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RDA 6th Plenary highlights

RDA 6th Plenary highlights
The RDA 6th Plenary meeting recently took place in Paris, 23-25 September, with the theme "Enterprise Engagement with a focus on Research Data for Climate Change". It was a full week for OpenAIRE, with our Advisory Board meeting taking place in Paris on the 21st and a pre-plenary workshop with the theme “Data and computing infrastructures for open scholarship” organised by our Director Natalia Manola on the 22nd (full report to follow - watch this space!). We here present some highlights of the meeting, as chosen by some of the OpenAIRE colleagues in attendance.


Wolfram Horstmann, State and University Library Goettingen ()

Among RDA’s hidden gems are the fruitful corridor discussions outside the regular meeting and working schedule. This time, a group explored bringing together architects of the world’s leading repository platforms to discuss a generic Repository API for Research Data. This would greatly improve the interoperability between different repository systems by providing a standard interface to move, migrate and share digital objects between the diverse and complex data repository landscape.

The group working on the “Long Tail of Research Data” is one of the largest in RDA. The 'long tail' has become a technical term in the RDA context to denote diversity, dispersion, and complexity of research data but it also has a connotation of dealing with 'small data' as opposed to 'big data'. It was therefore considered whether it would not be preferable to rather use the term “data-diversity” to reflect that the group is indeed dealing with one of the main characteristics of research data — and one of its biggest challenges.
Birgit Schmidt, State and University Library Goettingen ()

My highlight was the “supporting RDA women” networking meeting chaired by Dame Wendy Hall, University of Southampton, which focused on women’s underrepresentation in web/data science although they represent 50% of web users, and elaborated on the male-dominated research area “big data”. Participants agreed that it is essential to speak up when, for example, a research programme is imbalanced, and to increase women’s leadership at all levels of RDA.


Picture courtesy of @annijakobsson


Jens Harald Aasheim, CRIStin ()

There is a lot of talk about interoperability, discoverability and the use of metadata within the research data community. These topics were covered in a plethora of Interest Groups, Working Groups or Birds of a Feather sessions during the 6th plenary. An interesting part of this is the connection between datasets and publications, be it as a means to find which research papers reference a particular dataset or as a discussion on what the infrastructure serving the research community's data needs should look like. Things worth mentioning here are the tool presented by Australian National Data Service for finding connections between datasets (www.rd-switchboard.net), the THOR-projects (www.project-thor.eu) work on standardisation and seamless integration of articles and data, and the lack of discussion concerning the role of aggregators and CRISs (Current Research Information Systems) in the research data ecosystem.
Tony Ross-Hellauer, State and University Library Goettingen ()

For me personally, the highlight was the talk from Mark Parsons, RDA Secretary General, which opened the day of pre-plenary workshops on the 22nd September. What really struck a chord for me was in Mark’s unpacking of RDA’s mission statement to “build the social and technical bridges that enable open sharing of data”. Here it was not only the acknowledgement that an organization such as RDA cannot pursue solutions that are technical alone, and that cultural change is often the hardest part. More, it was Mark’s reminder that social problems are never really separate from technical/material ones – the two are always intimately bound together (which brought back to mind my student reading of Bruno Latour and Actor-Network-Theory </name-dropping>). This was a helpful reminder for me. In OpenAIRE we also have explicit “technical” and “social” dimensions; I’ve used this distinction myself in describing what we do. On the one hand we have technologies that harvest metadata to link up research with research outputs, that produce reports to support the Open Access policies of funders like the EC, etc.; on the other hand, we do outreach and advocacy, policy alignment, support and training. But for most (all?) areas of OpenAIRE, this isn’t really a true distinction. The issues are always both technical and social. Think of the OpenAIRE guidelines, for example - on which side of the social/technical divide would they sit? There is no answer other than "somewhere in between" - they are a social solution (data managers adopt a convention for exposing metadata) to a technical problem of interoperability. The same could be said of all the issues in Open Science that we are tackling. Mark’s talk was hence a timely reminder that the two “sides” of OpenAIRE are really one – and so the more fully we as a service address all our tasks as socio-technical ones, the better our outcomes will be.
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