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March 2015

Spring forward! The Jisc Research Data Spring programme

On 26/27 February, I attended Jisc Data Spring “Sandpit 1” in the English city of Birmingham. Data Spring is a funding programme supporting UK based projects in Research Data Management (RDM), and something of a successor to the successful Managing Research Data programmes (MRD) that did so much to get RDM training and tools underway in the UK’s education sector.

Unlike the traditional proposal-evaluation-funding model, Data Spring takes a more collaborative, interactive approach, splitting the programme into separate stages at which projects may no longer receive funding. If that sounds like the approach of entertainment modern TV shows, then you would not be wrong to think that. Beginning with an open call, some 70 proposals were available online for voting and comments. These reduced to 44 by the time of a workshop [PDF] at the recent IDCC conference. At the “Sandpit” (metaphorical, not literal, sadly), these proposals had to fit 27 available slots to proceed to the next stage. Through a process of negotiation, mergers and acquisitions, and hasty matchmaking, all 44 managed to get through in some form from the first day to the second.

The second day consisted of the now 27 projects making four-minute pitches to a panel of judges. By mid-March, successful projects will receive notice of three months testing and prototype funding before reporting to a similar event in June. Following this event, projects may receive a further four months of funding before a final workshop in November allows six months of funding leading to the programme’s conclusion in 2016.

Having been part of the JISCMRD Program (Jisc has since switched to sentence case from caps), it was notable how much the area has moved on since those days. From evidence gathering and basic training tools to RDM support focused on integration into existing workflows. That this occurred is a testament to the original MRD programme, and the support, work, and imaginations of those involved. Whatever projects make it through to the end of Data Spring, I have no doubt they will be worth the attention of people involved in Research Data Management both inside and outside the UK.

You can review projects at the Data Spring ideascale and figshare pages and tweet about them using #dataspring.

UPDATE: a storify of the event is also available.

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