Consortium of European Social Science Data Archives




CESSDA plans improved training materials and workshops for researchers

The first meeting of the CESSDA Training Working Group provided the opportunity for CESSDA Service Providers to make concrete plans for the development of training resources and for organising workshops.

The meeting took place in Cologne, Germany, on 29 November 2016 and was hosted by the GESIS Data Archive for the Social Sciences. It was attended by 21 participants from thirteen different European social science data archives in the CESSDA collaboration and was in line with the objective of CESSDA to improve access to high-quality data in the social sciences.

The group split its discussions on running training courses into the following two areas: data discovery (search strategies and techniques for finding and reusing data, which are important for the researcher’s own research) and research data management and data management plans (which are now stipulated in the course of the application for funds as part of Horizon 2020 and other funding programmes).

Research data management activities

The research data management session revolved around a specific task of the CESSDA 2017 Work Plan, a planned fifteen hour online data management training course with the objective of supporting researchers in:

“Acquiring the knowledge and skills (essentials) to reuse already existing data and store, manage, archive and share their research data according to the best practices in the field and complying with Open Research Data requirements.”

In this light, participants learned about the Essentials 4 Data Support (E4DS) introductory course offered by Research Data Netherlands. In addition to an online-only version, this course is also taught as a blended-learning course: mostly online but comprising two face-to-face meetings and lasting six weeks with an estimated workload of 35 hours (plus the face-to-face meetings). It addresses people who support researchers in a range of activities from storing to archiving and sharing their research data.

Its planning and visual elements were presented in more detail and lessons learned shared with all participants. Having a clear structure of the course in advance and to make one person responsible per chapter in the course were both recommendations from E4DS. Other recommendations included to design and enforce a style guide and decide early on future access and reuse rights to the course contents.

The CESSDA data management course is also introductory, with little prerequisite data management knowledge or skills expected, and with the aim of raising data (management) awareness; it is primarily targeted at social science researchers but will apply to other disciplines as well. The content of the training will be in line with Horizon2020 requirements.

A matrix of data management topics was discussed as well as data types (quantitative and qualitative data, GIS, social media, and audiovisual as well as different combinations of these types). Topics considered essential for the online course were data management planning, ethics and legal (rights, licensing, data protection, informed consent, anonymisation), quality and organisation of work, including versions of the data, documentation and metadata, storage, backup, security, as well as publishing and sharing data outside the project team and data citation.

The course will also be accompanied by guidance and additional resources targeted at trainers who want to offer face-to-face training for researchers in their own organisations.

A leading partner was designated for each topic and descriptions will be added by the end of January 2017. Several phases ensue, defining online content in several chapters, the content templates and creation workflow, as well as creating online content, the web interface and visual tools. After a period where the course will be tested both by online users and as part of face to face workshops, the online content and workshop guidance materials for trainers will be finalised by the end of 2017, with the course to be offered from early 2018.

CESSDA activities in data discovery

Training for data discovery is a new area for CESSDA and aims to help users locate and navigate existing data collections relevant to their own research/teaching interests, data collections that may be stored in different locations and subject to different access conditions.

The data discovery session began with information sharing between archives with members presenting the current training plans of the Czech Social Science Data Service (CSDA), Danish Data Archive (DDA), German Data Archive for the Social Sciences (GESIS), Irish Social Science Data Archive (ISSDA), Slovenian Social Science Data Archives (ADP), Swedish National Data Service (SND) and the UK Data Service (UKDS).

Preliminary findings from the survey carried out by Jen Buckley (UKDS) entitled “CESSDA Training Needs Assessment” were presented. This assessment of training needs from social science data archives from both CESSDA member countries and non-members constituted an important first step for CESSDA’s data discovery work. The results gave insight into the topics and areas of training that are most essential to data users and to gaps in current training provision.

Subsequently, participants discussed potential topics and areas of training and agreed that the focus should be on supporting users to find and access data, to evaluate data for secondary data analysis and to explore quantitative microdata, especially complex data structures. Important considerations to be taken into account when planning and delivering training were brought up, including format, software, language and resources.

The remainder of the meeting focused on developing the future data discovery training programme. In 2017, CESSDA Service Providers will collaborate to deliver three workshops in three different locations on three different topics: migration, political behaviour, and the European Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS).

Led by either GESIS or the UK Data Service in partnership with other national archives, each workshop will utilise expertise within the network of CESSDA Service Providers. The individual workshops will highlight data available in different locations and increase understanding of complicated datasets and their potential. The aim is that the three workshops combined will widen the user base of CESSDA data among post graduate and senior researchers throughout Europe.

The UK Data Service will also lead on three webinars on data discovery: one general, one on political behaviour and one relating to ageing.

Members of the CESSDA Training Group will also collaborate to share and disseminate useful resources for data discovery through the CESSDA website.

The session ended with ideas for 2018 and beyond to be finalised into a work plan at the next meeting in January 2017. However, for the time being, the focus is likely to be on webinars and online tutorials.

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This article was prepared by CESSDA Training Group members Jonas Recker from GESIS and Jen Buckley from UKDS, as well as Eleanor Smith from CESSDA.