New application system for YOUth data: Great example of team science

It’s up and running: the new online module that allows researchers to request YOUth data. So it’s goodbye to emails with attached Word files, and hello to a handy web shop-like system! The module is open source and therefore also within easy reach for other faculties that wish to share data securely.

The new YOUth application module is the first automated system within Utrecht University for requesting fair data. FAIR stands for Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable: an important component of Open Science. YOUth project manager Coosje Veldkamp is pleased that researchers can now request data more easily, she says. 'We often talk about how we can make data FAIR and offer it to researchers in a way that allows them to use it easily and securely, but the Open Science movement hasn’t paid enough attention to the question "how can we ensure that people actually start using this data?" We are now helping researchers with an online system that allows them to compile their desired data set with a few clicks of the mouse, put it in an online shopping basket and submit their research proposal.' The procedure that follows such a data request has now also been automated, which is great for Coosje and the other people involved in the assessment. 'The process is now more streamlined; I can see the status of an application at any time.'

We are now helping researchers with an online system that allows them to compile their desired data set with a few clicks of the mouse, put it in an online shopping basket and submit their research proposal.

A first

The new data request system is an expansion of the Yoda data management system that was previously developed for and by YOUth and which is also being used elsewhere within UU and at other universities. The developers still had to invent the wheel anyway, because no similar systems existed. ICT developer Jelmer Zondergeld and consultant Pascal Pas, both from HTS and both with an academic background, accepted this technical challenge. Jelmer: 'We could also have developed the module separately, but we wanted to integrate everything relating to YOUth data into a single system, from requesting data to downloading and exchanging it.' At the same time, this connection with the Yoda system – which was also updated on a regular basis – also made things more complicated.

We wanted to integrate everything relating to YOUth data into a single system, from requesting data to downloading and exchanging it.

Jelmer Zondergeld, Housing & Technology Services

GDPR-proof

In this development process, Pascal formed the bridge between technology and content. As a neuroscientist, he still used the old-school system ('on paper and by email') when he needed MRI data. In this project, he mainly contributed to the accessible and secure sharing of the data. 'The YOUth data has been collected for a certain purpose and you can’t share it with every Tom, Dick and Harry. The new portal allows us to share it in a GDPR-proof way. Only bona fide researchers with a sound proposal that fits within the consent given by the YOUth participants will be granted access, and even then only after signing a Data Transfer Agreement.'

The YOUth data has been collected for a certain purpose. The new portal allows us to share it in a GDPR-proof way.

Team science

It was a complicated process that took a few years, but the team pulled it off. Datamanagers Ron Scholten and Danny de Koning - van Nieuwamerongen were closely involved during the construction of the system. Jelmer: 'I was constantly consulting with them and the project manager: we are now faced with this or that decision, what do you think? I always collected and incorporated their feedback.' In other words, it's a nice example of team science. 'This can only be achieved if developers, data managers and researchers/users work together very well', says Coosje. 'Seeing each other's work gives you a better understanding of how the other person works. Now I understand why IT projects sometimes take so long.'

Open source

How can other faculties that work with Yoda also benefit from this module? Pascal: 'Because of the GDPR, everyone wants to check whether an intended use suits the purpose of the collected data. As a result, this module is attractive for many types of use.' Luckily, other Yoda users won't have to invent that particular wheel, Jelmer explains: 'It’s open source, so the source code is available. And everyone can suggest additional facilities.'

Sharing science

Last but not least: 'This system really fits in with UU's Sharing Science, shaping tomorrow pay-off', says Coosje. 'We are showing that as a university, we aren’t just saying this, we are also actually doing it. We are now able to share our data securely throughout Europe.'

Logo + pay-off — Universiteit Utrecht: sharing science, shaping tomorrow

The YOUth cohort is embedded in the Utrecht University strategic theme Dynamics of Youth and the Child Health Program of the UMC Utrecht. 

More Information about handling personal data

This information from the Research Data Management Support department may also be of interest to you