To support researchers in storing and sharing research data, in 2011 the CARDS project has been executed under auspices of Surffoundation. The project worked in two directions: (1) professionalization of the support staff and (2) executing the wishes of researchers for storing and sharing research data through seven pilots in five institutions in higher education in the Netherlands.

Researchers frequently come up against problems managing their valuable research data. Many of those problems have to do with the safe storage of data and the controlled sharing of data. Without imposing any demands or getting in the way, the CARDS project aimed to help researchers manage their data in what is for them the most efficient and effective way. To achieve this activities were undertaken at two levels; improving the skills of the support staff and conducting pilots to collect and support the demands of researchers.

Pilots with research groups
In seven pilots with research groups in a number of disciplines the project explored starting up support for researchers at the participating universities. The outcomes of the project are also available for use by other universities. Support was provided locally on the basis of regular personal contact (account management). The actual support provided differed at each location, depending on the wishes of the particular research group. The account manager did not therefore come bounding in with a folder full of recommendations, procedures, and rules. Rather, he  listened, focused on the problems, and offered solutions and advice. The account managers periodically exchanged information so as to learn from one another.

Challenge to implement infrastructure
Identifying the infrastructure was not a challenge, however implementing it was. The project ran into the limits of organisations and could only deliver a part of the desired result. The adversities also offered input to further develop datamanagement in institutions in the Netherlands.

Digital information package
This process formed the basis for a digital information package. Amongst other things, this includes a template for a data management plan.

The results generated consisted of a report on the results of the pilots, the digital information package for researchers, and a symposium (in Dutch) for researchers and support personnel at which the results of the project will be presented (15 maart : Databeheer in de praktijk). The report [PDF] is in Dutch but does contain an English summary.

Findings and recommendations
In the report the findings are split for researchers, institutions adn funders. The most important findings from the project are:

  • formulate a clear data management policy
  • provide good support
  • provide a sound infrastructure for data management and data storage.

These points will ensure efficiency and effectiveness in the storage and use of research data in such a way that researchers can spend their time on excellent research and not solving organisational and management problems.

The project involved five universities together with Data Archiving and Networked Solutions (DANS). Utrecht University, the 3TU Data Centre, and SURFnet were not formally partners in the project but agreed to provide free input for CARDS in the form of know-how and experience. Most of the funding directly benefited the research groups participating in the pilots.

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