Spotlight on: Dorien Huijser

Every other week, the Thematic DCCs and the Data Steward Interest Group (DSIG) put the spotlight on one research data steward working in the Netherlands, to stimulate knowledge exchange and peer-to-peer learning.

What drew you towards the research data management field?

To be honest, I was not even aware of the existence of this field when I started as a data manager! I got into this field thanks to the PI of the former Brain and Development Research Center at Leiden University, Eveline Crone. She wanted her lab to focus on doing more open science, and realized the importance of a data manager in order to make that happen. Because I had done a research internship during my master in her group, she asked me after I graduated to come work for her as a data manager, and she gave me the opportunity to learn on the job what exactly that meant.

What is an activity / task of your role that you find yourself looking forward to?

I like reviewing datasets and data management plans, because it is such a fulfilling and clear-cut activity. Most researchers I’ve dealt with so far are quite open to our feedback, and are happy that someone helps them with their data management work. Reviewing datasets is especially fun, because you get to see what a researcher has been working on, help make the dataset more understandable and open, and contribute to science being just a tad more open. I also really like working together with other support staff to create concrete results that help researchers do their work.

The best result is when researchers don’t even need our help anymore because the whole process already speaks for itself (although I’m not saying that this is always the case 😉).

What is something unexpected that you can offer help with, if a colleague reaches out to you?

I've gotten quite good at writing ChatGPT prompts, not sure how unexpected that is though 😉

I am also quite good at organizing things in a way that allows people to easily contribute to them, and it's a recurring theme in my work to make sure things get done efficiently.

What do you think your community of research data professionals is missing?

I think we lack certification. There is no formal education to become a data steward or data manager, which makes sense because discipline-specific knowledge about research is often very valuable too. On the one hand, this causes people doing data management-related tasks to sometimes be hidden within organizations, with huge differences in tasks and paygrades. On the other hand, getting recognized as data steward with specific formalized skills would also give people in this field a better career outlook to move on to other jobs or more “advanced” levels of data stewardship.

What is a topic you would want to collaborate on with others?

Basically any RDM-related topic is worth collaborating on! But specifically, I think it is important to create shared learning resources and standards that everyone can and does use in their work. We all want science to be reproducible and sustainable, but actually everything that we do and produce should be that too.

Can you share with us a story from your work that was a highlight for you?

Together with two other data supporters from Wageningen University and Research (WUR) and the Vrije Universiteit (VU), we organized a session at the LCRDM day in June this year (2023). We shared our data support struggles with the group and got a really great discussion going. I was really surprised by the amount of interaction we had there, and the way in which we all seemed to struggle with the same things. I guess we'll have to organize a follow-up session to further share experiences and possible solutions!

Get in touch with Dorien: Utrecht University profile | Personal Website | LinkedIn profile