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Seeding the Commons at UQ

Project overview

The UQ Seeding the Commons project was funded by the Australian National Data Service (ANDS) to:

improve discovery and re-use of University of Queensland research data.

The project aimed to:

  • Develop data management policy, practice and infrastructure at UQ
  • Contribute research data descriptions to Research Data Australia and other discovery systems
  • Contribute to national discussion of research data management policy, practice and infrastructure

The project ran from August 2010 to April 2012, when it was superseded by the ANDS funded MS06 UQ Data Collections Registry Project which had similar infrastructure and policy goals to this project and built on the outputs of this project.

The project was led by the UQ eResearch Group, and involved many relevant groups across the University of Queensland, as listed in the table below.

UQ eResearch Group
Professor Jane Hunter, Project lead
Dr Nigel Ward, Project Manager
Abdul Alabri, Software developer (September 2010 – June 2011)
Tim Dettrick, Software developer (August 2011 – October 2011)
UQ Library
Belinda Weaver, Manager Research Data Collections Service
Heather Todd, Director Scholarly Publishing and Digitisation Service
Office of DVC-Research
Dr Suzanne Morris, Research Integrity Officer
Prof Alan Lawson, PVC Research & International
Information & Technical Services
Vern Bawden, Enterprise Data Services
Reference Group for Data Management Policy
Prof Alan Lawson, PVC Research & International
Dr Suzanne Morris, Research Integrity Officer
A/Prof Lynda Cheshire, School of Social Science
Michael Bergin, Chair of Association of Postgraduate Students
Prof Mark Ragan, Institute for Molecular Biology
Prof Ranjeny Thomas, Diamantina Institute
A/Prof Michele Haynes, Institute for Social Science Research
Prof Greg Monteith, School of Pharmacy
Prof Gail Williams, School of Population Health
Tom Joyce, University Copyright and Library lawyer
Prof Mark Western, Institute for Social Science Research
Dr Nigel Ward, School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineeering
Belinda Weaver, UQ Library
Heather Todd, UQ Library

Research data management policy, practice

Development of UQ policy on research data management began during this project, and remains an ongoing activity within UQ. Work on a UQ Research data management policy began in late 2010 under the stewardship of Suzanne Morris, UQ Research Integrity Officer within the UQ Office of the DVC-Research. In mid 2011 the office of the DVC-Research established a UQ Reference Group for Data Management Policy, chaired by Prof Alan Lawson (PVC Research & International). The Seeding the Commons project participated in this reference group along with staff from the UQ Library, UQ Information & Technical Services and senior researchers from select UQ faculties and institutes.

The draft policy produced by this group focuses on a response the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (2007), with a central aim of validating and verifying research outcomes and secondary aims of retaining data for future research and improving the efficiency of research:

[Excerpt from 4.20.06, Research Data and Primary Materials Management]

  1. This policy has been developed from the research data and primary materials management recommendations made in the Code, and other pertinent legislation.
  2. The central aim of this policy is that sufficient primary materials and research data are retained to justify the outcomes of the research and to defend them if they are challenged.
  3. The potential value of primary materials and research data for further research should also be considered, particularly where the research would be difficult or impossible to repeat.
  4. Good stewardship of primary materials and research data can increase the efficiency, reliability and integrity of results, and may increase a researcher’s chance of forming good collaborations and the likelihood of getting research published.

As well as producing a number of drafts of a UQ policy on Research Data and Primary Materials Management, the reference group also produced:

  • A survey of the UQ Faculty of Health Sciences, Institute for Social Science Research and Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology on current research data holdings, their research data management practices, and perceived requirements for institutional support for research data storage and management.
  • Research data management training, delivered at UQ eResearch Week and Graduate Student Week in September 2011, and then periodically to interested stakeholders.
  • A research data planning checklist for assisting UQ projects in planning for data management and sharing.

Research data management infrastructure

The Seeding the Commons @ UQ project developed and deployed DataSpace, a registry of University of Queensland's research data assets.

