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Closing the Skills Gap: Basics of Research Data Management Course – Case University of Turku

Rantasaari, Jukka Tapio; Kokkinen, Heli Kristiina

Current challenge for researchers at the University of Turku is that there is a substantial gap between the level of targeted and present research data management (RDM) skills. We examined the perceived RDM skills importance vs. competence of researchers through interviews. Based on the results we developed a three-credit RDM course for doctoral students and post-doctoral researchers.

We conducted thirty (30) two hour long interviews with doctoral students, supervisors and biostatisticians on the following topics:

  • Collected data and its life cycle in the project
  • Agreements and licences
  • Version management, backup and storing of data
  • Processing, analysing and visualising
  • Organizing, documenting, describing, quality management
  • Discovering and using external data
  • IPR rights management and data protection
  • Discipline specific cultures and practices
  • Preservation, reuse and sharing.

The interviewees’ average estimate of the importance of different stages of research data life cycle was 4.1 (very important) on Likert scale 1 to 5. An average estimate of the skills of doctoral students was 2.6 (have somewhat skills). So there is a substantial gap (4.1 vs. 2.6) between the level of targeted and present RDM skills. Targets for competencies have been set – besides by the interviewees themselves – by the Data Policy of the University of Turku, Finnish and EU level Open Science principles and research literature: many studies show that graduate students are not data fluent. That is contradictory, because high quality research requires high quality data. With good RDM skills you make less errors, use time more efficiently, produce well organized and documented data and thus make it possible to reuse, share and open data.

Based on the results of the interviews we created a module-based training, the Basics of RDM (BRDM), for doctoral students and post-doctoral researchers. The course was built by a working group consisting of university teachers, lawyers, library’s open science specialists, data protection officer, IT Services, biostatisticians, etc.

The three study programmes of BRDM are Health Sciences, Natural Sciences and Survey and Interview Studies. During the course, students will build a research plan and a data management plan for a research project. They will learn e.g.:

  • where and how to collect, store, protect, process, document, preserve and share data,
  • how to create a database for the data,
  • how to take account IPR issues, permits and licences,
  • how to create privacy notice and a risk analysis.

Each study programme has seven modules, of which three are mutual for all the three study programmes.

BRDM Course will be launched in March 2019 and it will include preliminary assignments and contact sessions.

In this presentation, we will discuss the conducted interviews and their key results. We will e.g. give a graphic that shows the main skills gaps. We will also tell the BRDM course planning and implementation, the student feedback, especially how have we managed to fill the skills gaps so far.

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