A case study with the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) on their research data management support services

A case study with the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) on their research data management support services

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The Technical University of Denmark (DTU) educates engineers for the future. The research and innovation of the university is particularly focused on “benefit of society, relevance to business, and sustainability.”

DTU has been using a Figshare-powered data repository, DTU Data, since 2019 and in 2023 they achieved their CoreTrustSeal certification.

We spoke to Jitka Stilund Hansen and Katrine Flindt Holmstrand from DTU Library about their research data management support services and the process of obtaining their CoreTrustSeal certification.

The team supporting research data management (RDM) at DTU is made up of three full time staff members that support the practical deposition of research data as well as RDM-related communications and engagement activities. The team is essentially responsible for the implementation and evolution of RDM policies at the university and supporting researchers and faculty with the growing funder requirements related to data sharing. Part of how the team does this effectively is by proactively engaging and staying ahead of developments in the open data space, collaborating internally at DTU with the legal, IT and information security departments. Also, the team participates in national and international initiatives and forums about the wider open research ecosystem. Their approach aims to bring all of this together, to form comprehensive research support services that are relevant and timely for their researchers.

DTU’s journey to their CoreTrustSeal (CTS) certification began in 2019, with the implementation of their Figshare-powered data repository. When the team had decided that they would be proceeding with a local institutional repository, they knew they wanted it to have a recognized certification. However, in these first stages it was clear that obtaining CTS would be a complex process and that they needed to mature and build out their workflows and infrastructure before considering beginning the formal certification process. During the time that the CTS process was on hold, the DTU team were approached by a European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) Nordic Working Group assessing FAIR maturity of repositories. In that project, DTU Data received a good assessment and ranked in the top 10 of repositories that were evaluated. The Figshare ‘off-the-shelf’ infrastructure was able to fulfil many of the FAIR assessment criteria. After this successful result, the team at DTU were asked by the EOSC Nordic Working Group if they would like support in the process of obtaining CTS certification for their data repository.

The positive result of the FAIR assessment and the offer of support from the EOSC Nordic working group motivated DTU to embark on the CTS certification process that overall, would take 2 years. The team admitted being slightly naive in their expectations for the resources the process would require, as the extensive certification documentation would need to be completed alongside their existing day-to-day tasks. Ultimately however, the DTU team found the process to be extremely positive; with the intense review required of processes and workflows surrounding their repository they were able to collate and improve their existing documentation and establish a comprehensive understanding of their infrastructure and refinement of their curation service.

When considering the key aspects of Figshare’s infrastructure and services that supported DTU in their CTS accreditation process, the team noted the following as being of significant help;

- Figshare’s extensive support and help documentation

- The implementation guide and other documentation provided at the beginning of DTU’s journey with Figshare, this included disaster recovery and business continuity plans and a service level agreement. These documents included lots of useful technical information

- Figshare’s ‘off-the-shelf’ infrastructure and user-friendly interface that allows researchers to deposit data in a FAIR way without extensive intervention and curation

- The integration possibilities with Figshare repositories and the API and this enabled the team to ensure the sustainability of DTU Data by indexing deposits in DTU Library’s platform for scientific discovery

For other institutions considering beginning the CTS accreditation process, the team at DTU summarized their advice in four top tips;

- Have your documentation for your RDM support in order; including what services you offer your research community and how you interact with them

- Read CTS applications from other institutions to give you a relatable example of what your final output could look like (you can find a list of certified repositories on the CTS website here)

- Ensure you have allocated time and resource for the actual process, but also in the early stages, dedicate some time to fully understand the requirements and make a project plan

- Allocate a team member the role of ‘project lead’, who has ownership over the process and application and can review all collated information for submission, even if different areas are split between different people. This ensures one individual has a comprehensive view of the submission as it is built and can maintain consistency

Overall, one of the main benefits of the process that DTU cited was that it really enhanced their own understanding of their service offerings as they got to know the intricacies of their RDM infrastructure. From the process, they are not only proud to have the globally recognized CTS certification but also a deep understanding of DTU Data, their workflows, their adherence to the FAIR principles and assurance of their funder policy compliance.

The team also reflected on the importance of aligning with the wider digitalization strategy at their institution and how implementing Figshare and their significant work in obtaining the CTS certification has helped them to strategically improve the digital services around research data at DTU, and ensure they are at the forefront of digitalization for research data.

Looking to the future, the team at DTU are excited to reach the milestone of 1000 items in DTU Data and to continue the optimization of their support documentation and how it is shared with researchers to ensure it’s as useful as it can be. Looking further ahead, the team hopes to progress with an innovative project to utilize the Figshare functionality of custom metadata and groups to begin sharing and showcasing research instruments and equipment and linking these with research data and final publications. They are also keen on staying abreast of conversations and developments around the long-term preservation of research data.

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