“It’s all about the researcher, stupid!”

Michelle Krahe1, Julie Toohey2, Malcolm Wolski3, Paul Scuffham4, Sheena Reilly5

1Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Griffith University, Gold Coast. Australia, m.krahe@griffith.edu.au

2Library and Learning Services, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia, Julie.toohey@griffith.edu.au 3eResearch Services, Griffith University, Nathan, Australia, m.wolski@griffith.edu.au

4Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Griffith University, Nathan, Australia p.scuffham@griffith.edu.au

5Health Group, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia, s.reilly@griffith.edu.au



The adage coined in the 1992 presidential campaign “It’s all about the economy, stupid”, was to remind everyone that they should be focused on the plight of the working people and not get side tracked on other issues. The same could be said for research data management (RDM), it’s the researcher who should be the main focus!

Building or acquiring RDM capacity is a major challenge for health and medical researchers and academic institutes alike. Considering that different RDM practices can have direct influences on the integrity and longevity of data, optimising institutional services and support in recognition of RDM needs is especially valuable within the context of the broader open science movement.

The national research agenda, funding requirements, institutional research strategies and the open science movement including the F.A.I.R principles, are stimulating change in academic institutions, researchers and centres to develop sound RDM practices throughout the entire research life cycle.

So do researchers understand RDM, and do they really care? In an attempt to instill sound RDM practices among the research community, Griffith University’s approach is to work with the researchers (bottom up approach) to better understand their current practices and needs. Figure 1 illustrates a typical day for a researcher, filled with competing priorities and tasks and begs to question whether RDM is a high priority.

Figure 1: Researchers to do list .


A collaborative project conducted with the Health Executive, eResearch Services and Library and Learning Services at Griffith University, evaluated factors relating to current RDM and data sharing practices among health and medical researchers within the Menzies Health Institute Queensland.

A cohort of 81 researchers were surveyed about their RDM practices including:  data storage and retention, data sharing practices and RDM tasks aligned to the research lifecycle.


This project highlights characteristics indicative of the broader academic researcher population. Current strengths and needs of the cohort were also identified that will inform priorities for future development of the eResearch and Data Management support services, training and networks.

Project findings indicate a large number of academics are conducting research on their non-secure desktops and external hard drives which many lead to potential risk of data loss.  Why is this the case?  And why don’t researchers use secured desktops, enterprise systems and computational services throughout the entire research lifecycle?  Perhaps, it is simply a lack of knowledge.

We are starting to realise that researchers don’t know what they don’t know, so in terms of developing capabilities and sound RDM practices at Griffith, what should be our next step?


At what stage of the research life cycle do we engage with researchers to potentially change their data gathering, analysing and storage behaviours?  The one size fits all approach does not work and data management plans may not be the answer.  What are the skills and knowledge gaps as well as the motivators and opportunities we can leverage to bring about necessary change?  Which university elements are responsible for delivering that change?

So what is our solution? Let’s say it is a work in progress.

For example the recent establishment of the RDM Steering Group lead by Office for Research, comprises of four working parties: Services, Infrastructure, Policy, and Skills. Working parties membership include stakeholders representatives from across the community and will steer Griffith’s efforts collaboratively providing further support services, strengthening researcher capability and good RDM practices.

This presentation will focus on an evaluation of researchers’ current RDM practices from the survey and strategies used towards building researcher capacity around good RDM practices.  This presentation will be of interest to institutions embarking on University wide collaborative approaches in working towards development and delivery of training programs supporting researchers.


Julie has worked in academic libraries for 23 years and is currently the Health Discipline Librarian at Griffith University, Gold Coast campus.  Julie is passionate about research data management practices and is in the process of publishing her first co-authored journal article. Throughout 2016, Julie co-facilitated the Australian National Data Services 23 Things (research data) Health and Medical Data Community Group webinar series and is a member of the Queensland University Libraries Office of Cooperation (QULOC) Research Support Working Party.


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