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A Survey of Research Datasets in a University

Toshihiko IyemoriA Blog post by Toshihiko Iyemori (WDS Scientific Committee Member)

Universities are inherently multidisciplinary and often hold a wide variety of research datasets. This makes them an ideal place to develop and test systems to manage, host, and access multidisciplinary and heterogeneous research datasets. However, the existence of such datasets and how they are preserved is not always well known. At Kyoto University, a survey was conducted by the Academic Data Innovation Unit* to gain a basic understanding of this information towards the planning of a new research data management system. The survey was sent to all researchers at Kyoto University, more than 3,000 of them, in December 2018 and we collected their responses until the end of January 2019. Although the survey was not mandatory, valid responses were received from 244 researchers ranging across the disciplines in Figure 1. From the results, we see that the largest proportion of datasets are held by the Life Sciences. This may not be the reality, however, since we received an unexpectedly low response from the Technology departments, which form the largest group at Kyoto University.

Figure 1: Responses by discipline

Figure 1: Responses by discipline

Figure 2 indicates the level of openness for each of the datasets identified by researchers. As can be seen, the majority of datasets are shared within a research group only and are not open to others (or even open at all). The implication is that the principle use case we need to account for on campus when developing a data management system is the sharing of data among members within each research group rather than making the data completely open.

Figure 2: Number of open and closed datasets

Figure 2: Number of open and closed datasets

Despite the above, we believe that it should be possible for some researchers to make their datasets open to all if they are provided with appropriate technical support. Proper education and training on open data and data management will also assist in this process. In particular, around 20 data repositories—mostly hosted by research institutes within Kyoto University—are of especially high quality, and we would expect that about half of them could potentially become CoreTrustSeal-certified WDS Regular Members.

*The Academic Data Innovation Unit is a virtual organization at Kyoto University and is currently chaired by Prof Shoji Kajita. One of its main tasks is to propose a research data management system to accommodate the needs of all researchers at Kyoto University.