Project promotion materials:

Data collections can be seen on:!/

Data Management Policy/Procedure:

Project Members:

Belinda Norman (

Kate Stanton ( )

ANDS Contact:

Alan Glixman (

Project Status:


Seeding the Commons at The University of Sydney

The University of Sydney

Project Description

The Seeding the Commons (SC01) project at the University of Sydney was led by the Library in collaboration with ICT and the Research Portfolio.


Strategically defining Seeding the Commons as a Library project, closely involving the Library throughout project activities, and engaging with Library staff were high priorities throughout the project. An early aim was to work towards embedding the knowledge and skills gained throughout the project within the Library as an ongoing area for strategic development within a larger institutional eResearch framework.

The project was supervised by the Library’s Digital Project Analyst and was undertaken as a Library project, including recruitment of the project team, consistent reporting and communication with staff and management groups. The project leveraged the existing Faculty Liaison Librarian (FLL) network to engage with researchers and gain the buy-in crucial to the success of the project. The project team communicated with Library service teams to gain advice on the data generating behaviours of their client groups, factors influencing the research environments in their disciplines, and suitable approaches to engaging with the groups. Based on these consultations, the project team was able to communicate with researchers through a variety of channels facilitated by the FLL networks. Some of these methods included communicating about the project and its aims via Faculty newsletters and mailing lists, visits to Research Committees with FLL representatives and invitations from FLLs to attend scheduled research skills sessions to communicate about the project. When responsive researchers were identified, FLLs were invited to attend data interviews.

Approaching the researchers under a Library banner, in partnership with their familiar FLL, allowed the project to build upon the trust and goodwill that has been well established by the Library. FLLs were also enlisted to participate in user-testing for the Research Data Management Guidelines website (D6) and the Research Data Management Planning Checklist (D5). During the project extension phase, FLLs were identified as the first research support group to receive research data management training. FLLs responded positively to the training and have generally been enthusiastic about their involvement in ongoing research data management engagements within their research groups.

The Research Portfolio

Developing a strong collaborative partnership with the Research Portfolio was a high priority for Seeding the Commons as this is the central research agency on campus, providing strategic direction, administration, and support and assistance for researchers. The project would not have succeeded without buy-in and engagement from the Research Portfolio. The Research Portfolio provided essential knowledge of the many institutional research processes and access to the relevant committees and institutional units to progress the aims of the project. Seeding the Commons was able to successfully develop this partnership, by building on existing working relationships between the Library’s eScholarship division and the Research Portfolio.

The Seeding the Commons project team established a project board with representatives from the Research Portfolio, and as a key stakeholder, communicated and consulted with them on all major decisions throughout the project. Regular meetings were held with Research Portfolio staff, in particular the Manager, Research Strategy and Policy Framework and the Director, Research Reporting, Analysis, Data and Systems to facilitate the development of project deliverables. Strong working relationships have also been developed with staff in Research Integrity, and the Director Research Development and Collaboration. These relationships have been instrumental in assisting Seeding the Commons team members build a highly developed working knowledge of research processes at an institutional level and beyond. This knowledge has been invaluable in enabling communication with researchers and a richer understanding of the research landscape and the challenges and opportunities inherent in it.

Project team members worked with Research Portfolio staff to embed the Research Data Management Guidelines website (D6) into the University’s existing research support website. This partnership activity supports the institutional aim of providing a single point of support for researchers. Seeding the Commons team members organised a launch event for the Research Data Management Guidelines website (D6) and Research Data Management Planning Checklist (D5) where researchers and institutional partners from the Library, Research Portfolio and ICT were invited to attend and hear about local developments in support of managing and sharing research data. The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) delivered a keynote address and pledged support for ongoing partnerships between Library, ICT and Research Portfolio in support of researchers. The University Librarian hosted the event and emphasised respective Library support for institutional partnerships in support of managing and sharing data.

The Seeding the Commons project worked closely with the Research Portfolio on the development of institutional research data management policy. This policy support facilitated the development of strategic relationships with research support counterparts in the Research Portfolio and ICT and enabled additional library representation on the working group convened to undertake work required by the Vice Chancellor’s Work Slate Initiative, “University Research Data Storage, Management and Access” project. Project participation in policy development activities has enabled knowledge of researcher needs and challenges, gathered by the project team as a result of extensive researcher engagement, to be fed back into the development of University services and infrastructure.

Information and Communications Technology (ICT)

Close collaboration and partnership with ICT was an essential factor in the success of Seeding the Commons. The Library’s eScholarship division has developed existing relationships with the ANDS programme manager and the Manager eResearch; as a result Seeding the Commons was able to build on those existing relationships to progress the aims of the project.

The Seeding the Commons project team worked closely with project managers, faculty managers and business analysts in ICT to share information; work collaboratively on ANDS projects and training programs; gain access to researcher groups; explore and understand existing support ICT data management support through institutional ICT project funding; and generally contribute ICT processes and perspectives into a developing, broad ranging understanding of research practices at the University. The Seeding the Commons project worked closely with ICT staff working on ANDS projects, attending sprint meetings for a range of data capture projects, to both gain an understanding of researcher needs, and also to provide advice and guidance with the creation of RIF-CS records.

