Pádraig Mac Aodhgáin (Patrick Egan) | Digital Humanist and Ethnomusicologist in Cork, Ireland

MTU

It’s critical for the [research] community to work together to guard against adopting policies, practices and business models that may make scholarly communications free to read, but in the process, create new barriers for authors to publish. As we have seen, these barriers to publish do not impact authors evenly, but rather disproportionately exclude voices from historically marginalized communities, the Global South, as well as those in the early stages of their careers. 

Melissa Hagemann (2024)

In March 2024, I began working for Munster Technological University (formerly the site of Cork Institute of Technology), where I joined MTU Library team as a Metadata & Research Data Management Librarian. In the lead up – February 2024 – I was lucky enough to be just in time to apply for and take up the post, which was cover for a current staff member who was out for a year. I had been ready for this type of role since finishing lecturing at UCC, and had been keenly aware of its emergence on the US scene after working at the Library of Congress in 2019. By the time this post was advertised, Ireland was well on its way to having more of these roles embedded in libraries across the academic landscape.

This type of work – managing research data and metadata at a library, alongside activities such as promoting ways to make it FAIR and open, is coming into focus across Ireland and at a European level. There is also a lot to be reckoned with in a world of “open” data – predatory journals for example and how they can potentially threaten the integrity of evidence-based science.

All of this is exciting because of a massive transformation that is also now happening at local and national levels. The Digital Humanities has a major role to play here, but across the academy there are great strides taking place, which bring digital tools, research data and research approaches into new territory. Of course, politics also has a role to play! For example. companies like Elsevier have made their own technological (see their software, “Digital Commons“) and what you might call – “leaning”, (check out the 70% agreement) towards open access, but in Europe there is another idea – to make absolutely everything free! A recent book chapter in The Bloomsbury Handbook to the Digital Humanities by yours truly (with the esteemed Dr Órla Murphy), shows why making data and research available to everyone is useful and important.

Before reading on, check out why ORCID’s are important! My recently updated ORCID can be viewed here: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7400-4923

Ireland is progressing with its digital agenda in some interesting ways. Since 2012, some notable changes have been happening in the digital landscape in Ireland. The National Broadband Plan for example, which tackles the issue of digital divide2. A look back to 2008 and 2010 reveals some key insights into Ireland’s position at a European level. A study in digital divides between EU states at that time had sought to develop some key indicators that identified digital gaps between EU states, and Ireland has been ranked as a “digital follower”. This was calculated by two dimensions, ICT Infrastructure and Adoption by Population

ICT Infrastructure and adoption by Population, which is related to the availability of ICT infrastructures and their use by the population. This dimension includes the Internet and broadband penetration rates, the usage of mobile devices to access the Internet, the availability of e-government services by the supply (public) side, the adoption of e-government services by the users’ (population) side, as well as the nature and intensity of Internet use. The second dimension is related to the commercial use of the ICT and its access costs and is therefore named e-business and Internet access costs. This dimension is related to the diffusion of e-business, including the diffusion of ecommerce, e-safety concerns by firms, and e-government, as well as the Internet access costs …

… Estonia, France, Hungary, Latvia, and Slovenia present high levels of ICT Infrastructure and adoption by Population and low levels of e-business and Internet access costs. This cluster has a highly unbalanced digital development. Therefore, we labelled these as the “individual-side focused” cluster. Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, and Lithuania have an unbalanced digital development as well, but with opposite values for each dimension. Hence, ICT Infrastructure and adoption by Population is low in these countries, but on the other hand, the levels of e-business and Internet access costs are high. This group is labelled as the “firm-side and low access costs focused” cluster. Austria, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, and the United Kingdom are comprised together, making this cluster the largest. It comes as no surprise that this cluster represents the average of the EU on the two dimensions of the digital divide. Despite the absence of high levels in either of the two dimensions, the fact is that neither of the two has significant negative values either…

these countries are relatively digitally developed, with balanced levels on both dimensions. Hence they are called the ‘‘digital followers’’ cluster,
considering that there is [an]other group more advanced in terms of digital development. Finally we have Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Sweden together. This group comprises the most digitally developed countries in the EU. These countries present the highest levels for both dimensions of digital development. Hence they are labelled as the ‘‘digital leaders’’1

Cruz-Jesus, Oliveira & Bacao (2012)

Now, at Higher Education Institution level in Ireland, NORF (National Open Research Forum) has become the leader in rolling out research infrastructure to enable Ireland on its way towards highly developed open research infrastructures and agendas. Along with several collaborators, a push is now being made to provide a digital infrastructure which supports open research.

The National Action Plan for Open Research has been published as a strategy (2022-2030), to get HEI’s on board. The Action Plan involves a broad group that combines the expertise of representatives from policy, research funding, research performing, the library sector, research infrastructures, enterprise and other key stakeholders in the research system across Ireland. Amongst the aims are 100% open access to research publications, and enabling FAIR principles, a sea change at national level.

