Thursday, 5 February 2009

Data Walkabout 5: Brisbane, QUT


I was very pleased that Paula Callan, e-Research Access Coordinator at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) was available to meet me next (pictured with me). I have met Paula twice before: at Edinburgh on a study visit of her own and at the OAI5 conference at CERN in 2007, so I know she is switched on to both repositories and data management issues. QUT EPrints has been running for five years, and over 1500 academics are regular self-depositors. Paula was responsible for much of this success, though QUT had a huge advantage that Professor Tom Cochrane, an Open Access advocate, pushed through the institutional repository and supported it from the top as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Technology, Information and Learning Support).

Each time I meet Paula she fills me in on Australian developments, such as the now-completed Australian Research Repositories Online to the World (ARROW) project which coordinated the efforts of Australian institutional repositories; the Australian ResearCH Enabling enviRonment (ARCHER) and its open source toolset; Australian Research Collaboration Service (ARCS) which features a data storage service to provide a national 'data fabric'; Online Research Collections Australia (ORCA) - an online registry of Australian research collections, and the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research. This last one is key to institutional responsibility for research data management because compliance is mandatory to receive research funding. It states that institutions are not only responsible for providing "safe and secure" storage facilities for data, but that there must be a policy on retention, ownership, and access to that data at an institutional level.

Another driver for Australian institutions is the Australian Research Council Funding Agreement which, for certain research grants, requires that research outputs - including both data and publications - be lodged in an institutional or disciplinary repository within 6 months of completion.

I learned more from Carolyn Young, Associate Director, Library Services (Information Resources) who kindly made time to speak with me before my talk to Library and eResearch support staff on DataShare and the Data Audit Framework projects. She and Joe Young, Manager of High Performance Computing, developed the Research Support Plan to comply with the government policies above, e.g. how to implement them, and how to enhance support services for research and data management.

Included in the plan are: a research data management policy; templates for funded research data management plans; a training programme for researchers; an organisational model that utilises staff efficiently for new services, and a data store for all departments (not just the heavy data users). They're looking inwards, i.e. at the OAK Law Project that has data expertise to contribute, and outwards, for example Monash University Library's Research Support Plan. They plan to contribute to the ORCA data registry and help to seed the ANDS Data Commons. Paula also introduced me to Joe's colleague Lance Divine, who told me about technology they use to help research projects visualise and manage their data, such as Mediaflux and plone.

Speaking of the OAK Law Project (Open Access to Knowledge) I met with Kylie Pappalardo, who explained the cutting edge work they do with open data and the Australian Creative Commons. We had an interesting discussion about whether open data should be licensed via the Creative Commons attribution-only license (OAK Law's opinion), or dedicated to the public domain only to avoid attribution stacking and other barriers to re-use (a view held by John Wilbanks of Science Commons). Since coming back to Britain I see that Rufus Pollock from the UK-based Open Knowledge Foundation has weighed in on this debate.

Kylie sent me away with a copy of their Practical Data Management: A Legal and Policy Guide, a useful resource although it is based on Australian law and practice. For example, in Australia the quintessential 'telephone book case' was settled in favour of the data collector so data can have copyright (because effort matters, just like creativity - not the decision in USA). But of course Britain has the Database Directive outside copyright law, so here too there is potential for IPR in data, though this has not been tested much in court.

See Data Walkabout (1) for further context about this post.

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