Seeding the Commons provided extensive support for the DC2E project in particular, meeting with researchers, to understand their research practices, to communicate the value of rich metadata, and to facilitate creation of minimum standard RIF-CS records to enable project completion. Project team members were invited to attend regular fortnightly meetings with the Faculty IT Managers to exchange information and develop a working knowledge of activities and engagements undertaken by IT counterparts.


Researcher engagement
This project was important because it provided an opportunity to have structured conversations with researchers about their disciplinary research practices, data generating behaviours, data management challenges, support requirements and attitudes towards data sharing. The Seeding the Commons project gave us the opportunity to gain this valuable first hand insight through project activities associated with identifying and describing research data collections in RIF-CS for publication to Research Data Australia. These insights have been fed back into policy development and will feed into Library service development.

Meeting obligations and realizing benefits
The project allowed plain language, authoritative, information about research data management requirements and benefits to be created and communicated to researchers and research support staff in a variety of forums. This contextual information, about national and international developments and expectations, has also fed into the policy and service development process. The project supported initial and ongoing research into research data management obligations and requirements. This information forms part of the research data management guidelines created by the project and is also expressed via slide presentations delivered during the project extension, which have also been shared online, under a creative commons license. The communication of this information has allowed awareness of research data management to grow among researchers and research support staff.

Tools and resources
The Seeding the Commons project created essential resources to support the development of research data management practices at the University of Sydney. These resources, the Research Data Management Guidelines and the Research Data Management Planning Checklist represent the first significant, institutional step towards coordinated support for researchers in managing and sharing their data.

Policy support
Seeding the Commons engagement with the Research Data Management Policy process has allowed the project to contribute resources to existing institutional initiatives around research data management, in particular the Vice Chancellor’s Work Slate project: University Research Data Storage, Management and Access. Participation in the policy working group allowed the experiences and insights gained from researcher engagement throughout the project to be fed back into overarching institutional policy framework. Conversely, engagement with the policy process has allowed project team members to communicate authoritatively about policy and other institutional research data management developments with researchers and research support staff.

The Seeding the Commons project has resulted in the creation of robust and fruitful working relationships between the Library and key institutional units such as the Research Portfolio, ICT and Learning Solutions. These partnerships are an extremely valuable outcome from the project and will continue to develop to further the teaching, learning, research and innovation mission of the University. The strength and potential of these partnerships was demonstrated by the shared commitment to research data management support expressed by the Library and Research Portfolio at the Raise Your Research Profile launch event.

Library engagement and service development
Seeding the Commons has been a timely and important project for the Library. As academic libraries in Australia and abroad begin defining and targeting services towards supporting researchers, Seeding the Commons enabled knowledge and experience to be developed in the Library. This knowledge and opportunity for first-hand experience has been extended to include Faculty Liaison Librarians and other Library staff, through ongoing engagement activities and training. Steps towards embedding the project within the ongoing business of the Library have been successfully taken throughout the project, as evidenced by activities to consistently communicate with, train, and partner with FLLs in the data interviewing process. Following the project, these partnerships have continued as FLLs continue to participate in post-project activities such as interviewing researchers about their data collections for inclusion on the RDSI project. The Library has indicated ongoing support for research data management services by extending the position of Research Data Manager beyond the project. The valuable experiences and knowledge developed throughout the project means that the Library has a strong foundation on which to build ongoing research data management services.

Project experience creating rich, linked metadata records has been highly valuable for informing institutional developments with related initiatives such as the metadata store. This experience has highlighted the value and challenges inherent in creating and maintaining metadata and has enabled further institutional development of knowledge and experience in this area. Knowledge of key institutional systems and how they can be harvested to provide automated, authoritative information sources to contribute to metadata records has been developed by team members also throughout the project and constitutes valuable knowledge in ongoing service and infrastructure development.

Meeting obligations under the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (Code)
The Code sets out obligations for both researchers and institutions regarding research data management. Of the institutional obligations, research data management policy has not yet been delivered by the institution. Researcher obligations to manage and share data outlined in the Code were not supported through institutional service and information resources prior to the Seeding the Commons project.

How the project addressed the issue:
The Seeding the Commons project contributed resources to development of the policy including the development of research data management guidelines, required by the University’s policy framework, to support the operationalisation of the research data management policy. The Seeding the Commons project also provided a data management planning tool - the Research Data Management Planning Checklist - to enable researchers to manage their data, and be directed to appropriate information and service resources. The valuable knowledge and skills developed throughout the project by the project team’s Research Data Management Policy Coordinator were recognised by the Research Portfolio, who recruited her to the role of Policy Officer following the project. This has provided considerable impetus to the policy development process.

Raise visibility of University of Sydney researchers and associated data collections
The University of Sydney had a minimal presence in Research Data Australia, prior to the Seeding the Commons project and so was unable to demonstrate research strengths via this platform. The University also has no inventory of research data collections generated and held at the University, and as a result is unaware of its valuable data assets, including at-risk data collections such as legacy or orphaned data collections. This lack of awareness has implications from a business perspective as it impedes planning for research infrastructure and support.

