Laura Standaert, Data Steward at UGent, talks about

Marc Gérard

Content Developer @ Belnet
Wed, 04/26/2023 - 16:20

Laura Standaert is a Data Steward at UGent for the Life Sciences & Medicine cluster, which includes the Faculties of Medicine, Health Sciences, Veterinary Medicine and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Together with four other Data Stewards and two Data Curators, she works within the Open Science Team to provide professional support to researchers (from PhD level upwards) in the management and preservation of research data.  

To meet this expectation, is certainly one of her tools of choice. The platform she has been using since 2019 is ideal for helping researchers manage their Data Management Plans. She generously agreed to tell us a bit more about the use of at Ghent University.

UGent has made the tool of choice for managing the data of these research projects

How many researchers at UGent use

In total over 10000 users at UGent have ever been involved, but over the past year just over 3000 researchers have used it. All PhD students at Ghent University need to make a Data Management Plan, and all researchers that process personal data use it in the process of registering the processing of personal data.

"The main driver is to raise awareness for proper data management planning and providing a tool for researchers to make it as easy as possible to fulfill funder requirements."

Is it easy to convince researchers of the interest and necessity of using is THE go-to place for our researchers to find the templates needed to fulfill the DMP and GDPR registration requirements, so that fact makes that they automatically turn to to draft their DMP. And some let us know that they find it really helpful to find (institutional or funder) guidance texts in when drafting a DMP, which helps them address the various DMP template questions.

How do you go about helping them to use the tool?

Researchers can contact our RDM support address to ask questions or to ask feedback. And we try to proactively include as much helpful information as possible in the guidance in and on our institutional research data management support pages. In addition, we provide several trainings on data management planning each year.

Is the application of the FAIR Data principles the driving force behind the project?

The main driver is to raise awareness for proper data management planning and providing a tool for researchers to make it as easy as possible to fulfill funder requirements.

The notion of data management planning and the DMPonline software actually precede the first formal description of the FAIR principles in the 2016 paper by Mark Wilkinson and colleagues. But these things are of course closely linked, in the sense that achieving data FAIRness is really hard without decent planning. And the FAIR data principles have of course gained a lot of traction in recent years among research communities, institutions, and funders.     

What do you think are the biggest advantages of the platform?

What is most striking is how easy it is to use, once you have selected the appropriate template, the next steps are very straightforward. Another advantage is that it contains up to date information regarding funder requirements and allows researchers to answer these in a consistent manner. Further, it allows collaboration on plans across institutes.

"Leveraging the international development is a wonderful asset for the evolution of Research Data Management practices."

Can researchers still obtain funding for their research projects without creating a DMP?

In the Belgian context and for European-funded research, a full DMP is usually a requirement after obtaining funding. So it is not necessary to obtain the funding, but research funders do use it as an instrument to make sure the funds are well spent. And many now do include a few questions about research data management in their grant application forms. The policies of research funders are still evolving towards putting more emphasis on Research Data Management and Open Science, so who knows - a full DMP may still become a requirement to obtain funding in the future?

Can you give us a recent example where was used in a research project with an international scope?

Projects funded by the European Commission under the Horizon framework are typically highly international projects including many partners and with a complex project setup. The Data Management requirements for Horizon Europe are at the same time very advanced. I recently worked together with a project coordinator for such a project to consolidate the input of all project partners in a DMP created using

Do you think that this tool can be developed further in the future? Can the functionalities still evolve?

There are definitely some improvements that can be envisioned with regard to automated integration with other systems. This would decrease the burden on researchers to look up and forward all the necessary information. However, this will have to be a step by step process, because also the other tools that need to be connected with, may not be ready for such integrations. And it would require a standardized interaction format.

A last hurdle, which is at the same time the largest benefit, is that development is not dependent only on Belgian development, but part of a bigger international open source community. Leveraging the international development is a wonderful asset for the evolution of Research Data Management practices.

What are you most proud of the project as you are a DMP team member?

The fact that more and more Belgian institutes join This must mean that it is a useful tool that people want to use. Also the update and migration to the latest community releases is an amazing achievement, not in the least because it allows a growing interaction with the international community.

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