Introducing the Research Data Stewards

Most faculties have appointed Research Data Stewards. They are the first point of contact and support and help researchers who have questions about data management in their research. This time we would like to introduce Brett Olivier form the Faculty of Science.

10/06/2020 | 10:45 AM

Brett, S.Research Data management is not an administrative task!

If you ask Brett Olivier, researcher and Research Data Steward at AIMMS (Amsterdam Institute of Molecular and Life Sciences) and the Faculty of Science, this is one of his biggest challenges. Good data management helps you to achieve better results in your research. "It is not only an administrative task that you have to perform, it really helps you to deal with your data in a structured way and to achieve optimal results with your research".

And Brett speaks from experience. Originally a researcher in systems biology, more specifically, Computational Systems Biology which tries to understand cellular processes using computer models. For example, understanding the growth of Bordetella pertussis, which causes whooping cough, to investigate how to improve production of a vaccine antigen. In this time of Corona very opportune.

10 years ago, Brett moved to the Netherlands from South Africa. He had the choice of Bordeaux and Amsterdam and eventually chose Amsterdam because of the good contacts he had already built up there from South Africa.

More recently he found himself focussing more on issues of researchers and data management. He regularly experienced how useful it is to preserve as much data as possible, and that it was useful to be able to find and reuse models years after they were last used. The same applies to any data, and a lot of time can be saved by properly storing data sets in a reusable way. If finding and reusing data is easy then one can immediately switch to investigating new research questions and making new discoveries. Good data management should therefore be done for yourself (and, of course also for other researchers and society as a whole).

But where should you start as a researcher if you want to better organize your data management? "Don't make it too difficult", is Brett's advice. “Start with a global plan in which you describe:

- Which data will I use as input for my research?

- What data do I produce during my research?

- Where do I store that data and how am I going to make it accessible?”

Brett is of course more than willing to support this. For this, he can offer very specific help in his own field and more general RDM advice for other disciplines in BETA. To ensure that everyone has access to RDM information, Brett and his colleague Christine Dijk have started a network of Research Data Management (RDM) coordinators. The aim is to appoint a coordinator for each section where they can gather topics with their colleagues and discuss them with Brett and Christine. Conversely, the coordinators can spread knowledge and experience throughout the faculty.

There is still a lot of work to be done, but much information is already available. "Just start," would be Brett's advice. If you properly record your own data, not only will others benefit greatly from it, you will as well. In that sense it’s a win-win situation.

Interested? If you want to know more about data management at the Faculty of Science, please do not hesitate to contact Brett Olivier. And look here for an overview of all Research Data Stewards.