"In our research, the expertise of a data manager and use of Yoda are a big help"

What does research data management mean in a researcher's practice? In this series of interviews by RDM Support, researchers share their experiences on various aspects of research data management. In this interview, PhD student Timo Verlaat shares his experience with the data management tool Yoda and obtaining help from data manager.

Timo Verlaat

Timo Verlaat is a PhD student at the Department Utrecht University School of Economics (U.S.E.) of the Faculty of Law, Economics and Governance. Verlaat explains: "I started this project four years ago, first as a student assistant, then as a PhD student, funded by an NWO research talent grant. The research I'm working on is a large field experiment with people entitled to social assistance in Utrecht, in which we impose different conditions on various groups for receiving assistance. Think of more autonomy, extra help and guidance from the local welfare agency or the opportunity to keep a larger share of income earned on top of their benefits. We compare these groups to find out what works. Last May, we published a research report on this for the municipality of Utrecht. In addition, we want to make the data easy to find and, by making it anonymous, also publish it publicly. This also fits in with NWO's requirements for research output.”

"This project involves a lot of privacy and information security issues. We have data from questionnaires and also data from the municipality that we wanted to use. This data contains information about the health situation, benefits, work, income, family situation and much more. So generally speaking: sensitive information. So we had to deal with this carefully and think carefully about what safety measures we had to take. We had to deal with all aspects of data management. That's why a data manager joined our project at an early stage.”

It was very valuable that our own data manager joined in the discussions with the municipality

Data manager

"Even before the project started, datamanager Frans de Liagre Böhl was involved. If you want to manage your data properly, that involves a lot. Especially if you have privacy sensitive data, from different sources, different parties, collected in different ways and used by different people at different times. It is different if you use existing and already anonymized data than if you collect data yourself. You have to arrange a lot for that, that was new to me. Frans helped to steer everything in the right direction, gave advice on the data management plan and data security plan and he also went along to talks with the municipality to arrange the processing agreements. These agreements were necessary to be able to use the data from the municipality. Questions such as: where is the data, where is it stored, how is it secured? Then it is a big help if a data expert comes along to these kinds of discussions and can explain it all."

It felt safe and secure to have a data management tool developed by our own university


"Furthermore, Frans is an expert in Yoda, a data management tool developed by Utrecht University. Our project was one of the first users. We liked the idea that there was an 'own' solution within the university and that we didn't have to go to an external party. You can log in safely with your solis id or your e-mail. But even if there is a question, you immediately have someone at hand who can answer it.”

"What makes Yoda a great fit for our project is that it is suitable for storing personal data. The ease with which you can give project members specific access to certain parts of the data is a big plus. It works very well since the support is always nearby. As soon as our project is completed, we can also archive our data at the touch of a button. And finally, with Yoda, we can also publish our data so that our research becomes replicable. But in order to do this, our data first needs to be anonymised. For this we hope to use the expertise of Frans and RDM Support again."

When I looked at Utrecht through Google Streetview, I was sold

Timo Verlaat

Timo Verlaat

"What I like about this research is that the project is rooted in practice. It answers a question that we find interesting from a scientific perspective and is also directly relevant to practice. And I always find that combination very appealing. I came to Utrecht because I was looking for a master's degree in economics, with a focus on interdisciplinary work. I found that at Utrecht University. I'm originally from Germany and didn't know Utrecht yet, so I went to Google Streetview to see what it looked like. I was placed on the Domplein and then moved on to the Oudegracht. Then I was sold and decided to come here".

Research Data Management Support

Have you become interested in using Yoda? Or are you interested in the possibilities of hiring a data manager? Take a look at our RDM Support website, or contact us.

What works - in short (in Dutch)