Why do researchers need to work with administrators?
Researchers and administrators must work together to ensure that research is
facilitated and that research data is effectively managed. While researchers are focused on the design of their data collection and analysis activities as well as the secure storage, archiving, and publication of that data, administrators are responsible for making available the systems and protocols that support these activities.
But they must work together to achieve an effective and efficient environment for researchers, their teams, and external collaborators. When this is done well, orgnizations are confident in the fact that research data is being managed well, researchers can focus on their research, and they both benefit from increased efficiency.
So what are the 4 key responsibilities of administrators in research?
Establishing appropriate policies and guidelines Policies and guidelines must be in place to provide clear and comprehensive guidance on data management practices, covering data storage, sharing, and access as well as the roles and responsibilities of researchers, team members, data managers, external collaborators, legal services, research ethics boards, and other stakeholders involved in the research process.
Providing sufficient resources Administrators must also provide resources and training to researchers and their teams to ensure that they understand their responsibilities and obligations for the ethical and responsible management of research data. This includes providing access to data management tools, training on data management practices, as well as support and guidance for data management plans that goes beyond merely making forms available.
Ensuring & monitoring compliance with legal and ethical standards Administrators are also responsible for ensuring that research data is managed in compliance with legal and ethical standards established by local laws and regulations. Compliance with national and international regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) may be required depending on the scope of the research. Monitoring for compliance with data management policies and guidelines should be done proactively and not just ‘for cause’ when a breach event is reported. Administrators should use tools that allow them to conduct periodic audits and reviews to ensure that data is being managed effectively and ethically. When a data breach or other security incidents are reported, they must have the protocols in place to address them in a timely manner given the reputational and potentially contractual risks these events pose.
Providing tools that support researchers Rather than allowing each researchers to establish their own methods, practices, and tools to manage their research data, administrators should provide the necessary infrastructure and support for the effective management of research data. This includes secure data storage facilities, providing access to high-speed networks, support for standard and tailored data-sharing agreements, consent forms, and NDAs, management of data access and the transfer, sharing, or publishing of research data.
But administrators face some challenges as well
While it’s fair to say that many research-intensive institutions are at varying stages of maturity with respect to data management practices, it’s also important to recognize that few operate with unlimited funding. Resource limitations, the general complexity of data management and the number of stakeholders engaged in the process, as well as a rapidly evolving technology landscape in the data management space poses real challenges.
Administrators play an important role in supporting secure and ethical research data management practice. Through engagement with all stakeholders involved and the evaluation of emerging tools, services, and technologies, they can continue to deliver significant value to researchers and their teams.