This obviously involves a LOT of collaboration between institutions, a lot of shifts in the digital landscape, and a lot of development in awareness. Included in this work will be a focus on how to prepare research and research data for sharing and complying with standards and software that works with research that is being made openly available.

The National Action Plan for Open Research 2022-2030 was launched 21 November [2022] by the National Open Research Forum (NORF). In tandem with the six projects funded by the 2022 National Open Research Fund, the Action Plan outlines objectives and actions for the next chapter in Ireland’s transition towards open research.

HEA Net

All well and good from NORF, but what is actually happening in HEI’s like MTU?

As part of the National Development Plan (2021-2030), there is a National Strategy for Higher Education, seeing for MTU the merger of CIT and IT Tralee brings the vision closer,

“The National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 continues to provide the framework for far-reaching changes in the higher education landscape. One of the most significant changes is the development of multi-campus technological universities, an agenda which is central to regional development ambitions and is now well advanced.”

National Development Plan 2021-2030

A section of the CINNTE Review 2023 for MTU stated that: “In recent years, MTU has been going through some major transitions within this, and reflected in their most recent reports, a strategic plan called “Our Shared Vision“, and CINNTE.”

The University will embed open science/open research practices in its research, supported by key policies
including Open Access and Research Data Management. R&I outcomes will be disseminated widely, to support a
more-informed public, evidence-based policy making, industry and by advancing fundamental knowledge

CINNTE

MTU has its own digital repository for research, entitled SWORD (South West Open Research Deposit), which is an instance of Elsevier’s “Digital Commons“, whose company BePress (Berkeley Press) was acquired by Elsevier in 2017. Currently, the majority of Digital Commons’ base are located in North America, and there are two from Europe – MTU being one of them! Digital Commons by Elsevier is not obliged to follow EU standards for open access or compatibility for software, so it does not align with OpenAire (a non-profit organisation with open source software that promotes open scholarship). OpenAire software aggregates and provisions scholarship in full-texts, dataset metadata, and Zenodo resources.

In order for Digital Commons to join with OpenAire, metadata needs to be harvested (in much the same way that Europeana carried it out over the past 15 years). There are a number of research data fields that need to comply, and an XML schema, which needs to be validated using an Open Archives Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAPMH). This is an ongoing challenge, which needs constant support.

MTU also works with initiatives, groups, and projects included in the push for open access in complying with EU standards in other ways such as:

  • The TU Net (Technological Universities Network) group, which carries out several different initiatives, but one of them is to work on the Horizon Europe, 3-year funded “OSTrails” project (from OpenAIRE). This requires setting in place a data management planning solution, as a case study, demonstrating how data can be made open on a national level as part of a wider European group of HEI’s.
  • RESIN – National Research Service and Infrastructure forum headed up by Roberto Sabatino (and officially launched at the HEAnet Conference 2022 in Killarney).
  • Open Aire
  • Establishing a “RICO” Research Integrity and Compliance Officer, Dr Seán Lacey, who works on research integrity and responsible conduct of research. Seán collaborates on ethics with MTU to promote best practice in research design and outputs. In many ways, an awareness is developing around the world on the importance of research integrity, or “quality over quantity”, and this is reflected in moves that are being made by individuals and institutions at a high level. For example, The University of Zurich pulling out of the Times ranking, and Australia’s chief scientist calling out the research sector.

On a national level in Ireland, this work that is being done at MTU has a broader meaning, as they collaborate and advocate with groups like NORF, TU Net, Sonraí (data stewards), and RESIN (National Research Service and Infrastructure Forum), all making an impact on how we think about data and our research. A recent article on the launch of TU NET shows the commitment that is behind such groups and initiatives on “Making publicly funded research easily accessible and reproducible”, as presidents across the Technological Universities are now supporting TU Net and its mission.

A National Open Access Monitor Report has also been published, which describes the state of open access publishing and content delivery in Ireland.

Just some of Susan Reilly’s takeaways from this report:

  1. Even given the current acknowledged limitations of the data, Ireland has made huge strides in OA in the past number of years
  2. It’s hugely important that we invest in and promote quality metadata, especially license metadata
  3. There are early signs that we are embracing transparency and the tracking of research through adoption of persistent identifications but we need coordinated action in this area

Across the water in England, a survey working paper by OR4 project has been conducted on the state of Open Research (OR) and Responsible Research Assessment (RRA), which sees a take up of open research in recent years, but still a lot to do:

UCD Research Strategist Michelle Dalton’s take away on this survey is that:

In France and the Netherlands, open research and scholarship is becoming the new normal. Passports to Open Science have been developed. These are accessible guides to Open Research principles, practices and resources targeted at early career stage researchers. A similar passport is being developed for the Irish context.

