Getting our ducks in a row

From Flickr by Cliff Johnson, CC BY-SA 2.0

From Flickr by Cliff Johnson, CC BY-SA 2.0

Recent activity on the Roadmap project encompasses two major themes: 1) machine-actionable data management plans and 2) kicking off co-development of the shared codebase.

Machine-actionable DMPs

The first of these has been a hot topic of conversation among stakeholders in the data management game for some time now, although most use the phrase “machine-readable DMPs.” So what do we mean by machine-actionable DMPs? Per the Data Documentation Initiative definition, “this term refers to information that is structured in a consistent way so that machines can be programmed against the structure.” The goal of machine-actionable DMPs, then, is to better facilitate good data management and reuse practices (think FAIR: Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) by enabling:

  • Institutions to manage their data
  • Funders to mine the DMPs they receive
  • Infrastructure providers to plan their resources
  • Researchers to discover data

This term is consistent with the Research Data Alliance Active DMPs Interest Group and the FORCE11 FAIR DMPs group mission statements, and it seems to capture what we’re all thinking: i.e., we want to move beyond static text files to create a dynamic inventory of digital research methods, protocols, environments, software, articles, data… One reason for the DMPonline-DMPTool merger is to develop a core infrastructure for implementing use cases that make this possible. We still need a human-readable document with a narrative, but underneath the DMP could have more thematic richness with value for all stakeholders.

A recent Cern/RDA workshop presented the perfect opportunity to consolidate our notes and ideas. In addition to the Roadmap project members, Daniel Mietchen (NIH) and Angus Whyte (DCC) participated in the exercise. We conducted a survey of previous work on the topic (we know we didn’t capture everything so please alert us to things we missed) and began outlining concrete use cases for machine-actionable DMPs, which we plan to develop further through community engagement over the coming months. Another crucial piece of our presentation was a call to make DMPs public, open, discoverable resources. We highlighted existing efforts to promote public DMPs (e.g., the DMPTool Public DMPs list, publishing exemplary DMPs in RIO Journal, Dataverse collections that include DMPs) but these are just a drop in the bucket compared to what we might be able to do if all DMPs were open by default.

You can review our slides here. And please send feedback—we want to know what you think!

Let the co-development begin!

Now for the second news item: our ducks are all in a row and work is underway on the shared Roadmap codebase.

We open with a wistful farewell to Marta Ribeiro, who is moving on to an exciting new gig at the Urban Big Data Centre. DCC has hired two new developers to join our ranks—Ray Carrick and Jimmy Angelakos—both from their sister team at EDINA. The finalized co-development team commenced weekly check-in calls and in the next week or two we’ll begin testing the draft co-development process by adding three features from the roadmap:

  1. Enhanced institutional branding
  2. Funder template export
  3. OAuth link an ORCID

In the meantime, Brian completed the migration to Rails 4.2 and both teams are getting our development environments in place. Our intention is to iterate on the process for a few sprints, iron out the kinks, and then use it and the roadmap as the touchstones for a monthly community developer check-in call. We hope this will provide a forum for sharing use cases and plans for future work (on all instances of the tool) in order to prioritize, coordinate, and alleviate duplication of effort.

The DCC interns have also been plugging away at their respective projects. Sam Rust just finished building some APIs for creating plans and extracting guidance, and is now starting work on the usage statistics use case. Damodar Sójka meanwhile is completing the internationalization project, drawing from work done by the Canadian DMP Assistant team. We’ll share more details about their work once we roll it all back into the main codebase.

Next month the UC Berkeley Web Services team will evaluate the current version of DMPonline to flag any accessibility issues that need to be addressed in the new system. We’ve also been consulting with Rachael Hu on UX strategy. We’re keeping track of requests for the new system and invite you to submit feedback via GitHub issues.

Stay tuned to GitHub and our blog channels for more documentation and regular progress updates.

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