Originally written for ELIXIR Data Stewardship Handbook (started in ELIXIR CONVERGE WP1) 04-2023

Authors


Introduction

This section describes the CSC - Data Support Network enabling low threshold participation, collaboration and peer support for data support personnel in Finnish research organizations. The network provides an easy conversational connection fostering Open Science and FAIR research data management. 

CSC - Data Support Network was established in August 2020 and until February 2023 it has gathered around 150 members from almost all Finnish higher education institutions and research organisations. Data Support Network is an open and inclusive network for everyone identifying themselves as data support staff, data stewards, IT-experts or related with an affiliation to a Finnish higher education institution and interested in data management news and training opportunities. 

The network is a part of the CSC Research Data Management Competence Center, which promotes and supports the skills and competence development of research data management and aims to foster Open Science and FAIR data management with adequate knowledge and best practices for managing, reusing, sharing and analyzing research data. CSC - IT Center for Science itself is owned by the state and Finnish higher education institutions (HEIs). CSC provides comprehensive scientific computing, data management and analysis services and solutions for researchers at every discipline as well as training to use our services. CSC also hosts the Finnish ELIXIR Node.


Origin

The CSC - Data Support Network continues the national collaboration in open science that was started over a decade ago. Since 2011 open science and research has been strongly promoted in Finland, projects by the Ministry of Education and Culture including Open Science and research initiative (ATT 2014–2017) and Open Science and Data Action Programme (ATD 2017–2018). 

The Open Science and Research Initiative 2014–2017 was an extensive cross-administrative initiative established by the Ministry of Education and Culture to promote open science and the availability of research results and information. Key actions of the initiative included facilitating common effort by dialogue between stakeholders, building sustainable information infrastructures and promoting skills development on scientist, specialist and managerial levels.

After the initiative The National Open Science and Research Coordination has been increasing cooperation and promoting national dialogue on the means and objectives of open scholarship. The coordination of open science and research is divided under four expert groups: Open data, Open access, Open education, Culture of open scholarship. Under the expert groups operate open invitation working groups on a fixed-term basis and contribute to a specific task. This structure has brought research specialists closer together, which made it easier to establish the CSC - Data Support Network. As specific tasks are carried out at the Open science working groups, the aim of the CSC - Data Support Network is to serve as an interest group. Due to the existing working groups it was easy to promote the new network back in 2020 and after organizing the initial kick off the word has spread easily among more experienced and new data experts. 


Aim

The national Data Support Network aims to connect RDM specialists and to enhance the collaboration between CSC and data management support services in Finnish higher education institutions (HEIs) and other research performing organizations (RPOs). Additionally, the network provides a channel and a forum for knowledge exchange. As the coordinators of the network we spread data management news and information on current training and activities in ELIXIR and other research infrastructures and in EU projects and on CSC's data management service development and training. And other way round, we hear about current issues related to RDM at the institutional level and what kind of support would the data management specialists at different institutions need. Furthermore, the network seeks to open an easy conversational connection and opportunity for peer support and peer learning between experts. The themes discussed in the network often include practical and solution-oriented aspects related to everyday work of the RDM specialists. 

In the near future, there most likely will be a need for a data steward specific community to compliment this more general Data Support Network. We need to consider how to do this as well as connect it with other European DS networks. There is not yet an official initiative to professionalize data stewardship in Finland, but in 2022 a national working group "Roadmap for the professionalisation of data management experts" was set up under the Open data Expert Group (in the National Open Science and Research Coordination).


Example

What we offer

  • News letters: We have a mailing list, where we send a newsletter once per month as we don't want the recipients to be overwhelmed. Only moderators can send email to the list. The newsletters usually contain information about training and other events, news about relevant service development as well as research data related matters for example from projects.
  • Data chat: We have a discussion forum that is open for everyone (requires Finnish eDuuni-ID, which all research organizations have). It enables fast communication, knowledge exchange and informal discussion. Everyone can ask questions, share news and training events.
  • Virtual data coffee: We meet the first Friday of every month in Zoom. The events do not have an agenda, rather the aim is to freely discuss current topics. However, there is always a possibility to have a short presentation and discuss a certain matter. 
  • Training material and events: We organize training events for the network, but also together with the specialist in the network, for example our latest events were about data documentation and how to support researchers in this as an expert. Additionally, we offer training material about RDM such as an online course, tutorials, slide shows, that can be used under CC BY 4.0 license. 


Relevant links/resources

Tips/Do’s

  • It is important to figure out what kind of community works in your country, e.g. if the community is more like a working group or an interest group and what kind of resources one has to keep it running. In Finland, the community works as an interest group for now as different DM related working groups are under the National Open Science and Research Coordination. Also, there was a need for a peer support community without immediate extra work load coming from the community.
  • It is useful to find out what people want from the community and what they are interested in. In Finland people expressed interest especially in international news related to RDM. 
  • Working together in some way, e.g. organizing an event makes the people to commit.


Challenges/Mistakes/Failures/Don'ts

  • When we were launching the network we had morning coffee meetings at Cafés. Due to Corona we started to organise Zoom coffee meetings which are nationally more inclusive and have had much greater attendance from the start.
  • You can not please everyone, and it is difficult to make everything work for everyone. 
  • It can be challenging to get feedback from the community to find out what they really want from the community.
  • It has been challenging to activate people to join and make use of the discussion forum/data chat, but then again the ones that are there, are active and communicative.
  • Do not overwhelm people with too many things; people usually have a lot on their plate already, hence, it is important to find the balance what is the right amount of information send and events organized.


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