Research Information 

Over the last four years, the Research Lifecycle Programme has been working to implement and develop systems to help manage and protect the information used in research, from the earliest stages of a research proposal through to data collection and publication.

The work of the programme also supports systems such as the Pure Portal which raises the profile of the University’s researchers, and Manchester Digital Collections which is home to images, video and interpretation of world-class collections from the Manchester Museum and The John Rylands Library.

Speaking about this workstream Professor Caroline Jay, Head of Research, School of Engineering, said:  

‘The Research Information workstream is complex, supporting the entire lifecycle of a project from identifying collaborators via the Pure Portal, developing data collection methods, and through to writing and sharing papers.’  

We’ve seen improved approaches to Research Data Management (RDM) with a new lead in this area, a new strategy for RDM, the introduction of a SafePod. Just over the horizon is a comprehensive refresh of the Highly Restricted Data Service, ensuring that researchers can easily access help and advice about the platforms and services supported across the University.’ 

Project E – Facilitate research networking and collaboration

Researchers face many barriers to developing and delivering successful research collaborations. Research and consultation by the project team highlighted that researchers needed to be more visible internally and externally, that they needed a tool to easily identify suitable research funding, and there was a need to create collaborative workspaces and tools to support joint working.

A significant update to Research Explorer now sees researcher output regularly published to an academic’s ‘Researcher Profile’ ensuring up-to-date information is presented to potential collaborators and is more visible to search engines. To help identify funding opportunities, trials are underway with the Elsevier product Funding Institutional.

The collaborative LaTeX editor Overleaf was made available across the University in 2019 and already has more than 5,500 users and has supported more than 2,500 projects.

And through work with IT Services collaborators from outside of the University can now store, share and update documents and chat and call within a secure and supported environment through Guest Access to Microsoft Teams

All of these developments have been underpinned by improvements to policies and processes that support secure collaboration and ensure best practice in data storage and sharing.

Project S – The Highly Restricted Data Service and SafePod

The Highly Restricted Data Service (HRDS) has been developed under the Research Lifecycle Programme to support researchers who handle confidential or personal information in their work. The HRDS supports five platforms: Data Safe Haven Local, Data Safe Haven Cloud, Secure web platforms, REDCap and SafePod. Using these platforms is the easiest and most cost-effective way to demonstrate compliance with University and funder data security requirements.

As well as the convenience and efficiency of providing a single point of contact for helping to manage highly restricted data the new HRDS helps with flexibility and scalability of data storage and compute, offers a simple costing process that avoids unexpected bills.

There is also significant risk reduction as the platforms have been designed and developed with the most stringent requirements of data owners, such as NHS Digital, in mind. Avoiding the cost and reputational damage of data breaches is a key consideration for the University. Investigating a data breach costs around £3.4 million and sees an immediate stop on any research that is believed to have lost data.

SafePods are standardised safe settings that provide the security and controls for data that requires secure access for research.

Before the SafePod was installed in the Main Library in 2021 researchers would need to travel to London or regional offices to access datasets from providers such as the Office of National Statistics, UK Data Service and SAIL Databank. This work can now be done right here at the University, enabling researchers to work more flexibly, efficiently, and contribute to the University’s carbon reduction targets.

It is also possible to request additional datasets for the SafePod by contacting

Project U – Figshare

RLP has also helped to develop the University’s institutional research data repository. Launched in the summer of 2021 it utilises the Figshare platform to securely store and organise research data as well as publish selected datasets that support your work, making it more discoverable and citable.

Figshare’s flexible cloud platform enables you to store your outputs in any file format, provides a citable DOI for public outputs and helps to demonstrate compliance with funder data management requirements, especially around publishing supporting data.

It can also help to make your data outputs Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable (FAIR) and reflects the University’s support of Open Research. The platform already has more than 500 active users at the University.

Find out more about Figshare at The University of Manchester at:

Project V – Manchester Digital Collections

Operating in an agile way enabled RLP to support the development and roll out of Manchester Digital Collections. This new website offers incredible high resolution images of objects and documents form the special collections of The John Rylands Library and the Manchester Museum. From bible illustrations to broadside ballads and Peterloo to revolutionary France, there are 1,000s of objects to explore and share, all supported by comprehensive metadata.

The platform is already home to 27 specific collections from and has seen almost 20,000 visitors since launching in October 2019.

Project Y – Survey tools

The Research Lifecycle Programme has implemented two new survey platforms for the University, Qualtrics XM and REDCap.

Qualtrics replaced Lime Survey as the University’s survey tool of choice. Qualtrics is significantly more user friendly than its predecessor and has excellent self-service user documentation, supported by an enthusiastic user community. The platform is approved for highly restricted data and can be used by researchers across the university. The new platform has more than 4,500 users from academics to accommodation teams. Together they have administered more than 800,000 surveys.

REDCap is already a well-known and respected survey tool, used by researchers who are conducting research that uses highly restricted data. The new instance seeks to build on its flexibility with added security via two-factor authentication, additional user support, and a Teams site to foster collaboration. Although the updated instance is chargeable, the added features offer excellent value and help to demonstrate compliance with University and funder requirements.

Once migration to the new instance is complete, REDCap will join this suite of products under the HRDS banner.

Find out more about the other work streams at:

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