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08 Jan 2015

RDA 4th plenary meeting - Impressions of a newcomer

Hello everybody and sorry for my late post in this blog: I wrote the following entry long time ago, but for some reason as yet unclear I must have forgotten to upload it on the website. My bad.
I am a PhD student in Information and Computer Science Engineering at the University of Pisa and I work as research fellow for the National Research Council (CNR) always in Pisa. As one of the winners of the Early Career Support Programmes, in this post I would like to share my experience and impressions of the 4th RDA Plenary Meeting held in Amsterdam.
First of all, I would like to thank everyone for the terrific organization of the whole event (from both business and leisure points of view). The number of participant was impressive: practitioners and domain experts coming from all over the world and from the most diverse fields of studies. This was my first time with RDA and I’ve been hit by the atmosphere: it was kind of solemn and convivial at the same time. Students, seasoned professionals, research data champions and, most of all, friends getting back together, chatting and networking in one fine expression of interdisciplinarity.
On day one, the plenary session began with three talks by Mr. Robert Jan Smits, (Director General DG Research, European Commission), Mrs. Neelie Kroes (Vice-President of the European Commission) and Prof. Barend Mons (Biosemantics Group at Leiden University Medical Center and Head of Node of ELIXIR-NL).
After the plenary session, the first poster session for early career scientists began. Frankly, I was a bit tense for it was the first poster I’ve ever presented, however it was a nice opportunity to challenge myself and meet other young researchers. Moreover, having the chance to talk about my PhD purpose helped me a lot in clarifying and steer the upcoming work.
As a minor remark, I have to say that the location for posters wasn’t the best available: it was indeed well visible for everyone, but it was just a bit too far from where people used to stand, meet and chat during the breaks. We didn’t have so many “visits” throughout all the poster sessions.
Right after the first poster session, parallel breakout session started, namely Interest Groups (IG), Working Groups (WG) and Birds of a Feather (BoF). Also, a Science Stream was held in the main all.
I was assigned to the Service Management IG and I had to hasty conclude an interesting conversation about my poster I was having with a librarian and rush to the IG room. There I met Mr. Owen Appleton and Mr. Sy Holsinger, whom I thank for their clear and effective presentation about what IT Service Management (ITSM) is and possible approaches. The IG was a quite new one, in fact just a few attendants were present (about a dozen, I suppose); nonetheless there were several opportunities to interact and ask for clarification.
The IG followed the outline proposed in the slides (which can be found here in the File Repository).
First, we went through some definitions:
  • ITSM: it aims at providing high quality IT by defining, establishing and services meeting customers' and users' expectations by defining, establishing and maintaining service management processes.
  • Service: a way to provide value to a user/customer through bringing about results that they want to achieve
  • Service provider: Organisation or federation (or part of an organisation or federation) that manages and delivers a service (or services) to customers
We also debunked some common beliefs about ITSM costs and practices.
Then we moved to analyze ITSM key goals in making services more predictable, strategic, manageable and sustainable both in short and long term. We also explored the state of the art in ITSM highlighting the three approaches most known and well established, namely ITIL, ISO/IEC 20000 and COBIT. These traditional service management practices however assume a single central control and seldom foster collaborative approaches. Furthermore are extremely “heavyweight” and adopt “management jargon” which is often not warmly welcome in academic and research institutions.
Owen introduced finally FitSM a lightweight, simple and achievable ITSM solution for the research and academic sector designed by members of the e-Infrastructures community together with leading ITSM professionals. FitSM is free, simple and compatible with major ITSM solutions such as ITIL and ISO/IEC 20,000.
On day two and three, I was free to attend the sessions I liked most, though I had seriously a hard time in choosing what to pick. A particular mention must be awarded to the enlightening keynote lectured by Prof. Christine Borgman (Professor Presidential Chair in Information Studies at UCLA) titled "Data, Data, Everywhere, Nor Any Drop to Drink".
Everything in Amsterdam was great, interesting and perfectly organized and I would like to say my deepest “thank you” to RDA and to the Early Career Support Programme which gave me the opportunity to attend this event. I hope I will have the chance to join RDA again in next plenary meetings.
Andrea Mannocci

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