Research Data Management at RWTH Aachen


Increasing the quality, completeness, and reproducibility of research data.


It’s a familiar scenario: A researcher is asked to provide the data sets on which her dissertation is based. Of course she has saved the data on a CD, which is still in her possession, but unfortunately, her notebook does not have a CD drive.

“This is one of the typical problems that research data management – RDM for short– seeks to resolve. It can be seen as a set of methods and processes researchers and scholars can use to archive their data and ensure that they will be reusable in the long term,” says Professor Matthias S. Müller, Chair of High-Performance Computing and Director of the University’s IT Center.

Moreover, as Ernst Schmachtenberg emphasizes, “Resesearch data management is the first step towards IT-based process support for the core process of research.”

Aside from securing valuable data during research projects, RDM makes sure that they are also better protected from unauthorized access, theft, and inappropriate use.

Over the last few years, RWTH Aachen saw significant progress in the digitalization of the “student life cycle,“ including teaching and learning. The University’s digitalization agenda now also includes the “data life cycle” and thus focuses on the core process of research, which, according to Schmachtenberg, will be fully digitalized “in order to make even better use of the knowledge of the University.” Since September 2015, a cross-institutional project group has been working on the RWTH research data management initiative.

As part of the initiative, new continuing education offerings and wide range of services for researchers have been established. In September, the “SimpleArchive” service was launched, which supports the sustainable archiving and management of scientific data. Coupled with the “RWTH Publications” system, the application is an innovative answer to the academic community’s need to make data available in the long term and across research institutions.

Collaboration is Key

In all these activities, collaboration with other research institutions and competence centers is key. The archives are mirrored at Forschungszentrum Jülich, for example, and the University makes use of the persistent identifier services provided by GWDW, a joint facility of Göttingen University and the Max Planck Society. Furthermore, in collaboration with Darmstadt University of Technology, RWTH seeks to provide the engineering community with metadata tools. While the Darmstadt researchers make use of RWTH’s SimpleArchive, scientists at RWTH have the opportunity to use the RDMO Web application developed in Darmstadt.

Benedikt Magrean, managing director of the IT Center, concludes: “Generating, securing, and making available research results are all central components of scientific activity. The digital revolution opens up new avenues in the processing and utilization of research data.”