How the project addressed the issue:
The Seeding the Commons project created 65 collection records, and associated party, service and activity records, to describe research data collections created by researchers at the University of Sydney across a wide range of research disciplines. The publication of these records in Research Data Australia helped raise the profile of researchers and their activities at the University of Sydney and has contributed to a developing institutional inventory of research data collections.

Raising awareness
Prior to the Seeding the Commons project there was little awareness amongst researchers and research support staff, both about obligations with regards to research data management, but also the benefits associated with managing and sharing research data.

How the project addressed the issue:
Communication was a high priority of the Seeding the Commons project. Basic research data management awareness information was presented at various forums, for both researchers and research support staff, as part of identifying and describing research data collections. This information was further extrapolated within the larger framework of the Research Data Management Guidelines web site and communicated formally as content delivered through training activities undertaken in the project extension.

Embedding of skills and knowledge in the Library
Prior to the Seeding the Commons project the Library had been engaged in research data management activities associated with a range of previous projects but had yet to engage in a focused consistent way with these activities. Research data management awareness and experience in the Library was existent only in the Library’s eScholarship division. Research data management has emerged as an important area for academic libraries to engage with the core mission of higher education. As a result it was essential that the University of Sydney Library start to engage with these developments.

How the project addressed the issue:
The Seeding the Commons provided the resources for a significant investment into establishing research data management practices at the University and as a Library led project, it was possible to begin the process of embedding the skills and knowledge gained throughout the project, into the Library’s “business as usual”. Examples of traction gained by the project in the Library:

- Raise your Research Profile launch event
The Raise your Research Profile event successfully brought together researchers, librarians, ICT staff, research support staff and representatives from the Charles Perkins Centre to hear addresses from the Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) and the University Librarian about the research data management challenges faced by researchers and a commitment to an ongoing partnerships between the Library, Research Portfolio and ICT in the provision of the necessary support and infrastructure to enable best practice in managing and sharing research data.

- WiSci (Women in Science Network) networking lunch
The project’s Research Data Manager worked in partnership with the Research Support Manager, Faculty of Science and Faculty Liaison Librarians to host a networking lunch. A networking lunch is one of the regular networking activities organised by the WiSci network and involves a small group of researchers gathering to discuss a theme or topic over lunch, hosted by a presenter who has expertise with the theme in question. The theme of the lunch was “raising research impact” and focused on established Library services such as the institutional repository, using social media, and sharing research data to raise researcher profile. This activity was a great example of the Library working collaboratively with Faculty research support staff to explore new models of researcher engagement. The lunch provided a relaxed and informal setting for researchers to share issues and challenges, and for the Library to understand researcher needs and communicate about Library services.

- Library Trans disciplinary Support Working Group
The Research Data Manager has been participating in a group comprised of the University Librarian, Library Directors, and Faculty Liaison Librarians to explore and develop potential Library support models for emerging trans-disciplinary research centres such as the Charles Perkins Centre (CPC). This has involved participation in discussions with the working group and researchers; collaboration with the Director, Digital and eScholarship to develop a project proposal in support of scholarly communication and research translation for the CPC; and assistance with editing the final document for submission to the CPC group. This activity demonstrates the value of the knowledge and skills developed during Seeding the Commons and this can be fed into Library support of University strategic research goals.

- Presentations to visiting Chinese Presidents
The Research Data Manager was invited to present on the Library’s work in support of research data management as part of a larger presentation on how the Library supports teaching, learning and research in the 21st century. This activity is indicative of the ownership the Library has taken of its ongoing role in research data management.

- Partnerships with FLLs
Steps towards embedding the project within the ongoing business of the Library have been successfully taken throughout the project, as evidenced by activities to communicate, train and partner with FLLs in the data interviews process. Following the project, these partnerships have continued as FLLs continue to participate in post-project activities such as interviewing researchers about their data collections for inclusion on the RDSI project.

The key achievements this project produced are:

• The project created plain language, authoritative, information and training material about research data management for researchers and research support staff. This included a Data Management Planning Checklist ( ) and extensive web-based material ( ).

• Standards and tools were developed to assist researchers to describe and publicise their research collections ( ).

• A strong collaborative partnership was established between the Research Portfolio, Library and ICT enabling a unified approach to the delivery of research data support services to researchers across the institution.

• Thirty five Faculty Liaison Librarians were trained in research data management significantly improving the capability of the Library to support researchers’ data management needs across all faculties.

• The development of robust partnerships across institutional units to support and promote research data management and the establishment of ongoing forums for continued communication and collaboration across the institution.

• The registering in Research Data Australia of 65 collections. The collections cover a wide range of disciplines and areas including Chemical Sciences, Earth Sciences, Biological Sciences, Technology, Medical and Health Sciences, Built Environment and Design, Education, Studies in Human Society, Law and Legal Studies, Studies in Creative Arts and Writing, Language, Communication and Culture, History and Archaeology, Philosophy and Religious Studies.