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Data Services Program Expands Partnerships Across Drexel

January 11, 2017

The Drexel University Libraries' Data Services Program supports students and researchers in accessing data resources, working with data, and managing data generated from scholarly activity to meet learning and research needs. Services supporting Drexel researchers include assistance in writing data management plans for grant applications, consultation in managing research data while research is in progress and at completion, and insuring compliance with university and funder data retention policies. These services can help Drexel researchers secure grant funding and also help optimize research productivity through effective planning for data storage over the life of a project. Each of these areas requires effective cooperation with other research support units, and the Data Services Team has been actively engaging and collaborating with others on campus since fall 2016 to ensure University students and faculty have the resources they need to find, understand and use data.

Using REDCap to Manage Data

The Data Services staff is currently working closely with Drexel's College of Medicine Research Office to promote the benefits of REDCap (Research Electronic Data Capture)--a secure, web-based tool for creating surveys and managing research data--to the Drexel University community.

Created at Vanderbilt University in 2004, REDCap is now used by over 2,100 institutions in 108 countries around the world. Drexel University is a REDCap partner institution and has over 500 registered users.

REDCap provides functionality and features that enable researchers to improve their research data workflows and develop databases for collecting and managing their research data. For example, REDCap allows researchers to securely store data online, and it allows external collaborators to securely access that data from any location. It also offers seamless export into other statistical data processing software tools such as SAS, SPSS and R, and furthermore, it can conduct Audit Trails to keep track of changes made to the data by individual authorized users.

As REDCap is HIPAA compliant, it is often used for research in medical clinical trials; however, it is also used for research in public health, psychology, education, and other social sciences disciplines. Promoting REDCap to the university community is an example of Data Services information sharing activities to inform the Drexel research community on best practices in data management and archiving.

Evaluating and Improving Data Management Plans

The Data Services Program is also collaborating with the Office of Research Pre-Award Team to evaluate data management plans from recent grant proposals. Data Management Plans (DMPs) are documents that outline how data generated from a funded research project will be stored, archived and made available to other researchers. DMPs are required by many funding agencies, including the NSF and DOE, and are increasingly being scrutinized for their quality during the grant proposal evaluation process.

Data Services staff are using a rubric promoted by the Institute of Museum and Library Studies' DART Project: Using Data Management Plans as a Research Tool to evaluate a sample of DMPs from submitted grant proposals. Evaluation of DMPs using this rubric enables researchers to identify areas that could be improved to better support their grant proposals. An exemplary data management plan addresses types of data, standards and metadata, policies for access and sharing data, policies and provisions for reuse, and data archiving and preservation.

After evaluating sample DMPs, Data Services staff are providing feedback to the Office of Research Pre-Award staff on how well researchers were developing their DMPs, as well as identifying particular areas for improvement, library assistance and training. This collaboration is a continual process of evaluating the quality of DMPs to help researchers keep up with the latest federal funding mandates.

Reviewing Drexel's Data Policies

Finally, in partnership with colleagues from Drexel's Office of General Council and Compliance Office, the Libraries is reviewing Drexel's Records Management Policy and Records Retention Schedule with an eye towards retention practices for research data.  This is just one policy among a set of policies that the Data Stewardship Forum--a cross-campus group of senior administrators whose offices have a stake in the management of Drexel's research data--is reviewing to ensure Drexel's compliance with legal and funder requirements for data archiving and data sharing.

These cross-campus partnerships highlight just a few of the Data Services Program's efforts focused on managing research data on campus. Further information on research data services offered by the Drexel Libraries can be found in the Research Data Management section of the Libraries' website. 

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Chris Badurek