Alex Ball, Research Data Librarian (Systems), would like to tell you about the launch of the Research Data Management Adventure, a text adventure that might just help you manage your research data a little better.
I want to talk to you about research data. It’s important that I talk to you about research data. It’s very easy to go wrong with research data, and if you do, you could end up losing years of work or even, if you go really wrong, facing prosecution.
It might be that you don’t know much about all that, and will be glad to hear what I have to say. It might be that you know everything you need to know already. Or it might be that there are gaps in your knowledge you don’t know about; gaps that turn out to be timebombs. I have no idea. Maybe you have no idea either.
So how do we start this talk? I don’t want to bore you. You don’t want to be bored. But there are things you need to know. Hmm. I could set you a test, but no-one likes tests. What if I call it a quiz? Better? No?
When I was growing up, I enjoyed reading gamebooks. I still have examples on my shelves of Choose Your Own Adventure and Fighting Fantasy titles; if you haven’t seen these, you might have seen similar series like Find Your Fate or Decide Your Destiny. These books are broken down into numbered passages, and at the end of each passage you are offered a choice of which to read next. By making different choices, you can end up reading a very different story.
What if, instead of giving you a test, I tell you a story. A story where you are running a large-scale project for the first time, and you have to get the funding, guide the research, publish the papers. And I’ll give you some choices, and those choices will push your story in a certain direction. If you know everything already, you’ll get a happy ending, a hundred points and a feeling of smug satisfaction. If you don’t, you’ll probably make some mistakes, but that’s okay. You learn from mistakes – I know I do – and I’d much rather you make your mistakes now, in my story, than in real life. And even if you don’t learn everything you need from those mistakes, you’ll at least know what to go and find out to avoid making those mistakes again.
My story, by the way, is what is known as a text adventure, or more generally, interactive fiction. Apart from gamebooks, there are other types of interactive fiction. You might have seen text-based computer games where you type in commands like ‘go west’ or ‘get lamp’. My story does not involve any typing, so it’s a bit more like a gamebook, but it remembers what you’ve done like those command-based games.
I shouldn’t call it my story. It is a collaborative effort, after all. I wrote it with my colleague Nushrat Khan here at the University of Bath and Samuel Simango at Stellenbosch University. But it’s not even our story, because we’ve just written the building blocks. It’s not a proper story until you put it together by interacting with the fiction, going on the adventure, playing the game.
Interested? Play the game now, and see what kind of Research Data Management Adventure you have.