Digital asset management

Get your team's digital research assets and digital working practices in order!

Organising your team’s digital research assets and developing convention on how they are produced, stored, catalogued, accessed and used can be critical to doing more with your team’s code and data.

What I offer

I can help you organise your data, code and ways of working. Specifically, I can:

  • Help you decide on a framework for storage, access, cataloguing and archiving of digital assets.
  • Build convention on how they are produced and used.
  • Develop guidance on how you want your team to collaborate.
  • Document conventions, procedures, access to assets and asset metadata.
  • Develop on-boarding and off-boarding procedures.
  • Develop tools, templates and automation around your conventions and workflows.

Why bother?

Inspiration for this particular type of work was provided by the task a friend of mine was given on her first postdoc. She was effectively handed the hard drive containing a former PhD student’s work and told to figure out what’s on it are and build on it (!).

Clearly this is not an effective way to work, yet is still quite a typical predicament in academia. However, you can avoid this by taking the management of your team’s digital research assets seriously from the start, setting up protocols, on-boarding group members on best practices and expectations and setting up effective off-boarding procedures that ensure all digital assets produced by the team are accessible, well documented and easily reusable in the future.

The power of convention

It’s like agreeing that we will all drive on the left or the right. A hallmark of civilization is following conventions that constrain your behavior a little, in the name of public safety.

Wise words from Jenny Bryan there that can make a huge difference to your team’s workflows. For example, agreeing on variable names across datasets, on file formats, file naming, folder structure and organisation can increase interoperability of team mates work immensely. It can help team members navigate team digital assets with ease…including their own work when they need to come back to it later on!

Documentation = the heart of team practice

Good documentation is imperative for putting convention into practice and ensuring team mates have access to information required to work with team assets, following the working practices you set. Documentation can take the form of simple READMEs, team wikis or full documentation websites using frameworks like blogdown or bookdown.

It’s important to provide the ability for team mates to suggest edits and guidance on how they contribute to documentation when things change or where missing details are identified. This ensures your docs are living document that evolve with your team and practices and make team mates feel like active participants.

Shared docs are also a great way to practice activities like collaborative content creation and editing, version control and content reviewing.

Tools, Templating and automation

The powerful thing about developing and documenting convention is that it allows you to build tools, templates and automation around it!

From checklists, GitHub Issue and Pull Request templates to guide the team through actions, parametarised Rmarkdown or Quarto reports to reusable processing or analysis pipelines, consistent ways of working and producing digital assets can make their interoperability and reuse much easier.

Conversely, templating and automation which includes guidance and important checks can make it easier to ensure conventions are followed!

A great example of convention powering automation and templating is the usethis package. It’s a veritable treasure trove for setting up the repetitive infrastructure and files an R package or project depends on. Another example is pkgreviewr, a package I developed to facilitate rOpenSci reviews through automation, templates and guidance.

Why me?

I love tidying messy workflows!

I’ve also gained a lot experience working with researchers as well as within the Sheffield RSE team itself and rOpenSci in assessing, documenting and iterating over team procedures as new circumstances arise and team workflows mature. I’ve also had plenty of experience working with documentation frameworks, creating effective checklists and templates and building tools to automate repetitive actions.