RDS and Dr. Michelle Harris of the Biocore Honors Program partnered to bring research data management into the classroom and introduce it as a lifelong research skill to her undergraduates. With the advent of federal funding requirements and a general shift toward sharing and reproducibility, good data management is a critical skill for students. Introducing these concepts early on gives students a chance to adapt them as habits and incorporate them into their workflows. Below you’ll find a discussion of our approach to teaching data management this semester and how we can adapt these exercises to your classroom or lab.

Last year, RDS was lucky to be invited into Dr. Harris’s third semester Biocore classroom to introduce her undergraduate students to the concept of research data management. RDS kept the talk brief and fun, trying to focus on data management skills that would be easy and effective for undergraduates to implement. The topics covered included using open file formats, organizing and naming files meaningfully, documenting the research process, backing up their data, and creating a plan for managing their data.

This semester, we partnered with Dr. Harris to build upon the foundation of the previous year. She invited RDS back for this fall semester and we were able to create a lightweight plan to help students carry data management concepts from our lectures into practice as the students worked through their research projects.

RDS provided a lecture adjusted to include federal funding requirements, data management plans (DMPs), and real-life data management horror stories. The students drafted brief DMPs for their proposal presentations that will be included in their final papers. This exercise echoes existing requirements for researchers applying for federal funding, for which they would need to include a DMP.

RDS and Dr. Harris worked together to draft a DMP worksheet to help guide students as they wrote their research proposals as well as a final template to be used in their papers. The week following the lectures, RDS was able to be present and provide in-class feedback on the DMPs included in the students’ informal research proposals. This helped to reinforce data management concepts and rectify any issues that may cause problems as they follow their DMPs while researching.

After their proposal presentations, RDS provided a comprehensive summary feedback for all of the students to use as they prepared more for their formal presentation and paper. RDS will continue to provide support by preparing an evaluative framework for Dr. Harris and her TA’s as well as providing a quick data check-in later in the semester. Finally, we’re excited because we will get to see the students’ formal presentations next week! We love being able to watch students learn and grow their data management skills.

This partnership with Biocore is only one way that RDS can provide education and training to labs, classes, or departments. RDS is able to to tailor our content or services to your needs and audience. If you have an idea to bring data management to your workspace or class, we’d love to work with you on it!