Teaching Research Data Management to PhD students at the University of Tartu, Estonia: from skills to ethics

Open science is mainly about open access to publications and open research data, ensured by open licenses. Although Estonia does not have a clear-cut open science policy yet, our researchers have been involved in Open Science because, on the one hand, it is required by the European Commission and, on the other hand, it is practised by scientific communities worldwide.

University of Tartu (UT) Library has been proactive in the open data field since 2014, and having taught the basics of research data management since 2015. About 400 doctoral students have passed the elective PhD course “Introduction to Information Research” containing a research data management (RDM) module.

We realised from the feedback of this course that the subject of data management needed a more thorough discussion and a separate course, thus the library, in cooperation with the UT Natural History Museum, created the

 E-course for PhD students: Research Data Management and Publication

 The course is updated and held twice a year both in Estonian and in English. In 2020, the course was nominated as one of the best six e-courses in Estonia and it was granted a quality mark.

 

The guiding principle of the course is that graduate students should be able to create a data management plan and publish their own research data in a machine-readable format on a data management platform called PlutoF  To achieve this goal, two subject modules were developed to cover the entire lifecycle of research data:

1st module, taught by the UT Library1. Introduction to Open Science
2. Data Management Plan (DMP). Doctoral students create a data management plan based on their own research data using the DMP online tool. They can consult with their supervisor, the related Principal Investigator (PI) of the said research and the research group, and apply DMPs in their work. Students get individual guidance, feedback and evaluation.
3. Open Data Search. Searching openly shared research data and evaluating related metadata significantly improves students’ FAIR data skills: they learn from good and bad examples how to make their own data findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable.

2nd module, the PlutoF Data Management Platform

This module is suitable for students working with biodiversity data; it provides step-by-step guidance and feedback, explaining how to publish one’s research data in machine-readable format.

All the work done on the course is also part of doctoral students’ daily work, so they get credit points for completing the course and the result – their DMP   can right away be used in planning and managing their research.

Proper data management is not only about data – it is also the guarantee of research integrity.
So RDM is also a part of the elective course for PhD students curated by the Ethics Centre: Research Integrity: Framework Requirements, Values and Principles of Action.

 Students’ feedback

“This course has been very eye-opening.  The DMP is the foundation! As the French poet/writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said: “A goal without a plan is just a wish””.

“I especially liked the practical homework of creating the DMP and searching datasets through repositories, because these are very practical skills that I can use further on”.

“As there is no formal training for student supervisors, this course would be great for them where they can refresh their knowledge and understanding or improve and learn new skills. Because research management is critical for Masters and PhD students”.

Based on  feedback from students, we can see that early career researchers are very willing to practice open science. They bring their knowledge and skills to research groups, ensuring proper data management and publication to get credit for all research-associated activities.

Their contribution to bottom-up activities can also support and accelerate the creation of Open Science policy for Estonian research institutions.

Tiiu Tarkpea
Data Librarian
University of Tartu Library, Estonia

Email: tiiu.tarkpea@ut.ee

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