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28 Feb 2019

Introducing the RDA UK national node

The RDA UK node recently held its first workshop to introduce the node and its plans, give an overview of the RDA, provide an update on the RDA Europe project and grants, and encourage members to help shape the direction of the node. This followed on from the webinar which launched the node at the end of last year (recording available).

The UK node is one of nine national nodes established by the RDA Europe 4.0 project. A further call has increased this number to 13 nodes. This forms a network of nodes to foster adoption of RDA outputs in the region and thereby enable interoperability and data sharing on a global scale.

Each node will engage with research communities, support national agendas, contribute to the EU Open Science Strategy, and aim to increase the uptake of standards and participation in RDA globally. In collaboration with a diverse range of national and regional stakeholders, they support the RDA mission of building the technical and social bridges that enable open sharing of data.

With 766 members of the RDA, the UK has the largest membership in Europe and the second largest in the world (the USA has the largest membership at 1967). You can see the figures and membership growth for Europe in the European RDA Growth Dashboard. For worldwide figures and an overview of RDA global see the charts and slides, which are updated monthly, on the About RDA page.

As this was the first workshop its objective was to introduce the RDA and the UK node, and provide an overview of the activities and feedback from the last plenary. There will be two further workshops and these will be focussed on a particular theme and relevant RDA working and interest groups. There were 58 attendees from a variety of roles and disciplines. Slides from all presentations are available to download so the following is a summary of each talk.

Hilary Hanahoe, Secretary General of the RDA, gave an overview of the RDA and its direction. It’s a global organisation with nearly 8000 members from 137 countries and 101 working/interest groups across a wide range of disciplines. Regions help RDA reach out to local membership and the RDA gives regions an international forum and voice. Recommendations and outputs are being adopted and increasing adoption is part of the nodes’ remit.

Kevin Ashley, Director of the DCC, described the UK node which is led by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and supported by Jisc. This was followed by an overview of the events planned for the node, including two further workshops and regular webinars. The consensus was to hold the next workshop in June and then early 2020.

The RDA Europe 4 project provides a number of cascading grants and Kevin described the current calls for ambassadors, early career support, experts and the adoption and implementation of RDA outputs. Details of each call and deadlines are on the project’s grant page. We want to encourage UK members to apply for these grants so we are well represented and have examples of outputs being adopted and implemented in the UK.

In the last call for RDA Experts four out of the six experts were from the UK. Two of these experts gave an overview of their experience and the benefits of receiving funding from the RDA. Fiona Murphy comes from a publishing background but is active in a number of groups. Being supported to attend the plenary in Botswana was a positive experience and she found it useful meeting early career researchers. Hugh Shanahan has a researcher background in Computer Science. He’s had a number of issues around making sense of other people’s data. Culture can be the problem and, with many problems being social, he finds they are solved by talking to people. RDA is filled with people who think along similar lines and has provided the opportunity to meet these like-minded people. While attending the plenary in Botswana he learnt about other initiatives going on in Africa and this led to collaborating on a paper.

As an example of a working group, Peter McQuilton talked about the FAIRsharing working group. This is a joint FORCE11-RDA group. Originally aimed at the biosciences this has broadened out to the wider community. The outputs from this group include the FAIRsharing resource of interlinked records on standards, databases, repositories and data policies and a set of recommendations for users, producers, funders and publishers.

The most recent plenary was held in Gaborone in Botswana and Hilary led a session providing feedback on this event from those who attended. This was the first plenary held in Africa and formed part of International Data Week. David Carr (Wellcome Trust), Varcha Khodiyar (Springer Nature) and Ian Bruno (Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre) all agreed that the event was a success with lots of energy, provided a valuable new perspective on the region and was truly global. With so much going on at these events it’s often a challenge to know where to focus. There was a reminder that it takes time and effort to overcome some of the issues that groups are set up to solve and that the work is done by volunteers.

The final session was an open discussion on how to get involved in the UK node and shape its direction. Some of the suggestions included 1) having workshops and webinars between plenaries to provide updates; 2) a regular newsletter to the mailing list to summarise activities and group outputs; 3) members using the mailing list to communicate so it’s not just communication from the node to members; 4) promote the RDA at events; 5) ensure funders such as the UKRI are aware of the importance of the RDA, the size of UK membership and its impact.

The UK node is looking to increase membership and the adoption of RDA outputs in the UK. If you’re not already a member, you can find out about the benefits of membership and join a global community on the Individual Membership page on the RDA website. If you’re interested in finding out more about the RDA outputs and recommendations you can download this useful set of cards. If you have already adopted an output there’s a new page for collecting adoption stories. Please do check the RDA Europe Cascading Grants page for the grants on offer from the project.

If you would like further information about the UK node please contact Christopher Brown at Jisc and Juan Bicarregui at STFC. Finally, my thanks to all the speakers, in particular Kevin Ashley for stepping into the breach, and Rachel Drysdale for sharing her notes from the workshop.

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