much research in history can be solitary, albeit with notable exceptions (e.g., at Hull, the Slave Voyages work in collaboration with Emory University and others).  With different areas of research being undertaken across the Department, it is not always clear what is being generated by whom.  Data management planning is in part intended to address this, so that the Department has a clear appreciation of research data outputs, and can thereby stimulate interaction between those who may be in a position to collaborate on future analysis.
  • Data management, locally provided – We already manage some datasets within our Hydra digital repository (e.g., the Domesday book, as well as the HMAP data mentioned above).  However, we are conscious that the means for depositing such datasets is not as developed as it might be, and ease of how to manage datasets has emerged as a big area of concern, but also interest, when discussing data management with academics.  By enhancing our local repository provision, and also roadtesting additional capabilities within our VLE and using linked data, we hope to provide good local technical capability for addressing researcher needs.  We do not see this as replacing national or subject-based alternatives, but as a complement to them.

In conversations, other areas of anticipated impact have also emerged.  Whilst the focus on the impacts above is largely on departmental and local institutional impact, two other themes have come to light:

  • The value of data management in promoting and sharing research.  There are some clear differences here between members of staff (some very willing, some very reluctant), but those who are willing will be interesting examples to others of what might be enabled through such an approach.
  • The role of a data management plan for other disciplines within the University.  Noting the interdisciplinary aim mentioned above, the idea of generating a DMP that is adaptable for other disciplines with which there is no obvious link has taken greater shape.  We don’t yet know if this is feasible or practicable, but we shall have it at the back of our minds as we proceed.
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