"I am a vet, not a data manager"

What does Research Data Management mean in everyday practice? In this series of interviews by RDM Support, researchers share their experiences on various aspects of research data management. In this interview, Isaura Wayop about the help she got from the RDM data consultants.

“To decrease the use of antibiotics for cows, sheep and other cattle, veterinary guidelines have been formulated. I am researching the implementation of these guidelines. For that I interview veterinary surgeons. I save the data from these interviews. It is privacy-sensitive information, so it needs to be stored safely. But how? Also, I had to submit a data management plan for the grant application. For these things I needed help. And that is how I came into contact with Research Data Management Support.

Isaura Wayop of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine tells about her research. “The guidelines for the use of antibiotics are not always very clear. By means of this research we want to find out why this is so and how, based on the information vets are giving us, we can improve the guidelines. That is why I talk with them."

Research Data Management Support
Isaura Wayop at De Tolakker farm of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (photos by Annemiek van der Kuil | PhotoA.nl)

Isaura has made a career switch. “Yes, I have taken a different direction.” She has exchanged her job as a vet for horses and ruminants for a PhD position at the research programme VET-ENHANCE. From the stable to the office. “My former job benefits the research. I know the scene, I know the job, I know the guidelines. It helps”

Storing data safely

“This entire research is funded by ZonMw. A requirement for funding is a well-organised data management plan. On my first work day I started writing it. First, I contacted Research Data Management Support (RDM Support). I registered for one of their RDM workshops. That was very useful. There I learned that you should not save data on a USB stick or on your laptop, because when they get stolen, they are lost forever. A few weeks after the workshop, my house was burgled… Luckily, they have not taken my laptop, but this incident was a real wake-up call.’

A few weeks after the workshop my house was burgled…

Research Data Management Support

“Maybe it is stating the obvious, but never save data on a device that can be stolen. So telephones, voice recorders. Things that can get snatched away by others. Please be aware of this risk. Before we started, I did not think high sensitive data was involved, but it turned out to be the case.  The RDM consultants, Jacques Flores and Iza Witkowska, told me about Yoda, the data storage system of Utrecht University. I associated Yoda with a character from Star Wars,’ laughs Isaura.  “They put me in contact with Rob van Schip who helped me to get started with Yoda. Here I store all my data now. He also helped me with a Data Protection Impact Assessment, which I sent to the data protection officer of Utrecht University, so it could get an official approval.”

Yoda. From Star Wars, right?

A data management plan helps you in your research

“Back to the data management plan. In the workshop not all my questions could be answered. No surprise, because a group consists of ten to fifteen participants. Each with their own research and their own questions. When I wanted to discuss my specific questions, the trainer advised me to send them to her by email. That is how I got into contact with Jacques and Iza. Their help was very useful.’

“Before the new General Data Protection Regulation came into effect, there was little experience with writing a data management plan in the department. Since the new legislation on privacy, quite a lot of things have changed. I think that many rules were already in use, but that now they are checked upon more strictly. A well-organised data management plan helps you to arrange this in an orderly fashion according to legislation. It helps you in your research. It helps you to organise your data better and to give more thought to the structure of your research. Also the data management plan is a living document, and improvements are made as the research project progresses."

My job as a practicing vet was superficial, quick. This research allows me to study things in depth. This appeals more to me now.

It gives an extra sense of security

“I love that at Utrecht University you can discuss research data management with someone and get help. It involves things that are not directly related to your research but do have impact on your research. That kind of support makes it a lot easier to create a data management plan. You know, I am a vet, so I don’t know much about data management, computers, storing data, that sort of things. So, you really want someone with who is an expert in that field. And that person saying: ‘Why not drop by, together we will have a look at your research’, that is so great. Also, because they work at Utrecht University as well. That gives an extra sense of security.”

Research Data Management Support

In September 2018 Isaura Wayop started her research at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine into the guidelines to decrease the use of antibiotics in livestock breeding. The past five years she worked as a vet. “My job as a practicing vet was superficial, quick. This research allows me to study things in depth. This appeals more to me now.”