Getting Started with Project Design
Getting Started with Project Design#
Thinking about reproducibility from the start of your project is the best way to save time and get the most out of the available tools. Creating connections between data, code, methodology, as well as diverse collaborators, can seem like a daunting task if it has not been planned from the beginning (see this illustration of the Research Cycle). By documenting and sharing project workflows and processes for research and researchers, we can ensure the sustainability and reusability of research for both developers and future users. In addition, planning your project at the start can help you make sure that you are meeting any funder requirements.
A human-centered approach in the context of the research project can lead to a better development process, maintenance, and future extension of our work. Furthermore, it will help improve the quality of future project design as we can learn lessons from what worked and what can be improved.
Setting Expectations Explicitly#
Project design practices help provide guidance and set clear expectations by explicitly communicating norms and empowering project members at different levels of hierarchy to collaborate equitably. Project design for reproducible research encompasses a variety of aspects, starting from defining the purpose, main research questions, expected users or target audience, available resources, and skills required in the project. It also requires researchers to explore the possible outcomes, plans to address expected challenges or risks, ensure diversity of stakeholders, and reduce possible barriers to participation.
Project design practices help all stakeholders to be certain about their roles and responsibilities, skill requirements, environment, and research setup they want to create for their collaborators, values they want to promote, and how they can achieve their goals collaboratively.
Getting Started Checklist#
We can begin the project design process by identifying different parts of our research, such as main research questions, methods and materials, code and data requirements, workflow, communication channels, ways of working, collaborative practices, and so on. This process allows us to be intentional from the start to ensure that our research is reproducible, well-communicated, and inclusive of all stakeholders where decisions are collaboratively made. We can explore and select the right tools and methods for reproducibility in our research and promote good practices such as documentation, version control, peer-review processes, testing, workflow, archiving, and data management plans from the beginning. Finally, we can plan for publishing and sharing research components before, during, and after the project. Below is a checklist you can use to help identify areas of project planning you might want to look at.
Aims & Values#
Timeline & Milestones#
Confirm the budget and any funding policies you need to follow.
Establish ways of working and collaborative practices for the project team.
Identify roles and responsibilities within the project team, using the RACI matrix.
Complete any institutional processes for project setup, such as ethics approval or contract signing.
Identify all individuals, groups, or organizations that have an interest or influence in the project. This includes both internal and external stakeholders
Create a visual representation or matrix to understand the relationships between stakeholders and the project. Map their level of engagement, influence, and interest at each stage of the project. This helps prioritise engagement efforts and tailor communication strategies accordingly.
Utilise the “Facilitating Stakeholder Engagement” chapter for guidance and template resources.
Useful documentation: stakeholder register, stakeholder mapping, stakeholder analysis matrix, personas.
Plan for the different outputs of your research, such as publications, software, or datasets.
Consider licensing and copyright issues for sharing your outputs.
Determine how you will manage intellectual property and ownership rights using an IP register.
Remember to include any required reporting to funders.
Community & Communications#
Identify the target audience for your research.
Plan for effective communication and engagement with the community.
Consider open and inclusive practices to involve stakeholders in decision-making.
Maintenance & Archiving#
Develop a plan for the long-term maintenance and sustainability of your project.
Establish procedures for data management, including storage, backup, and access.
Consider archiving your project’s artifacts and documentation for future erence.
Getting Ethical and Legal Approval#
Every piece of research has the capacity to generate change - this is the basis of discovery and progress. Theore, it is necessary to consider how your investigation could impact other people’s lives and under which ethical and legal standards it should be conducted.
A project must be designed considering legal and ethical issues at every step: from the formulation of questions and data collection to analysis, results, and interpretation. It’s important to ask yourself if your project is designed to be inclusive and sustainable, taking into account the implications and social expectations and adhering to ethical principles and professional standards.
Obtaining ethical and legal approval is a crucial step in the project to ensure that your research is being conducted in a responsible and ethical manner. Research ethics committees (RECs) proceed in several ways, but there are five principal topics that the ethics committee might want to know about:
Data and Methodology
Privacy and Security
Further Societal Consequences
Even if you do not need institutional ethical approval, your project will still benefit from planning using self-relfection techniques and including ethical considerations in the project design. Ethics should not be tied to institutions, it is everyone’s responsibility.
Organising Files and Documents#
Top three ‘selfish’ reasons to use project design practices
Saves time: once the project is designed and all the connections between different parts of research can be organized with little effort.
Makes your research openly available: having your research open from the start can help others working in similar subjects or starting research.
Get people interested: you can get people to help you from the start since your project is documented and is easy to share.
Create a shared repository to allow easy access to information and different documents related to your project. A project repository can be openly available if you are developing an open source project, or can be shared only with your collaborators. In the chapter Creating Project Repositories, you can learn about how to set up a repository with key documents like a landing page, contribution guidelines and communication pathways.
Start by documenting your vision, mission, goals and roadmap in a README file (see the Landing Page - README File chapter), followed by a description of resources and norms for collaboration and communication. In the next chapter, we discuss how project design enables good communication and collaboration in research. In the subsequent chapters, we describe different methods and tools for ensuring research reproducibility.
Chapter Tags: This chapter is curated for the
Turing Data Study Group (