Collections are created by Agents, are accessed via services, and are the output of projects
DataSpace concept

The registry supports creation, storage and management of metadata records describing UQ research data holdings, the researchers and projects that created the data, and any online services that allow access or manipulation of the data.

The registry syndicates these descriptions to the ANDS Research Data Australia service, allowing national promotion and discovery of UQ research data holdings.

The registry reuses descriptions from existing UQ authoritative sources of information to simplify the creation of metadata (see figure below).

UQ staff information is sourced from the UQ LDAP Directory and research collection information is sourced from infrastructure created through ANDS Data Capture funding:

  • UQ Anthropology Museum Catalogue: a catalogue of anthropological and archaeological artefacts from The University of Queensland Anthropology Museum.
  • Diffraction Image Repository (DIMER): a research database that contains diffraction images from the UQ Remote Operation Crystallization and X-Ray Diffraction Facility (UQROCX).
  • Spatially Integrated Social Science (SISS) tools: portals that allow geospatial and statistical analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics census data, Australian Electoral Commission voting data and simulations from the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling.
  • OzTrack: a portal containing animal tracking data collections and analysis tools

During the timeframe of the Seeding the Commons project, the UQ Microscopy Image Repository (MIRAGE) Data Capture project did not syndicate metadata records to the UQ registry. Instead, MIRAGE employs the community-developed MyTardis codebase and syndicates metadata directly to ANDS Research Data Australia. (However MIRAGE now syndicates to the UQ registry as part of the subsequent MS06 Data Collections Registry project).

As shown in the figure below, DataSpace accesses and syndicates information using a variety of formats.

DataSpace information flows, protocols and data formats
DataSpace information flows, protocols and data formats

Inspired by the SWORD repository ingest initiative in the UK, the Web interface and the data capture projects communicate with the registry using the Atom Publishing Protocol . The metadata is represented using a profile of the Atom format that we called Atom-RDC  (Atom Research Data Context) that was inspired by the OAI ORE Atom representation .  The Atom-RDC specification can represent most of the semantics of the ANDS RIF-CS format, but in a simpler more compact format. For a rationale on why the registry used AtomPub and Atom for internal UQ syndication needs, see our “Ingest (or how do you get things in there?)” blog post .

The registry syndicates metadata to ANDS Research Data Australia in RIF-CS format over the OAI-PMH protocol.  It also exposes the metadata to the Web as Atom feeds and to the linked data Web as RDF/XML.

Source code for the DataSpace registry is available on GitHub at

Descriptions of UQ research data contributed to Research Data Australia

As well as collecting metadata from UQ Data Capture infrastructure the project team actively interviewed UQ research groups about their data holdings. The interviews were structured around a template of data-oriented questions, some of which were used to stimulate thinking about data management practice, and some of which were used to hand-write research data collection descriptions. These collection descriptions were then manually entered into DataSpace using a Web-based form interface before being automatically syndicated to Research Data Australia.

The resulting 30 handwritten records represent a breadth of UQ research, and includes datasets generated by researchers in the following UQ organisational units:

  • School of Civil Engineering
  • School of Architecture
  • Advanced Water Management Centre
  • The Fryer Library
  • School of Earth Sciences
  • School of English, Media Studies and Art History
  • School of Biological Sciences
  • School of Social Sciences

Contributions to national discussions

Given the project was undertaken within a dynamic environment environment (in which ANDS was still developing data management best practice), the project actively participated in and learnt from national research data management discussions. Discussion forums included:

Additionally, Nigel Ward (SC03 project manager) has chaired the ANDS RIF-CS Advisory Board (RAB) since July 2011. The RIF-CS schema is a data interchange format that supports the electronic exchange of metadata. The RAB is the consultative forum to consider proposed changes to the RIF-CS XML schema and make recommendations for change.

Project outputs were deliberately shared with the broader ANDS community as they were developed via the Unofficial ANDS-partner blog for ANDS-funded projects.

ANDS Logo This project is supported by the Australian National Data Service (ANDS). ANDS is supported by the Australian Government through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy Program and the Education Investment Fund (EIF) Super Science Initiative.