How Loughborough University becomes known as a visionary innovator for how it manages its internationally acclaimed research data
Loughborough University is one of the UK’s leading research institutions with an international reputation for producing research that matters. Due to new mandates imposed by research-funding bodies such as Research Council UK and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) that state that academic research must be made available as “Open Data,” the need arose for Loughborough to review how it stores and provides access to its valuable research data.
To meet the new requirements, the solution had to address two main criteria; not only did it have to be securely preserved for the long- term, it also had to be publicly available and discoverable to other researchers.
Like most universities, Loughborough already had an institutional repository for the storage and discovery of research data. However, the considerable size and varied format of the current data meant that repurposing the current solution would be impractical. Loughborough therefore embarked on an ambitious project to develop a new solution that would be capable of archiving a range of different data formats, while making specific items easily discoverable and the whole collection accessible to fellow researchers.
It was of particular importance to Loughborough that the administrative side of adding research data to the archive and the subsequent discovery process of retrieving a particular piece of research be simple to use. Researchers are faced with increasing open data and numbers of open access mandates, coupled with already busy academic workloads. Loughborough therefore felt it was important to alleviate some of the administrative burden by providing a solution that seamlessly fits into the researcher workflow, leaving more time for researchers to do further studies.
Arkivum’s expertise in providing a system designed for secure, long-term and large-scale data storage provides the perfect solution to keep Loughborough’s data bit- level preserved, trustworthy and authentic for many decades.
The development and deployment of the new platform was completed within just seven months and was delivered both on time and within budget. Loughborough researchers were heavily involved throughout the development to ensure that the platform would meet the needs of the wide range of stakeholders at the University as closely as possible.
The results and benefits
The scope and nature of the deployed solution means that it is in use right across the University and has had an immediate impact on researcher activity. The platform provides a streamlined and intuitive workflow that allows researchers to add new research data content via a web browser and be prompted to supply appropriate metadata to facilitate data discovery and reuse.
The scalability of the cloud-based Arkivum solution was an important part of the project requirements. Since it was impossible to predict the requirements of as yet unspecified research instruments and data generating systems, the University required a flexible and scalable solution.
By exceeding the expectations of its research funders, the University has positioned itself ideally to take advantage of grant opportunities. Additionally, through promotion of its research data it has increased the likelihood of future collaborations with other academic institutions and with commercial partners.
A side benefit of the economies of scale of the solution is that the University is able to use it for archiving routine video recordings of lectures. The data capacity provided by the research data system was the most economical way of storing these data files for the long-term.
Loughborough University has helped make academic research more efficient by embracing the open access to research movement and providing a user-friendly system for their researchers. It is clear that taking the initiative and being innovative in designing and building solutions, rather than waiting for them to be developed, has far-reaching consequences for institutional visibility and kudos – not to mention the benefits of designing them to meet its own stakeholder requirements. Loughborough University is now seen as a visionary innovator – an excellent place to be.