In the escape room, you learn about the pitfalls of research data
With responsive and value-driven interdisciplinary research, VU Amsterdam wants to contribute to understanding and solving the urgent, societal challenges of our time. This means, for example, that researchers must be able to optimally manage, exchange, store and reuse their research results. "This requires professional and easily accessible research support and facilities," says Marcel Ras, coordinator Network Research Data Support (NeRDS).
"As a researcher, you need to know what is possible, what tools are available to you and where support can be found."
"Research support for scientists was very fragmented and the demands on researchers and research are increasing. Researchers need good and fast customised central and decentralised support, up-to-date infrastructure and facilities. It is of vital importance to make connections continuously and see where support can be even better. As a researcher, you need to be able to focus on doing research. Research data management is an important precondition, and we should make that as easy as possible for researchers. Sound information provision is essential; as a researcher, you need to know what is possible, what tools are available to you and where support can be found. Research data support is becoming increasingly well-controlled at VU Amsterdam and is now set up in a professional manner. As a result, we can now devote more attention to managing research software: writing, managing, storing, documenting and sharing software for the purpose of research."
"The question you have to ask yourself all the time as a researcher is: how do I manage my data and what do I need to share and store this data in a safe way?"
Imke Limpens, manager of the Research Data Support Programme, adds: "Pioneering is what it's called. Every researcher is different, sometimes they have a lot of knowledge and skills and sometimes they don’t. A lot has happened over the past four years. When I started, there were hardly any facilities for research data management. We invested heavily in infrastructure and support and at the same time we see that the requirements are getting stricter. We also notice something else, namely that the international FAIR principles have become common sense. FAIR is an acronym that stands for Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable. The principles serve as guidelines for making scientific data suitable for reuse by humans and machines."
Wasn't that a revolutionary idea? After all, researchers are often keen on their own data and research results, do they really want to share them?
Imke: "The covid research is a great example. That research was globally the ultimate drive to share as much data as possible and as fast as possible. Actually, this came about in a kind of pressure cooker. We all agreed that we could do something together. That if we joined forces, we would be capable of much more. And that was true. In fact, researchers were willing to share their data, but were not paid for it. That was often the reason it didn't happen."
Live with Yoda
Imke: "We are now preparing to go live with Yoda early next year. That is the last piece of the puzzle of the VU RDM infrastructure. It is an important step because with this tool you can manage your data professionally from cradle to grave, and as a researcher you have control over whether, and with whom, you share your data. Researchers were very creative in this regard, and they did a lot themselves, which wasn’t always safe. Yoda will definitely help them."
Marcel: "A researcher has to be able to do research, you have to support them in that as much as possible. We recently started community activities in the Research Data Support Network in which everyone helps each other with best practices. We facilitate two different meetings between researchers from different faculties: the RDM Community Meetings where we have discussions on all kinds of topics that the participants bring up themselves. And so-called Data Conversations, in which presentations are given and researchers talk to each other. All in all, this is a great development. Researchers really don't have to do everything alone, and good ambassadors can help others. A very good way to clarify the risks of data is gaming. Together with Eindhoven University of Technology, Delft University of Technology, the eScience Centre and Leiden University, we built three escape rooms. The games let you think and act in real time. It has been a great success."
The programme ends at the end of the year and the work will continue in the organisation. Imke confidently hands over the baton to Marcel.