CESSDA Training goes GEBF

As a part of the annual conference of the Gesellschaft für Empirische Bildungsforschung (GEBF) at the beginning of March 2016 in Berlin, CESSDA Training held a workshop on research data management.

Data management and the re-usability of research data are becoming of increasing importance in empirical social and educational research in Germany. Thus the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research has begun to make data management, data archiving and data re-usability a precondition for funding in the field of educational research. In response to this, three German research institutes, namely the Deutsche Institut für Internationale Pädagogische Forschung (DIPF), the Institut für Qualitätseintwicklung im Bildungswesen (IQB) and GESIS, established the Verbund Forschungsdaten Bildung (VFDB).

This research infrastructure supports researchers in managing and archiving their data from the field of educational research. The VFDB web portal (in German) offers best practice guidelines and templates on all relevant topics of research data management in empirical social and educational research. This includes legal and ethical issues, data documentation, data security, and data archiving among other things.

To support the VFDB’s primary objective, CESSDA Training and the IQB commonly held the GEBF workshop to introduce participants to the overall field of research data management. During the two hour session, we talked about the relevance of long-term accessibility of research data and discussed the elements of good data management. Due to the limited time available, this workshop could of course only provide a first introduction to the topic and increase participants’ awareness of issues that might compromise data quality and re-usability. However, this is a first important step on our way to making research data management and sharing a matter-of-course for reseachers in the empirical social and educational science community.

KE Workshop on RDM training and skills

Co-authored with Laurence Horton, London School of Economics and Political Science

Knowledge Exchange (KE) is an international collaboration to enable open scholarship featuring infrastructure bodies from Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Finland and the UK.

With a focus on Research Data Management (RDM) training, this London event on 9-10 February 2016 contained presentations allied with group discussions for broader themes. The results of the workshop as well as results of a survey carried out by KE among RDM training providers before the workshop will be published as a Knowledge Exchange Report this spring.


Ellen Verbakel (TU Delft) introduced The Essentials 4 Data Support Course, targeted at those who support researchers in data management. The course is organized along the research data life cycle and can be taken online for information or certification through blended learning, including assignments and face-to-face teaching. One finding is the website needed short text, images and video.

Jonas Recker (GESIS) talked about CESSDA Training introductory workshops on RDM. Evaluations show participants are happy with the opportunity for questions and discussion. However, demand exists for practical examples plus guidance on informed consent, anonymisation and data protection.

UK Data Service’s Libby Bishop also reported on the value in using “real” data in workshops. Again, the argument was less PowerPoint, more exercises. Libby also mentioned challenges making life harder, including “cloud” storage, encryption, “big data”, and non-academic sources using data for research.

Institutional focus came from Gareth Knight (LSHTM) who identified demand in developing areas for RDM support like training on mobile devices for data capture, advanced anonymisation and encryption training.

Stéphane Goldstein (InformAll) described the KE survey of RDM training. It found training audiences is almost exclusively PhD/Post-doc. Data also suggested discrepancies between learning aims and impact of the training.

Reporting on their train the trainers project, Joy Davidson (DCC) identified groups missing from RDM training and why it is important. A wide range of institutional support staff includes archivists, finance, legal officers who through their roles touch on RDM areas but are not getting support on how their jobs fit into enabling data reuse and preservation.

Two presentations from Denmark showed how a smaller nation is tackling RDM. Henrik Pedersen (University of Southern Denmark) outlined the use of a national forum to ground local expertise in national coordination and Karsten Kryger (Aalborg University Library) sketched their flexible training master plan, while emphasizing that training was a minor but important part of an overall strategy.

Christian Jämsen of the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Finland covered how it manages extensive sensitive patient record data and makes it available for research. Part of the challenge for the institute was knowing what it has and what it can use.

Presentations are available from this dropbox link.


Broader theme breakout sessions focused on lessons learnt, challenges in training, cross-national insights, and success criteria for RDM. Summaries of discussions will be available from KE.

A number of recurring themes emerged that were discussed throughout the workshop, including

Level of training and scalability

It appears that most of the trainings delivered by workshop participants were introductory level trainings. This could be due to the fact that it is still “early days” in implementing RDM procedures and RDM training into the research routine. However, as a community we should start thinking about more advanced trainings for certain target groups.

It appears that most training delivered by workshop participants were introductory level. This could be because it is still “early days” in implementing RDM procedures and RDM training into the research routine. However, as a community we should start thinking about more advanced training for target groups.

However, linked to this is how to make RDM training scale. The KE survey revealed that in 2014 over 30% of training offered reached fewer than 50 participants, and another 19% reached fewer than 99 participants. A reason for this may be the small number of dedicated staff but also the fact that in-depth training beyond very general introductory remarks on RDM appears to require smaller groups and room for discussion of subject and projectspecific questions.

Impact and success

The question of impact and success is twofold: how do we measure the impact of RDM training – i.e. how do we know training has actually improved something, but also: how do we measure the success of RDM itself?

 Metadata and repositories for training resources

It became clear in discussions there is a demand to improve discoverability and accessibility of RDM training materials. As rightly pointed out by Laura Molloy and Kevin Ashley, suitable repositories and metadata already exist. It seems that we need to create more awareness that these tools are already out there and possibly have a discussion about how to make them a good fit for a broad spectrum of training resources.