Poster Open Access

Illustration of Data Agents network of Aalto University: Data Agents: How to put research data management into practice?

Richard Darst; Enrico Glerean; Dan Häggman; Clemens Icheln; Mika Jalava; Mikhail Kuklin; Kaarlo Nieminen; Urszula Pawlicka-Deger; Muhammad Safdar; Ilari Lähteenmäki; Maria Söderholm; Anne Sunikka; Ella Bingham

The poster describes the Data Agents network of Aalto University (Finland). 

Research data management (RDM) practices and policies have evolved throughout the years with the growth of data intensive science as well as public accounting for reproducibility and dissemination of research. RDM covers a series of practices from awareness building, data organization, storage, preservation, sharing with collaborators, and opening of the research data and results. RDM fulfills the practical needs of researchers by ensuring best practices in data storage and sharing as well as the needs of funders by providing a transparent view of the data life cycle from creation to long-term storage.

Whereas grant agencies and management units of university require RDM plans, there is often the risk that the practical needs of researchers regarding RDM are omitted, with a mismatch between long-term habits and the day-to-day needs of researchers and the accounting needs of institutions. To solve these bottom-up and top-down multiplicity of needs, Aalto University has developed the role of Data Agents, i.e. dedicated personnel that spans horizontally through the organizational structure to help in meeting the practical RDM challenges of researchers as well as the accounting needs of PIs, department heads, deans and grant agencies. Data Agents are typically researchers who support the researchers in his/her department. Furthermore, the salary cost of data agents is partially compensated by university based on the time spent on the RDM activities.

Data Agents have gathered and distributed information of best data management practices in departments with the goal of reaching all researchers. They are co-operating with technical support teams to promote sustainable data storage practices as well as appropriate documentation to guarantee the reproducibility of the data. Furthermore, the Agents help in publishing data at domain-specific or general repositories. Collaborating with the support staff, Data Agents help to develop excellent services to researchers in response to their feedback.

Data Agents Program has raised awareness on research data management and is gradually changing how people do their work. Successful examples include monthly meetings and focused trainings by agents in departments.  Data agents have proved to be an effective tool in bringing the research data management theory into practice.

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