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16 Mar 2016

RDA P7 Tokyo - from the lens of an IoT researcher

Blog by Eugene Siow, University of Southampton - RDA Europe Plenary 7 Early Career Programme Winner

First of all I would like to thank the RDA for the opportunity, with the early careers award, to attend the plenary in Tokyo. My current research work involves making Internet of Things (IoT) data both interoperable and performant in distributed infrastructures involving edge or fog computing and using it for analytics applications. The current situation in the IoT, however, is such that data is locked up in silos tied to devices and manufacturers whom, as Albrecht et al. express so vividly in their article [1], might value profit-making over our interests or the interests of society. I found it especially apt that we were reminded, in the opening of the Plenary, of the FAIR principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Re-usable) and I felt it extended to IoT data as well.

After the thought-provoking opening, we had breakout sessions with Working Groups, Interest Groups and Birds of the Feather gatherings. Birds of the Feather sessions, as I understood, are usually formed around areas of common interest (in which there are no existing WG or IGs) and are a precursor to forming IGs & WGs or for working out whether there are overlaps or  important research questions to solve and to draft charters. I attended several interesting and productive discussions and in particular got the chance to support the chairs of the Persistent Identifier Interest Group Session and the Birds of a Feather Session on Data Search. The notes from the sessions that I took can be found here: and

Each of the sessions I attended was informative (through presentations), interesting and, judging from the response of the audience in the discussions, not just for me. I also noticed the committment to moving forward the discussion and settling on concrete action points in each meeting. Besides the PID and Data Search sessions, I also attended sessions on Big Data (which was very popular), Repository Platforms and Data Fabric. A wonderful aspect of the make-up of the plenary participants was the good representation from both industry, government and academia.

As Mark Parsons mentioned, the main goal of RDA is to build both the social and technical bridges to make data sharing happen in Science. I see the IoT and its rapidly growing source of scientific data as a new frontier. How I think this might present new opportunities in terms of research data, shaped in part by the thoughts and conversations I had at the plenary, are that findability, interoperability and performance will once again come to the forefront in addition to real-time access and analytics on this data. Given that devices and metadata are quite dynamic and transient in the IoT, perhaps we need to, as T.S. Elliot puts it, find "the still point of a turning world" with repositories, open ecosystems, open architectures and open standards.

I am looking forward to contributing more with the RDA groups and to paraphrase what Mark said when asked at the early career session about RDA finances (in the style of St Lawrence of Rome), "the wealth of the RDA is its people". Cheers from the United Kingdom and Happy Easter!

[1] Albrecht, K., Michael, K.: Connected: To Everyone and Everything. IEEE Technology and Society Magazine pp. 31–34

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