Bridging the divide. Reflections on university-industry collaboration for the development of the graduate certificate in petroleum data management

Date26 September 2019
Published date26 September 2019
AuthorFionnuala Cousins,Peter Reid,Elizabeth Tait
Bridging the divide
Reflections on university-industry
collaboration for the development of the
graduate certificate in petroleum
data management
Fionnuala Cousins and Peter Reid
School of Creative and Cultural Business,
Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK, and
Elizabeth Tait
Department of Business IT and Logistics,
Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Australia
Purpose The purposeof this paper is to present ananalysis of the developmentof a new graduate certificate
course in PetroleumData Management. The coursewas developed in response to an identifiedgap in skills and
training in data management that was perceived to be a substantial risk in terms of:industry sustainability,
efficiency and potentially wider implications of safety as assets are transferred between operators and for
decommissioning.The aim of this paperis to critically reflect on howacademia and industry can worktogether
to support emergingprofessions in information management.
Design/methodology/approach The paper draws on observations and interviews from key stakeholders
involved in the course development.
Findings The course development process was ultimatelysuccessful but also challengingand lessons have
been learned which will be of interest to the wider professional and academic body. These include: securing
resourcesand industry engagement for coursedevelopment, negotiatingcultural differences betweenacademic
and industry and managing stakeholder relationships throughout the lifecycle of thecourse development.
Originality/value The paper demonstrates the challenges and opportunities of developing a university
course in collaboration with industry partners. Oil and gas exploration and production is a data-intensive
industry but it was only relatively recently that attempts have been made to set industry standards and roles
of data manageror data analysthave been created to manage these. This paper has wider implications for
understanding the professionalisation of the nascent data management disciplines and contributes to the
ongoing dialogue around the changing library and information science profession.
Keywords Information management, Oil and gas, Data management, Professionalisation,
Distance learning
Paper type Research paper
The UK Energy Act (2016) recognises the need for management of petroleum data and increases
the obligations and duties for licensees and other personswith respect to the stewardship and
reporting of information and samples. Sanctions can now be enforced for non-compliance and
these developments reflect an emerging global trend towards regulation. In response to this
regulatory backdrop, the Petroleum Data Management (PDM) graduate certificate course was
developed in collaboration between Common Data Access (CDA) which is currently a subsidiary
of Oil and Gas UK and Robert Gordon University (RGU), Aberdeen. CDA facilitates the sharing
of costs and benefits of collaboratively managing high-value oil and gas geotechnical data,
primarily from their subsurface well and seismic data. As will be demonstrated in this paper,
their scope and remit extends into the wider issues surrounding data management in the oil and
gas industry. CDA operates on a membership basis, including most UK North Sea oil and gas
operators, as well as service companies and universities.
Journal of Documentation
Vol. 75 No. 6, 2019
pp. 1213-1229
© Emerald PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/JD-12-2018-0206
Received 5 December 2018
Revised 27 March 2019
Accepted 4 April 2019
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Petroleum data
The oil and gas industry continues to be a major provider of energy and employmentand
there is a need for both existing data management practitioners, as well as fresh talent to
maximise current and future opportunities. A report on data management (Common Data
Access et al., 2011) revealed that 70 per cent of the value generated by the exploration and
production (E&P) activities of oil companies relies on accurate understanding of the
subsurface, and accuratedata is a key to thatunderstanding.However, as will bedemonstrated
in this paper, there is a widespread belief that data management is undervalued in the
petroleum industry and, therefore, there is a compelling need to professionalise this area.
In other professional disciplines, this has been achieved by understanding the routes into the
profession, the establishment of professional bodies and ongoing professional development,
i.e. through established education and qualifications along with the training and evidence of
competence. Prior to the development of the PDM course, this provision did not exist for
petroleum data managers and it is this deficiency that provides the backdrop to the
development of the graduate certificate PDM and to the wid er professionalisation agenda
which will be discussed in this paper.
The course comprises four consecutive modules. The first module, BS3965 Managing
Subsurface Exploration and Production Data, situates PDM practice within business needs.
The second module, BS3966 The Data Management Lifecycle, is the core information
management module in that it establishes the data managers responsibility along the cradle-to-
grave data lifecycle. The third, BS3967 Providing Data Management Ser vices, allows
students to step back from day-to-day user support and examine managerial challenges. The
final module, BS3968 Data Quality and Governance, establishes the components of data
governance. In essence, this course is an information management course that is heavily
contextualised to E&P data management. The transferable skills developed in the course are in
line with those developed in any IM course at this level.
As this paper will demonstrate, part of the challenge of professionalisation is that PDM is an
interdisciplinary field combining geoscience, computing, information management and data
management. In practice, this means that while PDM recruits staff from these fields, staff
members tend to stumble intoPDM rather than actively pursue it. Further, there is an ongoing
risk that having stumbled in, they will return to their original, clearer career path susbequently.
More broadly, this also reinforces the notion that PDM is not an established discipline, or part of
one, and cannot offer a fulfilling career path on a par with established disciplines, such as
engineering. A consistent, transparent and, preferably, prestigious entry into practice is one of
the hallmarks of a profession (Bourdieu, cited in McEwen and Trede, 2014). Thus, in this course
development project a core challenge was to deliver a course that had both the necessary
academic and real worldrigour and also advanced the professionalisation of PDM by offering
a transparent entry point into the field while ensuring that the wider educational values such as
critical thinking and reflection were embedded in the learning outcomes of the course. This
required intense collaboration between the academics and industry over a period of several
years (including prior to the formal contract for development of the course being signed) and
involved significant investment in time, resources as well as stakeholder management to
achieve shared understandings and negotiations between the starkly different worlds of
academia and industry. The aim of this paper is to critically discuss these challenges and
opportunities within the wider context of the professionalisation of data management within the
petroleum industry.
Literature review
Universityindustry collaboration
Knowledge exchange and collaborations between universities and industry are well-established
and are supported through government policy and funding awards. DEste and Patel
(2007) identify five key mechanisms of collaboration: creation of new physical facilities,

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