As an RDA Europe Early Career grantee, it was a special honor to participate in the 14th plenary meeting in Helsinki and enter the world of RDA. After the Japan Open Science Summit earlier this year, this was only my second conference. Being quite new in the business, it was exciting to go to P14, since I was not sure what to expect. Now, two weeks after the plenary, I can say that it was one of my best decisions to apply for the grant and go to Helsinki. In the next few paragraphs I would like to explain why it was so enriching for me to be at P14, and describe some impressions and thoughts from the perspective of a newcomer.
It is not a coincidence that one day before the official start of the conference, the EOSC side event took place. What a waste of brains and skill it would be not to take advantage of the bundled RDA force being present at the conference. To explain what EOSC is, often the parable of the blind men and the elephant is used. I feel like EOSC is a mammoth (project), but RDA members have X-ray vision.
The European Union, being the most successful peace project in the history of humankind, not only brought peace and prosperity to more than 500 million citizens but also gives them the right to live, study, work and travel in any member state. EU governance is complicated as you need to reach consensus between 28 member states. However, in the light of the success story, it seems more than rewarding. During the RDA for Newcomers session an African proverb was quoted describing the work of RDA on a global scale and reminding me of the EU and EOSC:
"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."
- African proverb
International collaboration and cooperation may not always be the fastest way to achieve a goal, but certainly the most sustainable and promising. I am optimistic that EOSC will digitize the EU’s single market and connect millions of researchers and professionals in science. During the panel discussion I especially liked the comment by EOSC executive Sarah Jones that we need to learn from commercial service providers like Google or Dropbox when building services for researchers. A focus must be on the researcher’s needs and the usability of services. I cannot agree more with that statement, services need to be intuitive and easy to use but also must be secure, e.g. when dealing with sensitive data.
Dealing with sensitive data at research institutions was the session topic of the Research Data Architectures in Research Institutions IG. Ville Tenhunen pointed out that researchers have a need to capture, store, share and distribute sensitive data. The protection of sensitive data is often regulated by law, but there is no indication of how it should be implemented, which is the subject of data security. Clearly, institutions need to help researchers protect their sensitive data by providing secure services and storage. However, security often comes with some level of inconvenience for users that requires a behavioral change.
To discover the behaviour of researchers in their open data practice is the aim of the IG for Surveying Open Data Practices. In the session a tool called SuAVE was presented which can help in comparing existing survey results. However, it is a challenging task since question text differs between surveys and a meaningful translation between different languages, e.g. Japanese to English is difficult. The latest State of Open Data Report 2019 from Digital Science shows that still 54% of responding researchers have never heard of the FAIR principles. I think there is still a long way to go until researchers have more awareness of open data and the potential benefits of sharing their data. A funny comment from the audience was that we only would have to wait 40 years until all researchers retire and new generations of Open Science-affine researchers take over. Well, I hope we don’t have to wait that long.
There were so many excellent sessions that I could attend, but I cannot squeeze all of my take-aways in this blog post. Although a common topic where I can see contact points to almost all the sessions I’ve participated in are machine-actionable DMPs (maDMPs). Luckily, I’m working on this topic myself, and I’ve been able to introduce a demo tool that I developed in the session of the DMP Common Standards WG. Thanks to the group chairs at this point! I got lots of positive feedback and contacts to people from related systems like re3data/DataCite, DMPTool or Dataverse. There are so many use cases to explore and it is definitely exciting to be part of the “maDMP-movement”. Also, the big number of people attending the joint meeting organised by the Active Data Management Plans IG shows me that there is a huge interest in a next generation of DMPs. Coming back to the contact points to other sessions I can see (just to mention some):
- PID IG: It's All About the Metadata!
As we learnt in the session, metadata is the key! Metadata combined with unique, persistent, resolvable identifiers is even better. The current state of initiatives like PID Graph, ROR or the Handle system were presented in the session. PIDs are also a key element of maDMPs! PID systems like ORCID, DOI, GRID, ROR, DataCite, Crossref etc. allow to unambiguously identify entities and resources described in a maDMP. Besides making a DMP more meaningful, PIDs also help to connect, as described in the next point.
- IG - Open Science Graphs for FAIR Data
It was the first session of the IG after a successful BoF at P13, and several activities in the domain of research data graphs were presented. The group decided to include considerations of higher-level object graphs like institution relationships but also knowledge graphs which focuses on research content and facilitate the discovery of findings. In any case, Open Science Graphs will make research more transparent and discoverable. maDMPs containing links to entities and resources of the research ecosystem like researchers, institutions, projects, funders, repositories, datasets etc. could also be represented as a graph and show connections to other maDMPs and for instance make projects discoverable that use the same datasets.
- Criteria for repository selection, qualification and certification (joint meeting)
There are several initiatives like CoreTrustSeal, FAIRsharing recommendations, or repository selection criteria described by journals and publishers which help researchers identify repositories where they can safely put their data. A good place to start thinking about where to deposit your data is writing a DMP. I think there is a huge potential for automation at this point when we take advantage of the information encoded in a maDMP, like type of data, size, used metadata standards, budget for curation and deposit, funder information etc. Additionally, if we encode data policies and criteria for repository selection also in a machine-actionable format we can use this information to automatically search a repository registry like re3data or FAIRsharing and get a ranked list of recommended repositories.
- Healthy architectures for healthy data - sharing approaches for sensitive data architectures
In the session sharing approaches for sensitive data were discussed. Interestingly sensitive data can also be FAIR. FAIR data is not necessarily open, e.g. by making metadata publicly available, but restricting access to the actual data. In a DMP you have to describe how you intend to deal with personal and sensitive data if applicable. In an automated workflow for maDMPs secure services at the research institution can be recommended, when datasets are flagged as personal or sensitive. In this fashion researchers find out about available services they can use on the one hand and on the other hand ICT operators find out about secure service demands. Automated workflows for maDMP can help to better integrate RDM infrastructures at research institutions and promote available services for better data practice.
To conclude this blog post I would like to thank RDA Europe for enabling me to participate in the plenary meeting! It was a fantastic experience to be there and soak up the great spirit of RDA. Hope to be back soon!