Agreeing on a DAS

The Data Availability Statement (other names are available) is a particular interest of mine, I think it’s a gateway drug to becoming more open with your science. It doesn’t force you to share, but for some people (there will always be those who are stuck in their ways) having to explain why you won’t share your data makes them think a bit harder about whether they could.

Maybe I’m just naive, but anyone who knows me knows that I’m pretty cool with that.

So although I’m a big fan of the DAS, whether it tells you how to get the data or not, it’s not a very easy thing to research, particularly in an automated way, because it’s not always labelled very well.

I’ve been trying to look at compliance with UK Research Council’s positions on DAS (mostly, you need to have one), it’s a quick and dirty analysis using Google Scholar, and it’s likely to end up here rather than in a paper. One of the biggest problems I’ve been coming up against is how to “catch ’em all”.

I’ve found DAS in the following sections:

  • Acknowledgements
  • Associated Files
  • Availability and requirements
  • Availability of data and materials
  • Conclusions
  • Data availability
  • Data Access
  • Data accessibility
  • Data and software availability
  • Data Statement
  • Electronic Supplementary Materials
  • Notes
  • Supplementary Data
  • Supplementary Material(s)
  • Supplementary information
  • Supporting information

The majority of times that I’ve found it in e.g. the Acknowledgements or the Conclusions it was due to researchers trying to force it into a journal which just didn’t have the capability to include it in its current template. Researcher’s trying their best to do the right thing despite the restrictions of the journal.

Journals could help a lot by creating a specific section in a paper to include this information (and many already do). Maybe they could even talk to each other and decide on some wording?

If you’re also interested in DAS, there’s an excellent new preprint here: Colavizza, G., Hrynaszkiewicz, I., Staden, I., Whitaker, K., & McGillivray, B. (2019). The citation advantage of linking publications to research dataarXiv preprint arXiv:1907.02565.

Kindness: Old fashioned, or a novel modern approach?

people-office-group-teamThose of us who teach from the professional services face an uphill battle in getting people to sign up to and then turn up to the courses that we run.

Unlike a lot of undergraduate training, our courses are not written into a syllabus, PGRs and Postdocs (our bread and butter) are mostly free to attend whichever courses seem useful and interesting. However, PGRs and Postdocs are busy. Even when they signup last minute pressures can mean that they never actually make it to the course.

So how do we attract participants and keep them coming back?

At DARTS6 last year Georgina Cronin gave a great talk about getting people through the door using things the participants were interested in – in this case using a computer game theme. This is definitely something we need to think about in our practice – often the course listings are rather dry, and require people to go and trawl through them to find something interesting. I’ve wanted to work on something as a response to this for a year now, and just as soon as I have a second, I will be!

What about when we get them in the door? What can we do to get them to come back to the next course? 

Yesterday, we ran a course using the R for Social Scientists Data Carpentry course. We had a feeling R would be in demand, and it was, it was easy to get people to sign up, and we had 60% attend (which is fairly on par in my experience). As part of the Data Carpentry set up each participant has a green and a pink post it – to allow them to signal if everything is going okay, or if they need some help. At the end of the session, we asked them to write something they thought was good about the course on the green post it, and something that could be improved on the pink post-it.RCarpentry_feedback_cloud

We had some of the best feedback I’ve ever experienced, and I put a lot of it down to the people I had helping (Professional services staff – Librarians, Research Software Engineers and people from the Digital Services Team). And the reason I do was this specific feedback:


“Team experts very patient and kind.”

“Was helpful and kind.” 

I don’t think I’ve ever had feedback from a course before talking about how kind the instructors were. And I’m starting to believe this might be the key. It all sounds a bit hippy, a bit out of touch, I know, but how are we meant to expect students to want to learn with us unless they have a good experience? I know there are people who disagree, who think being strict with the students is the way forward. But I think they’re wrong, and I know I’m not alone there.


In this context, I suspect the kindness comes from:

  1. Having enough helpers (not easy when demonstrators often need to be paid) so that they weren’t worried about a queue of questions forming
  2. Having enough time that we could stop, let people catch up and actually listen to the questions. I knew we wouldn’t finish all the material anyway, so wasn’t worried about having to get through it.

Interestingly, my last blog also touches on this – The Turing Way book sprint was such a successful day for me because of the kindness of the experts they had there. They had the time and space to help and that’s really all that people are looking for.

It’s not easy to find time these days, we’re all rushed, we’re all busy. But if we can carve out that space, I suspect it wouldn’t take much for us to be seen as kind. And it the current world kindness seems to be in demand, so I’m certainly going to be looking to implement it where ever I can.

The Turing Way and a return to GitHub

At the end of last week I headed off to Manchester to take part in a book dash writing the Turing Way Handbook of reproducible data science.

I was a little nervous and could feel the imposter syndrome creeping in, but I was also excited. It was a great group of people – researchers, software engineers and librarians. Having been both a librarian and a researcher in a computational discipline, I should have felt fairly confident,  but there was a shadow looming over the event.

That shadow was GitHub.

For those who haven’t come across it  before, GitHub is a platform to enable collaborative working – mostly used for software projects. The book we were writing was using the platform to allow a room full of people to all work on the project at the same time.

The problem for me was that it was a good few years since I’d last used GitHub, and I wasn’t sure what I was doing then, so I definitely wasn’t confident now.

However, It turned out that the Turing Way was a great way of re-learning – I wasn’t the only novice there, and there were a lot of really approachable people involved in the project. By the end of the day I was making commits and pull requests (Git terminology) like a pro – or at least not like a total noob.

This was great for me, but has left me wondering how to help others get over the starting hurdle when it comes to Git and Github – sitting around a table with helpful people works…but it’s not very scaleable!

I’m hoping that this time I’ll be able to keep my skills up, and continuing to work on the Turing Way project seems a great way to do that. Many thanks to all those involved who made the day so profitable for all attending.

Coming Soon

Things are moving fast in the world of Scholarly Communications, RDM and ED&I. The blog posts found here are going to detail some of the things I’ve been getting involved with, or my thoughts on what’s happening in HE more generally.

Currently I’m two months from the end of a secondment into the Digital Research Project at University of Nottingham. It’s a Research Data Management post, ensuring that the new policy is rolled out to researchers properly, and that come August the new RDM service in the Library is going to be up and running, clearly outlined, and above all – manageable. We’re adding in a new service to a fairly over worked team (aren’t we all over worked teams) and it’s important that the service is a useful addition without overloading the Librarians.

Some of the events I’ve got coming up outside of this (which will hopefully all have a blog post assigned to them) are:

The Turing Way Reproducible Research Handbook Book Dash – May 2019

Equality in Science Symposium @ LSTM – June 2019

Exploring the workplace for LGBT+ physical scientists – June 2019

Bridging the gap between theory and practice: Roundtable event – June 2019