First Line Research Data Management for Life Sciences: a Case Study


Modern life sciences studies depend on the collection, management and analysis of comprehensive datasets in what has become data-intensive research. Life science research is also characterised by having relatively small groups of researchers. This combination of data-intensive research performed by a few people has led to an increasing bottleneck in research data management (RDM). Parallel to this, there has been an urgent call by initiatives like FAIR and Open Science to openly publish research data which has put additional pressure on improving the quality of RDM. Here, we reflect on the lessons learnt by DataHub Maastricht, a RDM support group of the Maastricht University Medical Centre (MUMC+) in Maastricht, the Netherlands, in providing first-line RDM support for life sciences. DataHub Maastricht operates with a small core team, and is complemented with disciplinary data stewards, many of whom have joint positions with DataHub and a research group. This organisational model helps creating shared knowledge between DataHub and the data stewards, including insights how to focus support on the most reusable datasets. This model has shown to be very beneficial given limited time and personnel. We found that co-hosting tailored platforms for specific domains, reducing storage costs by implementing tiered storage and promoting cross-institutional collaboration through federated authentication were all effective features to stimulate researchers to initiate RDM. Overall, utilising the expertise and communication channel of the embedded data stewards was also instrumental in our RDM success. Looking into the future, we foresee the need to further embed the role of data stewards into the lifeblood of the research organisation, along with policies on how to finance long-term storage of research data. The latter, to remain feasible, needs to be combined with a further formalising of appraisal and reappraisal of archived research data.

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