8% (five) of institutions have Open Research (OR) criteria already included in academic promotion and recruitment
35% (21) are in the process of integrating OR criteria
1/3 of respondents did not know whether OR practices were included or not
Lack of awareness, understanding and prioritisation of RRA and OR still persists

Reports, advocacy, collaborations, commentary, and articles like this are good news for research in Ireland. There is now a public voice to the words “findable, searchable, and reusable”, mirroring what the Force11 group has been defining as FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) since about 2015. In broad terms, leading up to and since 2020, the EU had advocated and now published rules on publicly funded research – it is now finally imperative that researchers publish the data underpinning their research to make it easily accessible and reusable. A lot of what you might call “digital maturity”. MTU is on its way as part of that movement!

How My Skills fit in!

An ambitious plan was drawn up in three phases for the year:

Phase 1 – Spring 2024
Reaching out across departments
Starting networks-existing relationships (connect early with researchers)
Le Chéile, MTU News, social
Identify potential data stories
Technical duties

Phase 2 – Summer 2024
Interview key researchers
What data exists
Communications plan for telling stories
Identify lessons learned
Connect with CONUL, Sonraí, DRI

Phase 3 – Autumn/Winter 2024
Expand MTU presence and visibility
Possibly develop an Open Educational Repository
Get researchers to populate
Identify data stewardship
SWORD updates

Some of the language in this plan needed to shift towards words such as “FAIR data management”, “engagement” and “training”. Another consideration was summer schedules for researchers and the possibilities that they may be more inclined to engage at that time of year. The plan was then modified alongside the outgoing staff member to take into consideration the various different tasks that were ongoing in the role. A final draft of this was submitted to management.

Steps towards a better research presence

To gain the best out of FAIR data, the researcher can first of all create and/or update their ORCID. The profile must be populated so that the research can actually be linked. You can fill in DOI (document object identifiers) to your profile manually, and you can also sync to your Zenodo account.

For those used to GitHub.com, it is now possible to connect your ORCID with your repositories. How is this done? You need to create a release:

Once the release has been created, you can then link from ORCID into any of your citable repos!

More to follow!

More Resources

Check out other resources that advocate for open research in training and instruction: Foster Open Science, Centre of Open Science, Force 11, University of Edinburgh, JISC.

For Research Data Management Plans, check out DMP Online, and Argos.

At MTU there are a lot of resources on the ground, such as: RICO literature / earning a Digital Badge / and modules on Canvas

Laggards, followers, and leaders!

1

Bulgaria and Romania form the group of the least digitally developed countries in the EU-27, having extremely low levels on the average of both dimensions. Besides the level of ICT Infrastructure and adoption by Population which is by far the lowest within the EU, the e-business and Internet access cost is also the lowest. Hence these countries form the “digital laggards” cluster. Estonia, France, Hungary, Latvia, and Slovenia present high levels of ICT Infrastructure and adoption by Population and low levels of e-business and Internet access costs. This cluster has a highly unbalanced digital development. Therefore, we labelled these as the “individual-side focused” cluster. Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, and Lithuania have an unbalanced digital development as well, but with opposite values for each dimension. Hence, ICT Infrastructure and adoption by Population is low in these countries, but on the other hand, the levels of e-business and Internet access costs are high. This group is labelled as the “firm-side and low access costs focused” cluster. Austria, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, and the United Kingdom are comprised together, making this cluster the largest. It comes as no surprise that this cluster represents the average of the EU on the two dimensions of the digital divide. Despite the absence of high levels in either of the two dimensions, the fact is that neither of the two has significant negative values either. Therefore, these countries are relatively digitally developed, with balanced levels on both dimensions. Hence they are called the “digital followers” cluster, considering that there is other group more advanced in terms of digital development. Finally we have Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Sweden together. This group comprises the most digitally developed countries in the EU. These countries present the highest levels for both dimensions of digital development. Hence they are labelled as the “digital leaders”.

The National Broadband Plan:

2
Broadband connectivity is of strategic importance for European growth and innovation in all sectors of the economy and to social and territorial cohesion. It supports business efficiencies and growth, ensures that economies can remain competitive, and enables citizens to enhance their skills and learning and to benefit from online services and offerings, including key public services The Europe 2020 Strategy (‘EU2020’) underlines the importance of broadband deployment as part of the EU’s growth strategy and sets ambitious targets for broadband development. One of its flagship initiatives, the Digital Agenda for Europe (‘DAE’) acknowledges the socio-economic benefits of broadband, highlighting its importance for competitiveness, social inclusion and employment. The DAE restates the objective of the EU 2020 Strategy with the following targets for broadband development in Europe: (i) to bring basic broadband to all Europeans by 2013; (ii) for all Europeans to have access to internet speeds of above 30 Mbps by 2020; (iii) for 50% or more of European households to subscribe to internet connections above 100 Mbps by 2020

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *