Fatima Darries

Fatima Darries

Last updated on 16 August 2021

Fatima Darries is Deputy Director Cataloguing Division at the University of South Africa (UNISA). She attended RDMF21 with support from the DPC’s Career Development Fund, which is funded by DPC Supporters.

I attended the RDMF21 virtual workshop on Zoom on 12 and 13 July 2021. The workshop, entitled Data Stewardship in Research Institutions, was hosted by the Digital Curation Centre (DCC).

The two, half day workshops focused on institutional data stewardship roles, and how national-level communities of practice can help institutions coordinate them with the theme coordinating support for research data stewardship for generic and disciplinary roles.

I compiled this post from personal notes, collaborative notes, tweets and presenters’ slide decks.

Day One:


1.  The keynote was delivered by Mijke Jetten from the Dutch Techcentre for Life Sciences and Health-RI and spoke on ‘Professionalising the data steward roles in the Netherlands’.
Some key points:
  • It is agreed that Data stewardship and data management skills are essential in research, but there is no consensus on the responsibilities and tasks of data stewards.
  • Need for skills and capacity building at national and international level.
  • Also needs change managers, people that push culture/policy change.
  • Human capacity needed - 3 FTE per 100 researchers from OECD report, and estimates 5 FTE per 100 researchers by the EC High Level Expert Group EOSC.
  • National initiatives: Dutch National Programme Open Science (NPOS)- developed Basic data steward job profile components.
  • International initiatives: ELIXIR-CONVERGE: Toolkit, RDA Professionalising Data Stewardship IG: topics, and RDA Libraries 4 Research Data IG: 23 things for data stewards.


2.  Lisa Otty, Centre Manager, Edinburgh Centre for Data, Culture and Society, presented on joining up Social Science and Humanities (CDCS) support with Central RDM Services at the University of Edinburgh.
Key points:
  • Centre for Data, Culture and Society launched in 2019. Supports network of academics with shared interests, based in College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences in the University of Edinburgh (UoE).
  • SHAPE acronym is used to refer to Social Sciences, Humanities, and the Arts for People and Humanity, https://thisisshape.org.uk.
  • CDCS mission is to support applied digital research across the research activity in the College, to create a community of practice across CAHSS for data-driven work.
  • Training is a key activity for CDCS. They offer over 50 courses for 600+ people per year. Also offered workshops on how to manage research under pandemic conditions.
  • Offer social events such as coffee mornings for informal discussions on data management and monthly data clinics.


3.  Paul van Schayck, from the Faculty of Health Medicine and Life Sciences at Maastricht University, presented on Data Stewards and Research Software Engineers collaborations on Life Sciences service.
Key points:
  • Data from a perspective as a research data manager (RDM) as well as a researcher.
  • Data Hub Maastricht is a RDM support provider, it offers the Maastricht Data Repository for high volume data.
  • Support is offered by Disciplinary Data Stewards.
  • Data stewards and how to prioritise development - Stakeholders are the data stewards, not the individual researchers.
  • Developing discipline specific tools - Data steward provides the domain-specific knowledge and the data hub service provides the IT knowledge.
  • Training for researchers on how to use repositories, and provide better integration between tools such as XNAT/OMERO and institutional IT resources.


4.  The presentations were followed by a breakout for discussion on: Leveraging activities outside your institution to your advantage.
Key points:
  • At the institutional level, different stakeholders involved in RDM have different training needs, e.g. librarians, data stewards, managers of domain repository, and institutional repository.
  • Need to define roles across the institution for community/stakeholders involved in RDM.
  • Collaboration within an institution takes a lot of work, you need a political decision that this is desired.
    Important to have a coordination group across the institution.
  • Working groups are useful, get them started even if attendance isn’t always good, better to have them in place.


Day Two:


5.  The second day started with a keynote address from Graham Parton, Senior Data Scientist, Centre for Environmental Data Analysis (CEDA), on the need to connect data stewardship roles across the research lifecycle and ecosystem. The is a perspective from a domain (subject) repository data scientist.
Some key points:
  • The professionalising Data Steward Interest Task Group under the Research Data Alliance (RDA) is seeking to explore and model, the varying landscape of RDM.
  • The diversity of activities, roles and environments can make it difficult for the RDM community to professionalise the work and services.
  • Aiming for an openly available collection of models, to serve in establishing and sustaining data stewardship services at different organisations.
  • The UK’s National Environmental Research Council (NERC) has a data lifecycle where the various stakeholders in the data lifecycle are involved, including tracking and reporting from the funder side.
  • The data is managed in the lifecycle in a project from instrument to archive and end-user. The interaction between end-user, instrument scientists, data scientists (i.e. archive) and IT specialist/software engineers are crucial to the success of the project.
  • NERC policy - 2010 revision stipulates that data be made publicly available within 2 years.
  • Designated data centre to work with the PI of the project, to do the NERC Data Value Checklist (https://nerc.ukri.org/research/sites/environmental-data-service-eds/policy/data-value-checklist/) to establish a full Data Management Plan (DMP). This task needs to be completed within 3-6 months of the project start date – compliance.


6.  Myriam Mertens, Open Science Coordinator, Ghent University Library, presented on setting up a data steward team at Ghent University and the national/regional context in Belgium.
Some key points:
  • Small team of data stewards – promote and facilitate, advancing culture change to open data and re-use.
  • Started with an initial 3-phased work plan: 1. Onboarding, 2. Start faculty 3. Launch more proactive support with advisory & training services.
  • Government funding for open data, and data stewardship in institutions, for the next few years.


7.  The first breakout discussion on Day 2 looked at the role of the data stewards in delivering services.
The question from a member of the group “How do you measure success as a data steward? Currently? In the future?” engendered a lot of discussion, but more questions arose than answers. However, some of the following points are worth noting:
  • People still need humans and human interactions, webpages are nice but people won’t read it.
  • ‘Measuring Impact’ - JISC undertook a series of studies on data centres and measured ROI; as a domain repo, we also seek user Impact stories.
  • Is data re-use/reproducibility a good measure? (Citation? Downloads? How do you measure re-use)?
  • Systems that use registration can give you more insights and then follow up with people via a survey.

Discussion concluded with different measures of success for different aspects.


8.  The second breakout discussion was on a (national) community of practice for data stewards.
Some key points:
  • South Africa has a CoP (network for digital curation) for about 10 years, has been unfunded, initiators are retiring, and community might be losing its mojo.
  • Who fills the gap if networks/services retire?
  • International groups are useful for learning about models in other countries, but national context is important to what can be done, e.g. funding, policies.


9.  Helen Clare, Senior e-infrastructure strategy manager at Open Research Competencies Coalition, Jisc Digital Research Community, presented ‘UK: A tale of two communities*, *or one community and a coalition (and definitely not the only communities!)’.
Key points:
  • Data stewardship in SC3: Scholarly Communication Competencies Coalition was formed in 2017 to exploring training and professional development for scholarly communications (and open research).
  • Open Research Competencies Coalition formed in 2020 - Rebranded during Covid to online research support – broader conversation.
  • Space for JISC digital research community to connect, share and collaborate, but across discipline and roles, across open research.


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