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04 Feb 2019

Experiencing the International Data Week 2018 in Gaborone

Having participated in such an important and rich event as the International Data Week 2018 in Gaborone, composed of the 12th Research Data Alliance Meeting and the bi-annual international conference SciDataCon 2018, was both a privilege due to the obtained RDA’s Early Career Research Grant and an excellent opportunity to obtain more insights into the workings of the Research Data Alliance, as well as into other organizations that were responsible for the organization of the event,  such as the ISC Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA) and the ISC World Data System (WDS) and other African organizations and institutions, such as the University of Botswana (UoB) and the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf).

I happily recall the intense daily sessions with data experts from different scientific fields, fellow researchers, sharing their experiences with dealing with their research data, and open data advocates that made me even more enthusiastic about sharing and reusing data. The intense keynote addresses, plenary lectures/roundtables and daily sessions were followed by informal discussions over a cup of coffee and cake in a welcoming atmosphere of the Gaborone International Convention Centre (GICC) that encouraged even more productivity and mingling, whereas friendly organizers helped at every stage of the experience, even in cases where we were trying to discuss important topics at safaris nearby. Everything was well organized and taken care of.

Having been assigned to follow especially two of the RDA's group sessions in more detail, I have got the opportunity to get to know better all the chairs of the group and the documents/activites they are producing. My first assigned session was the interest group Sharing Rewards and Credit (SHARC) that is trying to stimulate the data/resource sharing process in different scientific fields through improving the mechanisms of crediting and rewarding of researchers. Currently, the interest group is including seven different scientific communities in its mechanism recommendations, that are biology and biomedicine, information sciences and technology, geospatial data, marine biology, biodiversity, industrial ecology and bioethics. Since my scientific background are social sciences and humanities, it was interesting to know about how other sciences are dealing with the same issues of not enough data sharing and/or lack of its added value in the eyes of researchers. It is always challenging to stimulate researchers to share more data, since most of them see it as only additional work that does either not pay off (no rewards) or even poses a threat to them in terms of data reuse (data and ideas theft).

My second assigned RDA session was the working group Empirical Humanities Metadata that is dealing with questions of what kind of metadata structure would be appropriate for humanities research data. Since I am an anthropologist and at the same time heavily involved in dealing with social sciences metadata structures through my work at the Slovenian Social Science Data Archive, this group was of great interest to me. Listening to fellow anthropologists and other humanities experts and researchers made me think about humanities research data from the point of view of efficient reuse and secondary understanding of what the researcher was planning to accomplish through his/her study. In this line, I believe it is very important to have information in the form of metadata also about the researcher himself/herself, as it can greatly contribute towards the understanding of the humanities research data.

In addition to the two assigned RDA sessions I was happy to participate in several other working and interest group session throughout the days, since they have provided very rich content and a lot of interesting insights for me both as a researcher and an expert working in a social sciences data archive. Even though it was at times exhausting to attend every session and be present at the event all the days, while there are so much interesting things to do in and outside of Gaborone, interesting talks with other attendees and sufficient amounts of coffee and refreshments that were available (despite some interruptions by monkeys), kept me energized and enthusiastic about each new session. I have received so many new information, ideas, and insights into interesting project results that I am still processing all this in my head and planning my next steps/projects.

Having been accepted as an RDA Early Researcher Grantee, I was encouraged to actively participate as much as I could in the International Data Week. For that reason I have also submitted a paper and a poster to the SciDataCon International Conference that were luckily both accepted to appear in the conference program despite the late submission.

My paper »Using DataVerse as a (Self)-Repository System for Data Archives« that was part of the session »Building, managing and maintaining data and knowledge-sharing ecosystems for medium-sized research centres«, talked about the experience of the Slovenian Social Science Data Archive (ADP) in trying to develop an additional service of a self-archiving tool for researchers and PhD students that would accompany our otherwise fully curated catalog. The Dataverse application was identified as the best option, meeting most of the needed requirements of such a service. Within the CESSDA 2018 project DataverseEU we were developing additional functionalities of the Dataverse software that include the installation of the software using a Docker container on the CESSDA cloud platform, the enhancement of the system to enable connection with a chosen Persistent Identifier (PID) provider, the enhancement of study and data file descriptions that would follow the CESSDA Metadata Portfolio structure and include the CESSDA Controlled Vocabularies, and the development of a multilingual user interface. The paper presented our experience in adjusting the Dataverse software application to our needs and exposed problems and workarounds that repositories should be aware of when wanting to adjust the application to their workflows.

The poster, entitled »Technical and Security Aspects of the CoreTrustSeal Application« was part of the session »Improving Data Repository Trustworthiness« and presented the past work through the CESSDA Trust Working Group of which I am part of. The poster identified technical and security infrastructure elements to be one of the most challenging for repositories undertaking self-assessments against the CoreTrustSeal. This is perhaps because staff undertaking self-assessments are usually from the curation rather than the technical side of the organisation. The CoreTrustSeal addresses the issues of technical and security infrastructure mainly through Requirements 15 and 16, however, technology and security aspects come into the picture throughout all of the Requirements. Repositories, doing their self-assessments against the CoreTrustSeal should be aware of the issues they need to take into consideration when conducting self-assessments. The poster presented an overview of all of the Requirements from the technical and security point of view, focusing in more detail on Requirements 15 and 16, and identified possible questions, issues, and activities repositories should take into consideration when preparing the application for the CoreTrustSeal. It showed what activities and supporting evidence could be provided for in order to meet the requirements.

In addition to actively participating in the SciDataCon International Conference, I have also prepared a poster for the RDA Poster Session. The title of my poster was »Building a Research Culture of Open Data in Marketing« in which I presented the work I am currently starting with my dissertation in the field of marketing. Research data availability and accessibility are the main elements of open science agenda that aim to enhance the cost-effectiveness of socio-economic resources and the reusability of data beyond the initial research project or time constraints of the original data collectors and tries to promote higher reproducibility and transparency in science. The poster presented a model of how a transparent research culture in marketing science could be developed, starting from the initial research ideas that are developed within the planning cycle, going through the research project cycle to the final publication, preservation and dissemination cycle.

At the end I would like to say that participating in the International Data Week with the help of the RDA's Early Research Grant was truly a privilege, since otherwise I would never be able to attend such an exciting event, located so far away from my home. I highly hope that the newly gained contacts with many of the participants will be kept over the years, sharing each other’s experiences and support each other’s academic and professional endeavors. I would strongly recommend my friends and colleagues to follow my example and apply to obtain the RDA’s support to attend future plenaries, such as the following one in Philadelphia. The application for Early Career Researcher Grant or for the Expert Grant is very easy and not at all time consuming; however the experience and the support you get from the RDA is truly worth the effort and you will be amazed about how much new knowledge and contacts you will get.

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