Data stewards play an important role within RWTH's RDM network. They serve as an interface between the central infrastructure and the University's academic staff and establish sustainable RDM structures in their respective areas of responsibility. Data Stewards support the researchers on site in the developing, implementing, and optimizing a fair (de) research data management and seek to establish and maintain the network in collaboration with the FDM team.
What Is a Data Steward?
Data stewards are members of academic staff with a scientific background that closely resembles that of the researchers they are working with. Their work is typically project-based and seeks to support the researchers on site in their activities as best as possible. Data stewards serve as contact persons for both the researchers of their University institution and the RDM Team. They are responsible for establishing, implementing, and further developing a data management concept for the University institution they are working with. Further, data stewards are concerned with quality assurance of data. Any specific implementation must take into account the specific needs of the researchers on site.
So far, the tasks and fields of activity of data stewards in academia have not been fully defined. TU Delft, among others, serves as a model for RWTH in its deployment of data stewards. To some extent, RTWH has adopted the Dutch university’s Data Stewardship project which has established data stewards at the Faculty level. The aim is to ensure data quality and data integrity. Furthermore, the concept is to ensure that data security and data protection regulations as well as the legal requirements of those who are funding the research activities in question are complied with.
Data Stewards in Action
To achieve the above goals, the respective research teams develop tailored RDM concepts in together with the Data Stewards. The tasks to be addressed are project-specific and defined by the needs of the researchers – for this reason, the work of the Data Stewards is quite varied. Data Stewards may, for example, support the creation of a data management plan, adopt existing templates to the needs of a specific project, or provide instructions on how to create a Git repository. Further activities may include developing and implementing a data structure to manage research data or creating and maintaining a samples database.
To provide insights into the diverse activities of data stewards, the RDM Blog shares best practices and offers interviews with data stewards.
Relevance and Funding Aspects
Since 2012, structures have been created at the University to advance the topic of research data management. These will now be complemented by data stewards, who will work, in particular, with collaborative projects such as Clusters of Excellence, Collaborative Research Centers, and Research Training Groups. Funding for a number of Data Steward positions has already been ensured. RWTH is set to finance a Data Steward position for each of its Clusters of Excellence, for example.
The Data Stewards participate in the University’s RDM network. Aside from its regular offerings, the RDM Team supports the Data Stewards as follows:
- Open meetings of the RDM network
- Regular exchange of information and coordindation
- Mailing list
- Workshops and further training
The offerings of the RDM Team are open to all those interested in the management of research data. The aim is, in particular, to support the RDM-related learning of researchers and research data managers.
For insights into the work and areas of responsibility of data stewards and a list of further reading, visit the RDM Blog or read the article on the activities of data stewards at RWTH at Bausteine Forschungsdatenmanagement (de).