Figshare researcher spotlight: James Bird, The University of Manchester


As part of a Figshare researcher spotlight series, we’ll be sharing the experiences of researchers who used their Figshare-powered institutional repositories to support their research projects and research management process. 

Our first spotlight comes from James Bird, who utilized the University of Manchester’s Figshare-powered data repository and the library’s wider research data management support services during his PhD thesis writing. 

Can you give an overview of your research, your subject area of expertise and the specific part of your research process in which you utilised Figshare?

My research focussed on a specific titanium (M) and carbon (X) containing nanomaterial known as a ‘MXene’, which in my opinion as a Chemistry graduate is a misnomer, as there are no double bonds! The research focussed on the fundamentals, namely the synthesis and characterisation of these materials with both common and advanced techniques. I began using Figshare in the writing up phase of my PhD thesis. I had acquired three bulging paper lab notebooks over the course of the research project and wanted to share the data and findings of each individual experiment.

Do you consider yourself an early, mid, or established career researcher?

Very early career, if at all! I’ve left scientific research as a day job for now but have not ruled out a return.

Did you have a data management plan? Did you adhere to the plan throughout your research process? 

I made a data management plan in DMPonline in April 2022. My PhD was initially due to end in September 2022, so this was evidently very late on in the process, although I didn’t submit my thesis until January 2024 with numerous Covid-related and other extensions. The DMP was therefore followed.

Were you aware of the repository and the related services provided by the library? Or did you find out about the service at your point of need?

At point of need.

What was your experience with depositing your research in Figshare?

My experience overall was a good one. The platform was easy to use, especially once I’d established a workflow. Due to the pace and scale of uploads, I did find the process time-consuming. The main reason for this was that I was working across two platforms: a private electronic lab notebook (ELN) and Figshare. I was essentially duplicating the output from the ELN into Figshare to make it public once I’d written up an experiment, associated all data and performed all analyses. Although both platforms have APIs, which could have been used to automate the process, I ran into issues with the ELN API. I had no reservations about sharing the outputs as my research is publicly funded through an EPSRC grant. I therefore wanted to return the results of that investment to the public domain.

Can you describe how the library team supported you during the process and the benefits of this?

The library team facilitated the publication of my outputs during the review process and would offer helpful feedback to improve the clarity of each. I got to know the library team much better after the peak of my interaction with Figshare and I can attest to their wonderfully supportive and knowledgeable nature.

Can you describe the key results of sharing your research output/s through Figshare? 

My original goals are still incomplete, which I think may be limiting the impact. Experiments are grouped into private collections, where each collection pertains to a thesis chapter and a research article. All articles are yet to be published, so none of the collections have been made public. I’ve taken the same approach with Github, where each repository containing analysis scripts associated with an article is currently private also. People that engage therefore only see discrete experiments, and not the greater narrative nor conclusions of a series of experiments when viewed as a body of work. Despite this, at the time of writing, there have been 37,123 item views across my 81 posts and 25,374 item downloads. It therefore appears that a great many people have benefitted from the sharing of my research outputs. There are however zero citations despite my first upload being in September 2022. One can either assume that there is a large time-lag between the use of my research outputs and citation, or that data citation is not the accepted norm. Regardless, I would hope that my research has helped whoever has interacted with it in some way, and that perhaps their research has been accelerated as a result, or that some citizen scientists have had a field day! 

How do you think that the process of using Figshare and following a research management process has helped you with your Open Research knowledge more broadly?

I’ve had the pleasure of presenting on my open research practice on a few occasions, notably at the Royce Open Research & Data Symposium and Figshare Fest (both 2023). Through that, I’ve met a host of open research enthusiasts, all of whom bring unique insight and knowledge to any challenges faced. Arguably, meeting this community helped me gain my new role at the University, as a Technical Specialist within the Research Lifecycle Programme, tasked with implementing solutions to enhance, promote and facilitate open research practice. Without research data management and Figshare, I wouldn’t be here!




May 22, 2024 10:00

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