This year I was lucky: I received an Early Career Researchers Grant from RDA Europe as a follow up that allowed me to participate in the International Data Week in Gaborone, Botswana.
The International Data Week 2018 was comprised by the SciDataCon and the 12th Plenary Meeting of the RDA, and thus brought together researchers, data scientists, policy makers, and data stewards from all research disciplines. This great mix and the location of the venue in Botswana, was one reason for applying to the grant. The other was that I simply wanted to find out more about RDA and how to engage in its activities.
I first heard of RDA in November 2017 when attending an RDA Europe Workshop in Vienna (Data Stewardship Realized: From Planning to Action. Towards the Establishment of an Austrian Research Infrastructure), just a few months after I started working at the Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities, where I was helping in establishing a digital long-term archive for research data from the humanities, as well as submitting it for certification.
In Gaborone I was impressed by the sheer size of the conference. Four days densely packed with several parallel sessions and over 800 participants from all over the world, which all came together during the very interesting and enlightening plenary sessions. Despite the large variety in disciplines and participants all had one topic in common: data and how to keep and disseminate it for fellow and future researchers.
The most important thing I learnt during the week is that you are not alone with whatever problems or questions related to research data and repositories you might have. I am sure this will also apply to all upcoming RDA Plenaries. If there is (or has been) no Interest or Working Group already, there is still te possibility to start with a Birds of a Feather Group that eventually might become a new Interest or Working Group.
During the breaks and the poster sessions I had the chance to talk to representatives from institutions and initiatives I only knew from their publications. And yes, some Austrian delegates were also there! It turns out that sometimes you have to travel half way down the globe to learn that colleagues from the same city are actively working on things you have on the list (for me it is: DMP Common Standards WG).
It's now been a week since I came back to Vienna and I have a huge list of tools, information snippets, and related publications to follow up. They reflect the sessions I attended and cover topics such as FAIR data (BoF GO FAIR and Supporting FAIR Data), vocabulary-based projects (BoF Best Practices for Vocabulary-based Projects: Development, Standardization, Registration, Harmonization and Support), data citation (WG RDA/WDS Scholarly Link Exchange: From Recommendation to Roll-out), data usage metrics (WG Data Usage Metrics), repositories (Building, managing and maintaining data and knowledge-sharing ecosystems for medium-sized research centres and Repositories: Are we serving our scientists? Cross-learnings from multiple disciplines), and data versioning (WG Data Versioning). Not to forget all data activities in Africa, as e.g. the African Open Science Platform (AOSP).
Then there also was the conference's social programme starting with a bold opening ceremony with a keynote by Mokgweetsi Masisi, the president of the Republic of Botswana, including a highly skilled marimba band and traditional dancing. The dancers had a second appearance on the evening of the social dinner, with the latter offering a wide selection of great food including Botswanian specialities (the lunch buffet was equally great). During breaks the monkeys and peacocks provided a bit of amusement and tours to a nearby game reserve were also offered by the organisers.
By the large I am thankful for having had this opportunity! It is now on my side to keep up with groups I am interested in and maybe even establish a new working group around the topics, best practices, and challenges of long-term archiving and file formats suitable for preservation.