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Research Tool Usage in Data Curation Workflows: Responsibilities & Collaboration

12 FEB 2024

Collaborative session notes

Submitted by Vaida Plankyte

Meeting objectives: 

The Research Data Management lifecycle takes a unique shape at each institution, with a multiplicity of moving parts that integrate together to best support institutional needs. As such, a FAIR research lifecycle consists of various points of interaction between collaborators across the institution and outside, including Researchers, Data Stewards, Research Data Managers, Data Curators, General and Domain-specific Repositories, and Research Tools, among others. Research Tools themselves cover a wide range of workflows, and can take many shapes: data management plans, electronic lab notebooks, inventory systems, internal and external repositories, as well as tools that enable interoperability between the above, and custom-built institutional solutions.

Any project involving close collaboration and a mix of responsibilities will encounter points of friction, especially at an institutional scale. This friction is especially relevant to address in the context of RDM: its success relies on the adoption of research tools by various institutional entities, close collaboration with the tool providers to ensure a tight integration with existing systems and other tools in the process, as well as a shared understanding of what is involved in data curation and its relevant workflows. What is more, this friction is often worsened by a few RDM-specific factors. For instance, a lack of a clear definition of what RDM entails at the institution often results in RDM staff carrying responsibilities that span several stages of the research lifecycle, implicitly encompassing several roles that are not made explicit to other parties. This can then contribute to a lack of clarity in the desired workflows and use cases aimed at enhancing RDM, making research tool adoption difficult. More generally, a lack of shared understanding and language between RDM managers and research tool providers on what data curation involves and means for that institution can cause miscommunication that is hard to identify and correct. 

On top of the sometimes-vague borders between the different stages of RDM and the potential broad scope of RDM at an institution, there is also a lack of clear definition of the term ‘curation’, which can result in confusion both between and among researchers, research support staff and research tool providers. The term ‘curation’ is used in a series of different contexts, from the review stage of DMPs or the review stage in a data repository, to the curation, appraisal and selection of data by the researchers themselves across different stages of RDM. Inherently, this doesn’t strike tool creators and managers as problematic due to the case-specific interpretation often becoming clearly defined by the abilities and purpose of a tool itself. However, it’s important to point out that this case-specific approach can make interoperability discussions difficult, exactly because of this freedom of interpretation. Due to the variety of interpretations and differing use cases around curation phases, and data curation in general in research tools, it is important to open up the conversation to discuss the curation landscape to get a better understanding of the different types of curation that can take place across the many tools available in the RDM lifecycle.

This BoF session focuses on exploring these practical challenges of adopting and maintaining a healthy institutional RDM practice that relies on utilizing Research Tools to support data curation workflows. Speakers in various roles who are active in various stages of the research lifecycle will detail their perspectives on the points of friction they’ve encountered in their RDM workflows and tooling, what curation means to them, what responsibilities they’ve identified and how they’ve distributed them, and how they’ve approached making collaboration more effective, both inside the institution, and with external collaborators. Our focus is on concrete examples of RDM tool implementation (or the lack thereof) at various stages of the RDM cycle at which a form of curation happens, and the practical considerations stemming from adoption and collaboration with the tool providers.

To supplement the perspective of RDM managers involved in data curation, speakers involved with research tool development will describe the challenges they’ve faced in developing and using interoperable tools that meet institutional requirements, their approach in demystifying RDM and defining an institution’s definition of “curation” and its workflows, what approaches have worked in enabling productive collaborations with institutional RDM, and how curation plays a key role in the FAIRification of data using RDM tools.

We hope that these use cases, stemming from the perspectives of both RDM managers from different institutions and research tool providers focused on enabling different stages of the research lifecycle will stimulate attendees to reflect on their institution’s RDM practices. The session will encourage participants to identify RDM challenges at their own institution that stem from a lack of synergy and understanding between data curation and research tooling, and stimulate a conversation on how to enable a successful, integrated RDM practice. If there is sufficient interest, we plan to submit a proposal to establish an Interest Group to delve deeper into these issues, and support RDM managers and research tool providers in bridging these gaps.

Meeting agenda: 

Meeting presenter details

Meeting agenda

Introduction (5 mins)

3 Institutional case studies (30 mins)

Interoperable tool provider joint case study (10 mins)

Discussion (45 mins)

Agenda assumes 90 minutes for session length and can be adjusted.

Type of Meeting: 

Working meeting

Short introduction describing any previous activities: 

All of the presenters have been involved in addressing research data management and curation challenges in a variety of roles and situations, and have identified the importance of fostering a conversation around the proposed topic.

The “Public Access Data Management and Sharing Activities for Academic Administration and Researchers“ paper released by the Realities of Academic Data Sharing (RADS) Initiative, listing the various data management and sharing activities, served as a catalyst for the development of this Birds of a Feather proposal. The paper states: “To better understand which services, infrastructure, and staffing […] are needed to make research data publicly accessible, the activities required to enable these services, infrastructure, and staffing had to be unpacked first.” The paper emphasizes the importance of common language and understanding of what RDM involves, which resonated strongly with our presenters, and serves as an ideal jumping point to continue the conversation and start addressing the practical challenges through the sharing of real-life use cases.

To further illustrate, UiT and RSpace (both presenting) have collaborated on the incorporation of IGSN IDs for physical samples into the RSpace Inventory system, resulting in the publication of “Guiding principles for implementing persistent identification and metadata features on research tools to boost interoperability of research data and support sample management workflows” (, which has resonated with our colleagues at various institutions.

BoF applicant serving as contact person: 

Vaida Plankyte

Additional links to informative material:

Meeting presenters: 

Alessa Gambardella (Leiden), Dieuwertje Bloemen (KU Leuven), Inga Patarčić & Oscar Migueles (MDC), Noortje Haugstvedt (UiT), Marek Suchanek (DSW), Vaida Plankytė (RSpace)

Avoid conflict with the following group (1): 

Professionalising Data Stewardship IG

Avoid conflict with the following group (2): 

RDA-OfR Mapping the landscape of digital research tools WG

Contact for group (email):

Applicable Pathways: 

Data Infrastructures – Organisational to Environments

Data Lifecycles – Versioning, Provenance, and Reward

Driven by RDA Organisational Member: 


Please indicate at least (3) three breakout slots that would suit your meeting.: 

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