The data sharing community: playing YOUR part

500 members of the Research Data Alliance attended a Plenary Meeting in Dublin.

"We are taking our work beyond Europe's borders, to reach global scale. To make the scientific resources of the world work together, interoperating and open to discovery. For example we are working with partners like the US and Australia in the Research Data Alliance to make scientific progress broader, deeper and more workable".

Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda - Open Access to science and data = cash and economic bonanza, 19 November 2013.

The Research Data Alliance

Over 1600 Research Data Alliance (RDA)[1] members, experts in different fields and from all over the world, are working together to solve data challenges.  

Ireland co-hosted the third plenary meeting[2] of these experts from 26 to 28 March 2014. 500 RDA members gathered in Croke Park Stadium, Dublin to work intensively on  a range of problems - from scientific community requirements to utilise big volumes of data; the importance of data to the development of global agriculture; and the development of a common global framework for the management of marine data.

The Working Group approach

RDA members are trying to address big issues by fragmenting them, favouring a working group or interest group approach. 

An example of this is the PID Information Types Working Group (PID WG)[3].  At the meeting, members discussed the scope and functionality of its main output, an Application Programming Interface (API) for interaction with typed information closely associated with Persistent Identifiers (PIDs).  From a ‘data generator’ and user point of view, there are several road blocks which need attention, starting at the lower levels of the data life cycle, such as the varied use of techniques within structural biology, availability of wet laboratory protocols, accessing primary unpublished data, data management, and maintaining and developing data and metadata. From the discussion at the end of the seminar, it was evident that these issues need to be tackled from the level of the researcher.

At the Data Citation WG[4]  existing concepts were challenged by insightful questions and an impressive number of pilots and additional use cases were proposed from domains as varied as nuclear physics, oceanography and the humanities.  The Community Capability Model Interest Group (CCM IG)[5] highlighted areas of particular concern in the development and employment of the profile tool.  These include:

  • legal, ethical and commercial issues;
  • informed consent for reuse and repurposing;
  • appraisal and quality control;
  • trustworthiness;
  • scale and complexity of data;
  • publication and sharing;
  • citation attribution and accreditation in scholarly communications.

These issues are, of course, at the heart of many discussions within RDA. Consequently CCM IG members are concerned with a range of issues that are of interest for RDA members. Indeed, it is the core purpose of the IG to do this work for the benefit of the whole Alliance.

What was so striking about Dublin were the constant, on-going intense discussions which took place literally everywhere. People gathering in small groups everywhere inside – and outside – the conference venue to talk about issues related to research data.

Rather than being a niche gathering, it was a place for people who "care about how the sharing of research data can progress to discoveries that have the potential to be of benefit to all" (Dr Ruth Adler, the Australian ambassador to Ireland). Research data is costly enough and difficult enough to generate in the first place; having it sitting forgotten on a hard drive somewhere, never to be shared, is not only careless but also not in the spirit of scientific endeavour.

Research is continuously evolving and data is generated exponentially.  It may be challenging to implement some of the policies and solutions proposed by the RDA.  Yet the enthusiasm and attentiveness of the attendees suggests that the RDA will be successfully in overcoming many of these issues. 

The next RDA Plenary meeting takes place in Amsterdam 22-24 September 2014.

Join this global endeavour, register to the on-line community and become a Member of RDA it’s open to all and free of charge

About RDA: RDA was launched in March 2013 by the European Commission, the US National Science Foundation and the Australian Government through the Australian National Data Service (ANDS).

This article was compiled from RDA member blogs, in particular the winners of the Early Career Researcher & Scientists working with data grants to attend the meeting.