Researcher Training in Spreadsheet Curation

  • Gene Lyddon Melzack University of Sydney


Spreadsheets are commonly used across most academic discplines, however their use has been associated with a number of issues that affect the accuracy and integrity of research data. In 2016, new training on spreadsheet curation was introduced at the University of Sydney to address a gap between practical software skills training and generalised research data management training. The approach to spreadsheet curation behind the training was defined and the training's distinction from other spreadsheet curation training offering described.\par
The uptake of and feedback on the training were evaluated. Training attendance was analysed by discipline and by role. Quantitative and qualitative feedback were analysed and discussed. Feedback revealed that many attendees had been expecting and desired practical spreadsheet software skills training. Issues relating to whether or not practical skills training should and can be integrated with curation training were discussed. While attendees were found to be predominantly from science disciplines, qualitative feedback suggests that humanities attendees have specific needs in relation to managing data with spreadsheets that are currently not being met. Feedback also suggested that some attendees would prefer the curation training to be delivered as a longer, more in depth, hands on workshop.\par
The impact of the training was measured using data collected from the University's Research Data Management Planning (RDMP) tool and the Sydney eScholarship Repository. RDMP descriptions of spreadsheet data and records of tabular datasets published in the repository were analysed and assessed for quality and for accompanying data documentation. No significant improvements in data documentation or quality were found, however it is likely too soon after the launch of the training program to have seen much in the way of impact.\par
Identified next steps include clarifying the marketing material promoting to the training to better communicate the curation focus, investigating the needs of humanities researchers working with qualitative data in spreadsheets, and incorporating new material into the training in order to address those needs. Integrating curation training with practical skills training and modifying the training to be more hands on are changes that may be considered in future, but will not be implemented at this stage.

Author Biography

Gene Lyddon Melzack, University of Sydney
Digital Curation Officer