A research data management framework for a South African university-based research entity
Research data management (RDM) at universities is complex and lacks standards between scientific communities. Globally, research data is viewed as a valuable commodity. The demand for optimal research RDM at universities, globally, is an area of specialisation. The push and pull for optimal research quality, open access and funders' policy frameworks require a new perspective on information technology infrastructure and processes at universities. An exploration into the challenges and realities of RDM experienced by a typical research unit at a South African university, highlighted the gap in RDM infrastructure, systems and processes within the ethical-legal context. Two questions emanated: "What are the realities of RDM within a South African university-based research entity as perceived by researchers?"; "What are the components of a RDM framework for a South Africa university-based research entity?" The research explored and described national and international theories, models and frameworks on RDM and the realities of RDM as experienced by research team members working within a research entity at a South African university. The final objective was to propose a RDM framework applicable to South African university-based research entities Being an evolving phenomenon, a qualitative, explorative, descriptive and contextual design deemed appropriate. This research focused on a transdisciplinary research unit within a South African university as a typical research unit. Three phases were conducted in the research process, i) literature review; ii) empirical evidence; iii) proposed RDM framework. The literature review highlighted RDM as evolving, lacking a golden standard. The empirical phase led to a purposive sampling of participants based on inclusion criteria. Prior to data collection, ethical clearance was obtained followed by the goodwill permission by the primary investigator (PI). The PI acted as gatekeeper and later also as mediator. Eight (8n) semi-structured, individual interviews were digitally voice-recorded and transcribed where after the five steps of interpretive analysis followed. Results were confirmed through a consensus discussion with a co-coder. The researcher kept field notes and adhered to the strategies of trustworthiness. From the empirical phase, eight themes emanated. RDM is a comprehensive system extending beyond researchers' skills. There is a need for storage and access solutions. Data security lacks despite researchers' awareness of the necessity thereof. Researchers are responsible to preserve, share and disseminate quality research data. An organisational fragmentation regarding RDM and the changing higher education landscape were described. RDM is everybody's responsibility, requiring a deliberate allocation of appropriate resources. Participants identified risks and opportunities for RDM. The following steps led to the formulation of the framework: i) identified and selected key concepts; ii) defined and evaluated relevant concepts, theories, models; iii) added additional elements; iv) formulated the framework following the structure of why (defined research), what (listed building blocks of the RDM framework), with (assessed capabilities and defined gaps) and how (defined the RDM programme). The preliminary framework is a starting point to enable research entities to strategically build capacity to enhance RDM practices and enable South African-based universities to identify building blocks and methodologies used to accelerate the delivery of RDM services.
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