Developing and Integrating Training Materials on Research Infrastructures into Higher Education course design: The PARTHENOS Experience

paper, specified "long paper"
  1. 1. Jennifer Edmond

    Trinity College Dublin

  2. 2. Vicky Garnett

    Trinity College Dublin

  3. 3. Helen Goulis

    Academy of Athens

  4. 4. Kristen Schuster

    King's College London

  5. 5. Ulrike Wuttke

    Fachhochschule Potsdam (FHP / University of Applied Sciences Potsdam)

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It has been almost 25 years since Gibbons et. al (Gibbons, 1994). introduced the idea of ‘Mode 2’ research, and Boyer asked us to reconsider our idea of scholarship (Boyer, 1990) as encompassing not only discovery, but teaching, application and integration as well.  These two contemporaneous works encouraged higher education to re-evaluate the way it envisioned the skills profile of a researcher, and imagine ways to meet these skills needs.  Yet, in the intervening decades, neither Boyer’s ideas nor those of Gibbons and his co-authors have had much impact on the arts and humanities, where the most common mode of scholarship is still single authored, basic research, and the organisation of higher education is still highly disciplinary.  One place where these new modes of research are taking hold in the arts and humanities, however, is in the emergence of the uniquely European class of large-scale, transnational collaborative research infrastructures constructed as ERICs, or European Research Infrastructure Consortia. Because the ERICs’ primary mission is to provide a higher baseline for all contributing researchers, both transdisciplinary application and integration find a natural home within their activities, regardless of the communities of practice they serve.  These modes of research do not replace the traditions of discipline-based investigation, but complement them, bringing to the fore new skill sets that are useful for the economy

See, for example, the Institute for the Future’s ‘Future Work Skills’ proposal, which highlights transdisciplinarity, collaboration and new media literacy among their growth areas. (, retrieved 26th Nov 2018)

 and for the organisation of research itself

See, for example, the emphasis on skills in the EU report on the long term sustainability of RIs, Sustainable European Research Infrastructures, a Call for Action, (retrieved 26th Nov 2018)


In spite of these developments, the view of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) as the primary delivery mechanisms for training and education is understandable.  Certification and validation of skills acquired requires its own infrastructure, one of policies and processes, and one which universities have developed over many centuries.  Yet the complementarity between these two modes of knowledge creation presents a clear opportunity for convergence and creation of added value for both kinds of institutions, not to mention students.  For this reason, the PARTHENOS project, a cluster project of Digital Research Infrastructures (RIs) and large projects within the Humanities and Social Sciences, based one of its areas of shared development on an investigation of, and pilot programme in, the shared transmission of knowledge between RIs and HEIs.

Scoping the Relationship between Higher Education Institutions and Research Infrastructures
In order to ensure the approach taken matched the requirements of the variety of courses already in existence across HEI programmes throughout Europe, the PARTHENOS team commenced their work with a survey of Digital Humanities (DH) programmes; first through desk research and a survey, and then through two ‘course providers’ workshops’, which discussed DH training provision, and how RIs were included (if at all) within the course syllabus.
Results from the survey and desk research, complemented by the course providers’ workshops, gave an overview of the level of granularity many of the courses took to specific RI training.  The majority of responses to the survey came from course providers (approx 80%), with around 20% of responses provided by students or recent graduates of DH courses. Initial indications showed that course providers are keen for more reusable teaching materials around RIs to enhance their existing training in the subject, and that while some did already provide some manner of experiential learning such as an internship or a more hands-on practical element to their course, the majority mostly included RIs either as something that is integrated throughout the course (particularly in the case of those course providers who were already very engaged with RIs) or as a one-off lecture.  The responses during the course providers’ workshop echoed this, revealing similar approaches: either by incorporating information about RIs regularly throughout the course training programme or by tackling it in one lecture. Where training around RIs was not included, it was either through lack of confidence in the subject or lack of knowledge of how to approach on the part of the course provider. Provision of reusable training materials, such as those created by PARTHENOS, therefore attempts to address the requirements of DH course providers, certainly across Europe.

