eResearch Report 2017 - 2018 - Page 17

Dealing with the data
Researchers must recognise that this will affect how they work
with their data and must be open to changing some practices.
Once it is built, you need to employ
a person long-term to maintain it:
somebody with a librarian mindset
to focus on the fine details around
curating and archiving. Finally,
you need someone to do the
“data science” – the visualisation
and storytelling from the stored
and curated data set. Toussaint is
extremely excited that researchers
are starting to grapple with these
problems: it is new and difficult,
but she believes it is important to
send the message that this is not a
space to be feared.
“Data is only as valuable as the
value people add to it, and if yours
is inaccessible, there is other data
out there that researchers will use,
while your untouched data grows
stale,” she says.
How the portal was built
An important factor to consider,
therefore, is the mandate of the
person or people employed
to implement sustainable data
practices. Researchers must
recognise that this will affect how
they work with their data and must
be open to changing some practices.
4. Know what skills you need
For a database such as the one the
ERC built, a group would effectively
be hiring for three different skill
sets, which may not come neatly
rolled up in one person.
First, says Toussaint, you need a
person with the technical skills to
build the database – somebody
with an engineering mindset who is
happy to tinker and problem-solve.
Toussaint was tasked with
building a data portal where the
ERC’s energy data – currently
being gathered from a range of
sources and scattered across
different storage options – could
be stored in one place. In addition,
the data had to be made open to
researchers worldwide.
An early pioneer, before ZivaHub
was available, Toussaint relied on
web-based open-source software
called Comprehensive Knowledge
Archive Network (CKAN), created
specifically for storing and
distributing open data.
“CKAN is a great resource,” says
Toussaint. “It’s not an out-the-box
solution, as setting it up requires
technical know-how, but it’s free.”
UCT eResearch assisted by
providing a virtual server.
Toussaint says her interactions
with UCT eResearch – and their
support – facilitated her work.
Toussaint adds that she hopes to
collaborate more with eResearch
in the future: “As the project
comes to an end, and I reflect on
what I’ve learned, I have a greater
idea of what’s actually possible.
I would like to engage with
eResearch at the next level, and
say: You’re doing great work, and
changing the way things are done;
what else can you do for me?”

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