Research Data Alliance (RDA) – second plenary meeting – Washington DC – 16th – 18th September.
Many readers of this blog will know about the Research Data Alliance already, but there will, I guess also be a lot of people that don’t. I am using this post as an introduction to the RDA – having this week been to Washington DC to attend the second plenary meeting of the organisation.
What with all of the interest and some urgency around research data publishing, management and re-use, at Government level, at university level, disciplinary level; and of course with an eye on research being global, there is a need to join the data up with shared practices, standards, policies and infrastructure. That’s where the RDA comes in.
Building on initiatives such as Data One in the US, the initiatives across Europe, such as the Jisc research data activity, that take place in many member states & have collectively informed the EC’s direction on research data infrastructure as part of the forthcoming Horizon 2020– and the Australian National Data Service, the RDA has been formed. It’s been formed to address the ‘joining-up’ challenges and to build a global community that can contribute to shared practice and ultimately a more sustainable way to build an infrastructure and the intersections required to support data-driven research and innovation.
The founding members from funding type agencies are the US National Science Foundation (working also with Chris Greer from NIST), the European Commission and the Australian National Data Service (ANDS) – over the past year these partners have carefully consulted and built a community that is global and encourages bottom up sharing and agreement. I have been to some prior gatherings, and had discussions with Ross Wilkinson from ANDS, Carlos Morais-Pires from the EC, Juan Bicarregui from STFC, and others; and witnessed their planning and progress. In Europe engagement is overseen by RDA Europe, Norman Wiseman from Jisc is on the Strategic Forum that oversees this on behalf of the Knowledge Exchange/KE (KE do alot of work on Research Data!). It’s a big ask – forming a structure that can collaboratively take on progressing the research data challenge. And I have to say the meeting this week in Washington demonstrated pretty impressive progress.
So in short over the past year a set of working groups and interest groups have been formed to collectively work on key issues, and Washington was really the first time that they were there face to face to develop their work – there was a first plenary meeting from the 18th -20th of March 2013 in Gothenburg, Sweden where the initiative was formally launched and groups started to form their case statement for work – but in Washington these groups were able to show early outcomes and to form firmer priorities and plans.
So what are they (we) working on ? it’s a long list [see here for the current list -https://rd-alliance.org/working-and-interest-groups.html]. Some of the areas that the groups are tackling: metadata & a metadata standards directory; legal interoperability; data citation; a community capability model; persistent identifiers; practical policy; data foundation & terminology; big data and analytics & more – including interest groups that cover some disciplinary areas – such as agriculture and history and ethnography.
This Alliance is forming – but from what I experienced in Washington it certainly has a lot of potential and should be an essential vehicle to research data interoperability. In Washington this week, following the group discussions there was a plenary update from all of them highlighting their priorities (given in the grand setting of the US National Academy of Sciences) and Mark Parsons, RDA/US Managing Director facilitated a discussion on the scope and ways of working. It was a really useful discussion; and one where I think there was consensus that RDA isn’t a standards body but more of a clearing house for best practice, standards and approaches. So if you’re interested join up? I think it is an important initiative that will help to address the organisational,social and technical infrastructure required for real research data sharing. Jisc, and the Digital Curation Centre (DCC) are engaged in the initiative and will continue to be so; and we will tie in UK activities as best we can so we can learn from others and also input the lessons and emerging practice from the UK so we get to that utopia …a global research data infrastructure (note:there are many UK participants already).
We will continue to give updates on progress to try and keep people in the loop. But if it is your bag – go ahead and join in the discussions. Currently there are 800 members from over 50 countries, and I can say from having been there this week it’s an impressive crowd…
Yes it is early days – but it’s important and thus far very positive. Looking forward to seeing more progress – I think there will be!