VU Data Horror Week

Evil computer

During the week of 26 -30 October 2020 VU RDM Support desk and its team organised the Data Horror Week at the VU (hashtag #DataHorrorWeek).

The week of Halloween is the week when scary things happen, when horror stories take place, when horror stories are told. This includes our academic horror stories, which we fear, but do not often talk about. Pity, because these stories can teach us a lot about responsible research practices, and, specifically, good data management.

Data Horror Stories – Research Support – Universiteitsbibliotheek, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (

The awareness campaign was targeting researchers as well as support staff and highlighting the importance of good data management. Additionally the goal of the campaign was to point out that research transparency requires a safe space to talk about errors and to facilitate this conversation in a playful but also serious way.

There were several ways to take part in the Data Horror Escape Week:

Data Conversations

During this edition of the Data Conversations, we talked about the research culture, responsible research practices, and the importance of failures. There were two presentations:

Veronika Cheplygina “How I Fail in Open Science – Data horrors and fighting ghosts”

Joeri Tijdink “How can Open Science foster responsible research practices”

The slides from both talks and the recording of Veronika Cheplygina’s talk are available online. 

Veronika Cheplygina received her Ph.D. from the Delft University of Technology for her thesis in the field of machine learning in 2015. After a research visit to Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Tuebingen, Germany, and a postdoc Biomedical Imaging Group Rotterdam, Erasmus MC in The Netherlands, in 2017 she started as assistant professor of medical image analysis at Eindhoven University of Technology. Her research focuses on machine learning scenarios where few labels are available, such as transfer learning or meta-learning. In 2020, Veronika announced she is leaving her tenure track position in search of the next step where she can contribute to open & inclusive science. She blogs about these topics on, and gives talks and workshops to early career researchers. She also loves cats, which you will often encounter in her work.

Joeri Tijdink is a psychiatrist and assistant professor at the Amsterdam University Medical Center and VU Amsterdam in the Netherlands. After he obtained his PhD with his thesis entitled Publish & Perish, he is involved in several research projects studying research integrity. His research focuses on research integrity, research culture, and mental health in academia and also on ways to foster responsible research practices for researchers and within research institutions. He is the author of the self-help guide Scholar on the sofa; How to survive in academia.

Tweet by Esther Plomp (Data Steward TU Delft)

Data Horror Escape Room

Colalegues from VU Amsterdam, Leiden University, and the Eindhoven University of Technology joined forces to create an online escape room.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to plan for online events only. One online activity that has recently become popular is the digital escape room. An escape room is a game where a team of players has to solve a set of puzzles to “escape” a room in which they are “locked” or to defeat a villain. There is usually a theme and a story that brings the puzzles together. Digital escape rooms, as well as “in-person” escape rooms, are often used in educational settings. This format could offer a fun way to learn about research data management.

The room we created consists of six tasks related to the following data management topics: FAIR data, personal data, data archiving, data transfer, persistent identifiers, and metadata. As the room was to become part of the Data Horror Week around Halloween, a theme with ghosts and vampires was chosen.

The launch of the escape room as a live event at the VU was great success; we had 75 registrations and more than 60 participants during the event itself!

Tweet by Esther Plomp (Data Steward TU Delft)

The Data Horror Escape Room is now open for visits. Its setup has been covered in detail in a blog post by Joanne Yeomans, Lena Karvovskaya and Elisa Rodenburg.

We received great feedback from the research community and can’t wait to launch an improved version.

Tweet by Michael R. Crusoe (Researcher VU Amsterdam; @commonwl co-founder & #CommonWL Project Lead)

We are more than grateful for the successful Data Horror Week and most indebted to everyone who helped us alone the way!

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