SDI Report


Best Practice Interaction with the UK Academic Spatial Data Infrastructure

The full report (download here) is an output from the JISC-funded Interoperable Geographic Information for Biosphere Study (IGIBS) project. It is targeted at staff in Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) and seeks to facilitate best practice interaction with the UK academic Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI).

Researchers’ ability to create ever growing amounts of geospatial data has increased the need for data management. Just three HEIs have been identified as publishing research data management policy statements, although the UK Research Funding Councils have an agreed policy asking for data management planning  and open access to data to be part of their funded research programmes.

EDINA provides several key components of the academic SDI, including facilities to create standardised metadata records and to store and discover geospatial data.

The Institute of Geography and Earth Science (IGES) at Aberystwyth University is presented as a case study of an academic operating environment. This department is shown to be moving towards best practice as evidenced by the hosting of the IGIBS project and with developments in metadata policy, data management teaching  and access to geospatial data through a developing digital map library.

Metadata, created to recognised standards, are emphasised as a vital element of best practice interaction with the academic SDI. The Digital Curation Centre’s (DCC’s) DMP Online data management planning tool is stressed as a source of best practice in data management and their data management planning “Checklist for a Data Management Plan” is used in the identification and benchmarking of good practice.

Research Funding Councils’ and UK Government statements that support open access, publication and citation for the publication of research data are emphasised as drivers of best practice. There is, however, a disconnect between this policy environment and much of today’s data management practice.

Legislation via the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 are requiring the release of some research data and the INSPIRE Regulations 2009 may have similar effects into the future.

Five principles are given as policy indicators to guide best practice actions.

1. Spatial data from publicly-funded research are made as openly accessible and as interoperable as possible through suitable data infrastructures to allow for their discovery and reuse.

2. National policies and legislation regarding data management are complied with, in spirit and in practice.

3. Data management planning is used to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the research process, and to increase the re-usability of datasets.

4. Creators and publishers of spatial research data are cited and rewarded

5. Individuals and research groups should engage with the wider academic community to disseminate and develop best practice.

Individuals are vital in creating an environment of good practice. Their research actions and interaction with the SDI is discussed under three phases of data management:

1. Management during Data acquisition

The reuse of existing data to increase the efficiency of publicly-funded research as well as the importance of the early creation of data management plans, are presented as indicators of best practice.

2. Data analysis and administration

The importance of creating metadata for all datasets, including legacy datasets, that are no longer part of current research projects, is emphasised.  Appraisal of existing orphaned datasets, while considering possible reuse or sharing opportunities should be part of best practice.

3. Data curation and sharing

Post project data management will consist of finding suitable publication opportunities either in the few data specific journals and or in a formal data repository. If a Research Council, National or institutional repository is not able to receive the data, then EDINA’s Geodoc can be used to create and publish metadata and the ShareGeo open service can be used as a repository making data open to discovery. Embargo periods, IPR and data protection management actions also need to be finalised.


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