A National Research Data Management Strategy for South African Universities

Dr Dale Peters1, Dr Mark Hahnel2
1University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa. dale.peters@uct.ac.za
2Figshare, London


Amidst a growing number of mandates for data sharing and reuse, South African universities are scrambling to provide services to the research community to facilitate compliance with the various requirements of numerous international funding agencies. The impending burden posed on institutions to fund this requirement was brought sharply into focus with the introduction of a similar mandate by the national research funding agency, the very lifeblood on which the academic enterprise is reliant.

With little incentive or support to meet the obvious crisis, a few research- intensive universities set out independently on the arduous journey of software evaluation and service development. This paper will outline that journey, and share the insights of a process of converging interest in a national strategy for research data management, led by DIRISA, the Data Intensive Research Initiative of South Africa, a component of the National Integrated Cyberinfrastructure System (NICIS).[1}

At a time when nationwide student protest action has highlighted the financial constraints on the higher education sector[2], the need to act collaboratively is imperative to sustain levels of excellence reflected in the worldwide university rankings – that conversely have driven South African universities into competition with one another in the past. The national research data management strategy signals a new way of thinking about library and IT services, that marks a clear divergence from traditional repository infrastructure development over the past twenty years.

While the concept of a shared data service is not unique[3], the process is exceptional in a paradigm shift is enabled by a proposal for a Western Cape Data-Intensive Research Facility (WC DIRF) as a tier 2 node of the DIRISA network.[4] The node will be operated and managed by a consortium of Western Cape institutions, including the University of Cape Town (UCT), as the lead institution, the University of the Western Cape (UWC), the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), Stellenbosch University (SU) and the Square Kilometre Array South Africa Project (SKA SA).    The development of a strong relationship with figshare has provided an awareness amongst consortium partners and South African universities of the development work that is needed to support researchers to achieve persistence and provenance of their research outputs.


  1. https://www.dirisa.ac.za/aboutus/. Last accessed, 30 June 2017.
  2. Du Toit, André, and N. Chabani Manganyi, eds. Political violence and the struggle in South Africa. Springer, 2016.
  3. Kaye, John, Rachel Bruce, and Dom Fripp. “Establishing a shared research data service for UK universities.” Insights 30.1 (2017): 59.
  4. A Proposal for a Western CapeTier2 Data Intensive Research Facility, December 2016


Dr Dale Peters is Director: UCT eResearch, providing leadership in engaging networked information technologies to enhance and support innovative practice in scientific research; promoting multi-institutional collaboration and trans- and inter-disciplinary research in the deployment of computational data infrastructures.

She was appointed in 2010 by the Minister of Science and Technology to convene of the Work Group for the Data Intensive Research Initiatives of South Africa (DIRISA), towards to the formalisation of the National Integrated Cyber-Infrastructure System (NICIS).  She was appointed by the NRF in 2013 to lead the national team on the Belmont Forum e-Infrastructures and Data Management research action, and currently represents the Department of Science and Technology on the OECD project on “International Coordination of Data in Infrastructures for Open Science”.

Responsible for the planning, development and management of a number of national and international e-Infrastructure projects, Dale Peters commands a high level of technology awareness to inform strategy and policy development. She aims to advance the global vision for Open Access, Open Data and Open Science for research, development and innovation.

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