Following CLOSER’s international training and workshop event for managing metadata in longitudinal studies, CLOSER’s Metadata Manager Hayley Mills, looks at the key challenges and priorities ahead.
CLOSER hosted its first international training and workshop event for managing metadata in longitudinal studies in September 2019.
The 2-day event brought together representatives from across the social and biomedical longitudinal data community with delegates representing longitudinal studies, data collection agencies, funders, statistical offices and data archives. We’ve published a report outlining discussions of how the longitudinal community can work together to address some of the current challenges.
In this blog we provide a summary of these discussions and reflect on what CLOSER plans to do to support the highest priorities.
Why is metadata management so important?
Good meta(data) management is vital to ensuring that the potential of longitudinal data is fully realised and utilised for addressing important societal questions.
We are all familiar with the FAIR principles, but how does the longitudinal data community ensure that their research data is findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable as part of day-to-day activities? The training provided an overview of how structured metadata and open standards can be used to actively manage longitudinal study data and resources, and how utilising these can benefit both Data Managers and researchers. Topics covered in the session included metadata management concepts and relationships, and the Data Documentation Initiative (DDI) standard, the slides for which can be downloaded from the CLOSER website.
The workshop provided real world examples of DDI application from Alina Danciu (Center for Socio-Political Data, SciencesPo, France), Bodil Agasøster (Norwegian Centre for Research Data, Norway) and Catherine Yuen (Institute of Economic Research, UK). This was followed by group discussions focused on finding solutions to the current challenges in longitudinal data management.
What are the key data management priorities?
A large number of solutions to current metadata management challenges were suggested and grouped by the themes of technology, communication, funders and training. The general discussion highlighted the need for more training and online resources in research data management, metadata and the DDI standard, which should be accompanied by best practice guidelines and case studies. In addition, communication with and buy-in from all stakeholders, including Principal Investigators (PIs) and funders, was seen as key to ensuring resources for data management activities.
Following the event, a survey was sent to delegates to determine a short-list of priorities, ranked within theme and then overall. The highest priorities by theme can be seen in Figure 1 and include: a community of Data Managers, the need for specific software tools and the need for continuity of funding. The overall priorities centred on training at all career levels from students to PIs, and software support and guidance. Software mortality was specifically highlighted, which is particularly important for Data Managers working with longitudinal data, given that the surveys are long running.
Lastly, delegates showed passion and enthusiasm for making data FAIR and available to researchers in a timely and efficient way, with all the information and context required. This was reflected in the understanding of researcher’s being highlighted in the overall priorities.
Figure 1. The top priorities identified by the event delegates who responded to the survey, grouped by themes: Funders (green), Technology (blue), Training (orange) and Communication (pink). The larger the size, the more votes received.
How is CLOSER moving the agenda forward?
CLOSER is already working towards many of these priorities, and will be drawing up an action plan outlining how we can address them going forward. Our expanded and soon to be relaunched Data Management Network aims to establish a community of Data Managers to share best practices. Webinars to be scheduled this year, in collaboration with other institutions and the DDI alliance, will include UK and international speakers highlighting practical applications of metadata standards. The forum will provide an opportunity for knowledge sharing and a space for community problem solving.
This year we also plan to expand the resources provided on the CLOSER Learning Hub with particular focus on raising the awareness of metadata and metadata standards. This will initially be aimed at early career researchers and students.
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If you want to be part of the Data Management Network please get in contact, and see you at the next webinar.
With special thanks to the presenters: Kerrin Borschewski (Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences (GESIS), Germany), Alina Danciu (Center for Socio-Political Data, SciencesPo, France), Bodil Agasøster (Norwegian Centre for Research Data, Norway), Aida Sanchez (Centre for Longitudinal Studies, UK), Catherine Yuen (Institute of Economic Research, UK).