Library Carpentry Bristol

Bristol Research Data Service recently hosted a Library Carpentry workshop in collaboration with colleagues at the University of the West of England and the University of Bath – read on to find out what it was about and what’s happening next.

What is Library Carpentry?

Library Carpentry is a set of software skills lessons created by librarians, for librarians, covering a variety of subjects including Git, SQL, Python, and using the Unix command line. The course materials are developed and maintained by volunteers, and are intended to be taught by one or more instructors (also volunteers). Each lesson is also suitable for self-study. All the course materials are freely available online under a permissive use licence (CC-BY) and can be reused and remixed if needed.

Library Carpentry is an offshoot of Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry (the latter are aimed at academic researchers) and follows the same basic lesson structure – short introductions to key concepts followed by examples to work through to solidify learning. The tools and software packages taught are typically open source to maximise opportunity of use.

Why Bristol?

Naked self-interest! Bristol Research Data Service staff were keen to learn more about data manipulation techniques, and an informal poll of the GW4 Alliance Data Services Working Group showed that there was interest in other local institutions as well. We ended up advertising the event to all GW4 and AULIC institutions.

Event specifics

We asked potential attendees which modules they would most be interested in, and on that basis selected the Introduction to data and OpenRefine lessons. Library Carpentry has a very active Gitter group, so after submitting a plea there and contacting the organisers of past workshops (thank you to Tabitha Witherick!) we had two instructors volunteer: Dave Rowe (introduction to data) and Owen Stephens (OpenRefine).

We also needed helpers: people to assist on the day with general troubleshooting (for example, network connection issues). We had volunteers from both library staff and IT Services across Bristol, Bath and UWE. It’s safe to say that the workshop would not have run anywhere near as effectively as it did without them, so thank you very much to all the helpers – and of course, our instructors!

Over seven hours we covered the two chosen modules, with time for questions, general discussion and working through examples using library-related data.

Outcomes and follow-up

Feedback from attendees has so far been excellent, with several people indicating that they’ll be using OpenRefine for specific tasks the near future, and even teaching colleagues how to use it. At Bristol we had several requests for a second workshop from people unable to attend the first one; whilst another formal workshop might not be possible, we’re looking into a ‘flipped classroom’ or collaborative learning approach of short 1-2 hour sessions to pass our learning on to other colleagues and keep our skills fresh.

All in all, it was a very useful day, and we’d highly recommend attending or hosting a Library Carpentry workshop if you have a chance.

 

Thesis data in Russell Group universities

Guest blog post from the University of Bristol Research Data Service (data.bris.ac.uk), describing a recent investigation into retention of thesis data in Russell Group universities.

Thesis data at the University of Bristol

The University of Bristol research data repository, data.bris, has been running since 2014, and has been core funded since 2015. Use of the repository is becoming well-integrated into the research cycle, but whilst we accept deposits from postgraduate researchers (PGRs) as well as academics, the vast majority of these are data underpinning journal articles. Increasing the intake of data relating to other types of publications is an obvious next step.

Currently, Bristol PGRs may only deposit a hardbound copy of their thesis with the University Library; supporting data may be attached in physical storage media, but there is no requirement to make this available (in any format) as part of the final deposit process. Similarly, the University’s Research Data Management and Open Data Policy applies to PGRs and research staff, but doesn’t specifically address retention of thesis data. An investigation into how electronic final deposit of theses may be managed is underway, and we wanted to both support the wider investigation and increase use of the repository by extending the data.bris remit to data underpinning PhD theses.

The question

We wanted to understand how peer institutions across the UK handled thesis data, in order to see whether we could adopt an existing policy and/or infrastructure model. I was tasked with finding out whether relevant institutions had policies on thesis data retention, and if so, how this was managed and enforced. For brevity, I focussed my query on Russell Group universities.

Existing information

Some work had already been done in this area – the Unlocking Thesis Data (UTD) project [1] phase 1 survey included a question on depositing thesis data:
Q4. “If supplementary data files relating to the thesis are also deposited, where are these held?”
The survey results included responses from thirteen Russell Group universities [2], including Bristol, which have been summarised in the infographic [Figure 1]. Most respondents indicated that thesis data could be deposited alongside the thesis itself, with some institutions having multiple storage locations both linked and unlinked to the thesis record. At the time of the survey, no Bristol PGRs had attempted to deposit thesis data; we now have a number of PGR data deposits in the repository but as noted above, these are linked to journal articles rather than theses. Whilst UTD was a very useful starting point, it focussed largely on the thesis as an information object, rather that the data underpinning it. More information was needed.

Infographic summarising thesis data retention in Russell Group universities, 2015-2016
Figure 1: Thesis data in Russell Group universities, 2015-2016

 

New information

Twenty of twenty-three other Russell Group (RG) universities responded to an informal email enquiry on their thesis data deposit policies. Their responses are summarised in the infographic [Figure 1] and are discussed below. Anonymised aggregated results are shown in [Figure 2].

Table containing 2016 responses to enquiry on retention of thesis data in Russell Group universities
Figure 2: Thesis data retention in Russell Group universities – 2016 responses

Of the eleven universities with an explicit or implicit policy on thesis data, five had optional deposit of thesis data, and six mandated deposit (thesis data ‘should’, ‘must’ or ‘is expected to’ be retained in a suitable repository for a minimum time). However, the majority of universities with a mandatory retention policy reported that the policies were unenforced and compliance was very low, and/or that there was no infrastructure for retention in an institutional repository. Seven universities had policies on management of thesis data, either as an explicit part of their general RDM policy, their good research practice policy, or a separate thesis submission policy. Four universities indicated that their general research data policies were intended to cover thesis data although this was not explicitly mentioned in the policy text. Nine had no policy on thesis data.

Conclusion

There is little uniformity across RG institutions in their approach to thesis data retention. In particular, there is a discordance between policy and the infrastructure required to support it. When both exist, only a minority of institutions report that the policy is enforced, meaning that in this instance there isn’t a great deal of sector knowledge to draw upon! However, many institutions reported that they were, like Bristol, actively considering the topic, so it seems likely that this situation will change over the next year or two.

Next steps

As noted previously, we are currently investigating ways to facilitate electronic deposit of theses at Bristol. Alongside this, we’re also looking to pilot a process for depositing thesis data and are planning to assess requirements for this based on the input of departments participating in the trial. Both projects are in their infancy at the moment, but I hope to provide further updates as they progress.

Acknowledgements

With thanks to colleagues at responding institutions and the Unlocking Thesis Data project for supporting information.

References

[1] Grace, Stephen and Whitton, Michael and Gould, Sara and Kotarski, Rachael: Unlocking Thesis Data phase one. DOI: 10.15123/PROJECT.15

[2] Cardiff University, Durham University, King’s College London, London School of Economics and Political Science, University of Birmingham, University of Bristol, University of Cambridge, University of Edinburgh, University of Liverpool, Newcastle University, University of Oxford, University of Southampton, University of Glasgow