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Press release

Standardising the Management of Research Data: Joint Project provides Impetus for Implementation

Abstrakte Darstellung von Datenströmen

Research projects generate large amounts of data – often in the form of tables, measurements and surveys. These are increasingly available in digital form and can be accessed by partners inside and outside the universities. In order to make the information findable and usable in the long term, TH Köln, FH Potsdam and the University of Applied Sciences Darmstadt have developed recommendations for coordinated and efficient research data management.

Research data management encompasses all measures to ensure that data is prepared in such a way that those involved in a research project, as well as external parties, can understand the information and process it further if necessary. In order to achieve this goal, it is advisable to create so-called data management plans (DMP). "However, their acceptance and utilisation is too low. Researchers, if they are aware of them at all, tend to see them as additional work, and the benefits have not yet been adequately communicated. With our project, we want to help change this," explains Prof. Dr. Mirjam Blümm from the Institute of Information Science and the Advanced Media Institute at TH Köln.

Data management plans define how researchers, cooperation partners and funding bodies should handle research data throughout the duration of the project and beyond. They also describe methods and tools for making data findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable. The implementation of these plans poses challenges for universities, as Prof. Dr. Heike Neuroth from the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam explains: "Researchers criticise the fact that the formal and content-related requirements for documentation are not tailored to their subject-specific needs. In addition, the practice-relevant disciplines at universities, such as design, early childhood education or rescue engineering, have little access to established infrastructures and standards. There are still too few best practices for users." In addition, collaborators from industry, administration and culture sometimes have their own requirements and reservations about publishing data.

Interviews provide insights into requirements and challenges
In order to find solutions, the joint project "SAN-DMP" analysed the data management requirements of HAWs and FHs. The aim was to develop implementation scenarios and recommendations for the implementation of DMP as an essential tool to support RDM. To this end, existing documentation, templates and practices were first researched and qualitative, guideline-based online interviews were conducted with nine groups. The interviewees were practice partners from the fields of business, media and culture, (inter)disciplinary researchers, teaching staff and students as well as experts from research support - including the library, computer centre / IT department and research service / advice.

Recommendations for effective research data management
The team then developed three scenarios that depict how data management plans will be handled at HAWs and FHs in 15 years' time. The spectrum of the assessed situation ranges from no measures at all to extensive measures adopted by the users. Based on these perspectives, recommendations for action were developed to promote the visibility, acceptance and utilisation of DMPs. The action-supporting suggestions are aimed at researchers, research funding organisations, university management and funding institutions.
"By using open file formats, researchers can help to establish a supportive data culture and develop new project ideas for working with the collected data. In addition, service centres should be set up to provide advice on RDM. We also recommend developing guidelines and initiating pilot projects to establish and stabilise helpful practices. After all, it saves time, effort and costs to store data in a structured way, to clarify responsibilities at an early stage and to collect, document and store data in a traceable and secure manner," concludes Prof. Dr. Stefan Schmunk from the University of Applied Sciences Darmstadt.

About the project
The research project "SAN-DMP: Visibility, acceptance and use of data management plans for FHs and HAWs" was carried out under the joint leadership of Prof. Dr. Mirjam Blümm from the Institute for Information Science / Advanced Media Institute at TH Köln, Prof. Dr. Heike Neuroth from the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam and Prof. Dr Stefan Schmunk from the University of Applied Sciences Darmstadt. The project ran for one year. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) funded the project with around 190,000 euros as part of the "Reuse and Management of Research Data at Universities of Applied Sciences" programme.

Mirjam Blümm et al. (2023): Datenmanagementpläne an Fachhochschulen / Hochschulen für Angewandte Wissenschaften. Eine Bestandsaufnahme und Empfehlungen (Schriften zur Informationswissenschaft; Bd. 77) ISBN 978-3-86488-193-0

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The universities
Innovative, future-orientated and practical: helping to shape the world of tomorrow is what the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam is working on in teaching, practice and research.
More than 3,600 students study and conduct research in the five faculties of Social Sciences and Education, CITY I BUILDIING I CULTURE, Civil Engineering, Design and Information Sciences. The three strategic profile lines "Digital Transformation – Urban Future", "Forming Society" and "Design – Build – Preserve " address societal challenges and questions about the future across all faculties. Together with partners in the Berlin-Brandenburg science region and in Germany and abroad, a wide range of ideas and innovative solutions are being developed.

University of Applied Sciences Darmstadt (h_da) is one of the largest universities of applied sciences (HAWs) in Germany. It offers over 60 degree programmes for around 16,000 students. Applied research and development play a central role at h_da, which is reflected, among other things, in its right to award doctorates in the research specialisations of sustainability sciences, applied computer science and social work, as well as in the large number of national and international research activities.

TH Köln is one of the most innovative universities of applied sciences. It offers students and academics from Germany and abroad an inspiring learning, working and research environment in the social, cultural, societal, engineering and natural sciences. Around 25,000 students are currently enrolled on around 100 Bachelor's and Master's degree programmes. TH Köln shapes social innovation – with this claim we meet the challenges of society. Our interdisciplinary thinking and action, our regional, national and international activities make us a valued co-operation partner and pioneer in many areas.