DataMAD - Using a common tool to share information across the EDS

Since 2018, the five NERC Data Centres have come together to form the NERC Environmental Data Service (EDS). There is now a strong emphasis on working together in an integrated manner to increase efficiency and share expertise. A key integration activity undertaken in 2020 was the re-development of a common tool that assists with sharing of information across the EDS.  

The old tool, called DataMAD, was re-developed to facilitate and co-ordinate data management services between the EDS’s distributed teams. DataMAD contains information about all of the NERC-funded grants that require data management and archival at the EDS. The old tool was restrictive, hard to maintain and impossible to add new features to; it also encouraged diverging workflows between the data centres. 

EDS staff, based at the Centre for Environmental Data Analysis (CEDA), developed the new version of this tool. This re-development was required to increase the number of NERC grants the EDS could manage, increase its ease of use and simplify workflows in the system. The re-developed DataMAD contains all the used features from the old tool but also allows data centres to transfer grants between each other, as well as making it easier to find a specific grant and its related documents. These improvements will help with streamlining data management across the data centres. 

The grants team, based at NERC head office, are responsible for uploading documents to DataMAD. Without these documents, the EDS data centres would not be able to assess which team should lead on the data management. The NERC grants team said: 

“The process of uploading the proposal documents is now more efficient.  Documents are automatically classified and linked to grants based on the filename, whereas with the old DataMAD each document had to be classified individually and linked to the associated grant(s).  Some of the more repetitive parts of the task have therefore been removed, and overall DataMAD2 has simplified and significantly reduced the amount of time required by our team to carry out our part of the process.”  

Regular and ongoing feedback sessions, attended by representatives from all five data centres, has led to the implementation of a common issue tracking system (called Jira) which has recently been integrated into the new DataMAD. As a result, workflows will become more alike and the transfer of grant information will be more efficient.  

The new tool can be easily adapted to contain new and improved features that are required by the data centre staff and/or NERC grants team. Jaana Pinnick from the National Geoscience Data Centre said:  

“Moving the NGDC grants workflow to the new DataMAD2 / Jira environment has enhanced our information management processes by enabling us to share and transfer information     with other data centres more easily. The new tool is more flexible so we are able to request new functionality to be added if our requirements change. The EDS software development team has been instrumental in ensuring that the tool is aligned with EDS workflows, strengthening our collaboration and enabling us to provide services to our stakeholders more efficiently.” 

Future work will look at creating views for NERC programme managers, so that they can get a clear view of the data management activity generate by their projects. Without the re-development work of this tool, this would not have previously been possible. Ultimately, this tool will save staff time and resources across the EDS and therefore improve efficiency with tracking data management tasks.