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Five minute profile: interview with Allison Noble

Headshot of Allison Noble
Five minute profiles

Research Data Scotland

16 Jun 2023

Our interview series shines a light on what it’s like to work at RDS. Meet Allison Noble, Information Governance Officer at Research Data Scotland.

What’s your role at RDS and what are you working on?  

I work as an Information Governance (IG) Officer in the Information Governance team, which forms part of RDS’s Digital team.

I’m currently working on a number of projects which are helping to shape the IG processes within RDS and create a safe and secure groundwork for the organisation’s future. Having a strong foundational set of practices is integral to the organisation’s functionality and alignment to good data protection practice. 

What does your typical workday involve?  

There are a variety of ongoing projects at RDS, so every day can be different! Usually, my typical work day can include creating IG materials for internal use and sharing with our partner organisations; working with the team to shape company policies to ensure IG compliance and safe sharing; and aiding different workgroups within RDS in their projects, such as the Researcher Access Service.

I also monitor the data protection inbox for any IG queries and network with partners around data and information sharing.

“IG underpins a lot of ongoing projects at RDS, and things can change and need redrafted quickly, so you have to be adaptable”

Allison Noble

What's your background and how does it give you additional insight into your work at RDS?

I come from a background in academia where I’ve been involved in a lot of policy work and research management, and I’m still finishing off my PhD on a part time basis.

I had never even imagined that I could do a PhD; I had always planned to become a performer. However, as the years of my undergrad passed, that "dream" began to fray and decay at the edges. I hated the uncertainty and brutality of music performance as a career and realised that I preferred the more academic topics that were meant to be boring to a contemporary performer.

Following a gut-wrenching period of applications and shaky interviews, I was offered a place on a programme and could finally study the topics that felt interesting to me: topics that lay in the space between music, tech, and social sciences.

My PhD has given me first-hand experience of the obstacles that researchers can face when accessing data for research. So I am able to approach my work with a knowledgeable and empathetic experience, and make suggestions which can benefit both partners and researchers equally.

It’s also allowed me to develop a degree of flexibility when prioritising my workloads. IG underpins a lot of ongoing projects at RDS, and things can change and need redrafted quickly, so you have to be adaptable as the organisation develops.

“It’s the public’s data that is being processed, so it’s important that they understand the security measures in place”

Allison Noble

What's a highlight and a challenge of working with data?

A highlight is getting to work with all of our great partners who recognise the importance of data sharing across Scotland. It feels great to be working towards something which will genuinely improve the social good of Scotland.

In my role it is a constant challenge to ensure that the necessary IG controls are in place and that data processing is compliant, but that these controls are communicated to the public in an accessible way. It’s the public’s data that is being processed, so it’s important that they understand the security measures in place to prevent misuse and to communicate RDS’s role as an open, transparent and trustable organisation. 

What difference do you hope RDS will make?

As a researcher, I understand the obstacles in place to accessing data which can cause serious stress and funding issues. I hope RDS will be able to streamline and simplify the research process by speeding up what can be a really strenuous time for researchers.

Who, real-life or public figure, has inspired or motivated you in your career or life?

Lou Gehrig’s work ethic is one which I find inspirational in both my job and personal life. He showed up to life every single day and gave his best effort no matter what. I find this motivating when dealing with hard work-based tasks and/or obstacles in my personal life.

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