Data Tree – Data TRaining Engaging End-users

The challenge: Data Tree will provide online training for environmental science PhD students and early career researchers in data management and in engaging with businesses, policy and the wider public.

Purpose: The £212,000 contract, awarded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), aims to improve data management skills of researchers as well as providing training in improving science communication to engage with businesses, policy-makers and the wider public.  The project is funded by the National Productivity Investment Fund and aligns with the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy.

As a data management online training site Data Tree will teach the value and practicalities of good data management, providing examples and context for engagement with data users.  The training will be delivered in eight sections (Figure 1) highlighting the impact of data-intensive research on real-world situations.  The specific requirements of NERC data centres and management plans will be showcased, along with issues arising from environmental data – from big data challenges of climate modelling, to dealing with physical samples; from the challenges of widely-used public datasets, to the issues of data citation, version control and deleting data at repositories.


The underlying themes of the training will be:

  • Data sharing as a driver of economic growth, efficiency and innovation
  • The benefits of working with data users
  • Reproducability of data and scientific research
Data Tree figure 1

Data Tree – meeting the needs of business

Engendering best practice in data management, along with the skills to communicate research confidently and clearly to a range of audiences, will positively impact on productivity by making it easier to re-use data.  The training will have enduring benefits; today’s PhD cohorts are tomorrow’s research leaders, entrepreneurs and industrial researchers.

The Industrial Strategy recognises that advanced skills are vital for the UK economy and these data competencies are an essential addition to doctoral training. A range of businesses, including engineering consultancies, utilities and insurance, look to environmental research to guide risk assessment and investment.  Improved labelling and curation of datasets will enable these users to not only access research papers but to interrogate the underlying data, to more thoroughly understand the issues and therefore to develop innovative solutions.  Through awareness of the value of data and good management, the training will help research data support innovation and business.

Encouraging data innovation for commerce

The Industrial Strategy has identified that fundamental scientific research is a strength in the UK, but commercialisation a greater challenge. The business module of Data Tree will show PhD cohorts real-life examples of academic data used commercially, issues of restricted data, pathways to business and it will encourage their own innovations.  Another challenge is creating the right policies and regulations; the inclusion of engaging with policy-makers will encourage the NERC ideal of better informed and therefore more productive regulation.  The Strategy has prioritised satellites and space, smart energy, advanced modelling and supercomputing, and our partners at the University of OxfordScience and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) will provide their expertise in these areas for Data Tree.

The online training will be built on the principles of:

  • Ease of access – to dip in and out of content and access on mobile devices
  • Variety – to present concepts and content in different ways to engage different learning styles and interactivity
  • Relevance and appeal to the early researcher audience – with examples from real-life.

The training is primarily aimed at and will be actively promoted to NERC Doctoral Training Partnerships and Centres for Doctoral Training, but will be open to all.

IEA role: The IEA is leading the Data Tree project and providing content on handling, sharing and presenting data to business, policy-makers and the wider public.

Timeline: Development October 2017 to March 2018, face-to-face training delivery to NERC students and early career researchers April to June 2018.  The Data Tree portal will go live in March 2018 and exist until the end of 2023.

Partners: IEA (leading), Stats4SDOeRCUoRDCCSTFCNCEOWild Indie and Mark Thorley, an independent data management expert.


For more information contact Vicky Lucas, or Jo Ansell

Data Tree training logo
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