Designing an optimised course
The PARTHENOS project applied the knowledge gathered during this exploratory phase to the design of a module for students undertaking a Master’s programme at King’s College London.  The module, developed by Dr. Kristen Schuster, incorporated materials specifically around the issues of research data management, an area in which both HEI-based research programmes and research infrastructure-based training have developed significant complementary expertise.  The module was 10 weeks in duration and used a two-pronged approach, with some classroom-based training materials and lectures being used in the first 5 weeks of the course, and a practical element forming the majority of the training in the second 5 weeks of the course. The PARTHENOS training materials in particular used throughout the module included video lectures with accompanying downloadable presentation slides (made available on SlideShare) and shorter videos around basic concepts in Research Infrastructures, and links to content in sections of the “Manage, Improve and Open Up your Research Data” PARTHENOS module, which was given as required reading in preparation for lectures in class.  The students participating in the course were mostly non-native English speakers, and many of them came from outside Europe.
Based on the feedback we received from course providers and students, we used two questions to develop lecture themes and seminar activities: what is data, and what do we mean by research infrastructures?  Asking ‘what is data?’ helped to contextualise the functional requirements for creating, describing and preserving structured information. Over the course of the module, students explored standards and policies that inform the development of best practice guidelines for handling structured information. Students gained introductory knowledge to metadata, database management and protocols for data exchange.  Understanding theories and practices for defining and managing data segued to descriptions and analyses of RIs. Asking ‘what do we mean by research infrastructures?’, allowed the students to explore different requirements for developing policies, protocols and technical specifications for collaborative endeavours to create, use and re-use research data.
Readings, discussions and activities provided students with opportunities to explore technologies, workflows and documentation that support research data management from a variety of perspectives. This combination of activities required students to practice the skills discussed during lectures and seminars and build a professional vocabulary for discussing research data management as a practice that supports the curation, preservation, use and re-use of digital assets. Overall, gaining a foundational knowledge of data management through this module prepared students to manage digital assets that support cultural heritage work and research.

The Course Provider’s Experience
Introducing broad themes through questions like ‘what is data?’, ‘what are the social and technical roles of RIs’ and ‘how can research data management improve the impact and function of RIs in the humanities’ engaged students in discussions and debates, which enabled students to work through their own areas of interest and come to conclusions supported by a body of research and expertise.  Learning was supported through creative problem solving in a two-part group project. By working with a teaching fellow and external partner at the Royal United Service Institute (RUSI) it was possible for students to develop and revise research data management plans and present wireframes for data portals and guidelines for institutional repository participation in RIs. In general, students progressed from confused to curious to engaged over the course of five weeks, and began their group projects with a great deal of confidence

Student Evaluation of the course materials
To evaluate the usefulness of PARTHENOS training materials within the course, we also asked the students to complete two surveys: one at the end of the theoretical classroom-based section in weeks 1-5; and a second at the end of the practical section in weeks 6-10.  We were interested in how the students found the materials from a classroom learning perspective, and how the materials might be received and referred to in a task-based setting. Preliminary results point towards a dual-format approach of accessible videos used in conjunction with written content as the ideal approach, especially given the non-native English speaking cohort within the student group.  While the more ‘mobile-friendly’ materials such as videos maybe useful for those who are comfortable with spoken English, the additional support of written content to provide context and allow for longer rumination is of benefit to those who are less comfortable with spoken English and all its dialectal varieties currently presented within the PARTHENOS training materials.

Outline and proposal for a Long Paper
This long paper will set a context for training around Research Infrastructures, and their inclusion in formal Higher Education courses.  Using PARTHENOS materials as a case study, we shall discuss the rationale for and process of designing the course to incorporate training materials around RIs.  It will then discuss in more detail the evaluation process we have undertaken, and look to lessons learned and recommendations for the incorporation of training materials from Digital Research Infrastructures.  


Boyer, E. L. (1990).
Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. ERIC.

Gibbons, M. (1994).
The New Production of Knowledge: The Dynamics of Science and Research in Contemporary Societies. Sage.

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Conference Info

In review

ADHO - 2019

Hosted at Utrecht University

Utrecht, Netherlands

July 9, 2019 - July 12, 2019

436 works by 1162 authors indexed

Series: ADHO (14)

Organizers: ADHO