By Julien Colomb | August 14, 2018
Modified from https://research-data-network.readme.io/docs/senior-management-engagement (reorganise text and add comments),
This is the result of the analyse of discussion in the UK community, remember that country specificities in working strategies and stories are to be expected.
Use senarios and story-telling
Accusation of fraud
We all agreed that one strategy that works for almost all possible audience types are doomsday scenarios – disasters that can happen when researchers do not adhere to good RDM practice. This could be as simple as asking individual senior researchers what they would do if someone accused them of falsifying research data five years after they have published their corresponding research paper. Would they have enough evidence to reject such accusations? The possibility of being confronted with their own potential undoing helped convince many senior managers of the importance of RDM.
Reference to documented cases of fraudulent research helped some institutions convince their senior leadership of the importance of good RDM. These cases included the fraudulent research by Diederik Stapel from Tilburg University or by Erin Potts-Kant from Duke University, where $200 million in grants was awarded based on fake data.
Data loss (fire, stolen, no documentation)
Other doomsday scenarios which seem to convince senior leaders were related to broader institutional crises, such as risk of fire. Useful examples are the fire which destroyed the newly built Chemistry building at the University of Nottingham, the fire which destroyed valuable equipment and research at the University of Southampton (£120 million pounds’ worth of equipment and facilities), the recent fire at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute and a similar disaster at the University of Santa Cruz.
Shared examples of these included horror stories such as data loss from stolen laptops (when data had not been backed up), newly started postdocs inheriting projects and the need to re-do all the experiments from scratch due to lack of sufficient data documentation from their predecessor, or lost patent cases.
Ethical values of academia
Research ethics and research integrity are directly connected to good RDM practice and are also the core ethical values of academia. We therefore reflected on the importance of referring to the institutional value statement/mission statement or code of conduct when advocating/arguing for good RDM. One person admitted adding a clear reference to the institutional mission statement whenever asking senior leadership for endorsement for RDM service improvements. The UK Concordat on Open Research Data is a highly regarded external document listing core expectations on good research data management and sharing, which might be worth including as a reference. In addition, most higher education institutions will have mandates in teaching and research, which might allow good RDM practice to be endorsed through their central ethics committees.
Collecting testimonies from researchers about the difficulties of working with research data when good data management practice was not adhered to is also a useful approach.
The argument that good data management practice leads to time and efficiency savings also seems to be powerful when presented to senior leadership.
Change your main strategy
Get scientists as advocates (data champions)
Researcher voices are often louder than those of librarians, or those running central support services, so consider who will best help to champion your cause.
At one science-focused institution anything coming from the library was automatically perceived as a waste of money and not useful for the research community and, as a result, all business cases for RDM services were bound to be unsuccessful due to the historic negative perception of the library as a whole.
Make researchers part of the team (grant writing)
Another way to make use of one’s social network within the institution can be to ask researchers or institutes to join as co-applicants in project proposals for the university management. The proposal can profit from the reputation and make it harder for senior management to dismiss the notion that they need to engage more in RDM.
Another suggestion was that rebranding the service tends to be more successful than hoping for people to change. For example, shifting the emphasis from sharing of research data and open access to supporting good research data management practice and increasing research efficiency was something that had worked well at one institution.
Distributed under a CC-BY license, reorganised by Julien Colomb, material from Silke Bellanger, Rosie Higman, Heidi Imker, Bev Jones, Liz Lyon, Paul Stokes, Marta Teperek, Dirk Verdicchio