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26 Apr 2017

RDA Plenary 9 in Barcelona | IG Libraries for Research Data (L4RD)

It was early in the morning of our last day at the 9th Plenary Meeting in Barcelona when I received an email from Michael Witt, one of the IG L4RD chairs, welcoming me into the group and informing me on how I could be of use at their session which was about to start within the next hours.

As a participant with a library-centric background, I was looking forward to that session, thus I believe it is needless to mention how having even this tiny contribution to its activities made me feel!

The session started at 09.00 o’clock and the Plenary room was quarter full of delegates (91 in total, to be more precise!). Among them there were library managers, data librarians and librarians representing all different posts found within a library (regardless of its type: national, public, academic or private), computer scientists working for and/or collaborating with libraries, archivists, researchers, students and all kind of data enthusiasts.

Moderators for this session were the group’s chairs: Kathleen Shearer, Executive Director of the Confederation of Open Access Repositories, Wolfram Horstmann, Director of the Göttingen State and University Library and University Librarian of Georg August Universität Göttingen and Michael Witt, associate professor of library science and the head of the Distributed Data Curation Center (D2C2) at the Purdue University Libraries.


Bringing Research Data Management into the Library Mainstream w/K Shearer & W Horstmann #RDAPlenary

— Martin Kalfatovic (@UDCMRK) 7 Απριλίου 2017


Kathleen marked the opening of a very informative and productive morning with a brief introduction to the scope and goals of the IG, followed by an overview of its successful past activities such as: 23 Things: Libraries for Research Data, papers regarding library services and skills to be established as well as internal and external collaborations achieved with other WGs/IGs/BoFs and Organisations (like IFLA, ALA, LIBER), respectively.

Moving from past to present activities, Wolfram announced the beginning of the so-called “Lightning talks”, consisted of explanatory practices derived from data-related projects undertaken by research libraries and institutions in Europe, Australia and the U.S.A. Following the scope of the IG L4RD, representatives described the type of Research Data Services (RDS) that exist in their libraries by indicating the steps that they followed in order to develop those services, the main areas of their focus, the challenges that they faced as well as their solutions to problems that arose during these exercises. They also shared their plans for future implementation, if any.


Below, I tried to include each talk’s highlights and questions answered at the end, in the most compacted way possible:


“Our focus at the moment is faculty management, research data management and policies” - Monica Lassi

Monica Lassi from Sweden, in her talk entitled “Developing research data services at Lund University Library”, introduced us to the ongoing practices that they have been following in order to develop sustainable RDS. Since Lund University consists of 23 libraries, where every faculty has a library, they have experienced difficulties in finding a common ground. That is why they have been working with faculty and researchers, to better understand their needs in order to successfully support their data and metadata queries. For them, it is a two-way exercise, where they all learn from each other. It is estimated that the institutional RDM policy will be completed within the next 2 years, during which librarians at Lund University will be devoting 25% of their time to research data activities that includes also participation in workshops for researchers and faculty engagement and collaboration with external data-related organisations and data centers.


“(This activity was) driven by funder requirements and practical issues such as storage and drupal proposals” - Mariëtte van Selm

With her presentation entitled “Can you help me understand?”, Mariëtte van Selm from the Library of University of Amsterdam/ Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, briefly explained the work that has been done, since 2013, in developing their institutional RDM programme. More specific, today, they have set up a bilingual website with general and discipline specific information and they provide researchers with training on RDM issues as well. A service desk runs during office hours, not only by the two data librarians occupied in the library, but by other librarians, too. They use a common emailing list to respond to researchers’ queries, which translates to approximately 3-5 emails per day. At the moment, their focus is on RDM plans and data storage issues for the better accommodation of which they have been building networks across and beyond campus. Lastly, they are in the process of tailoring an institutional repository for data to be shared, stored and published.


“The DOI system is the glue for our project” - Angelina Kraft

A data citation-driven approach was described by Angelina Kraft, from the German National Library of Science and Technology (TIB), with her presentation “Enabling Scientific Publication and Citation – Role of Libraries”. Angelina informed us about their project that started as a DOI infrastructure and evolved to Data Cite with a focus on university libraries as well. She also talked about the TIB infrastructures and collaborations with big data centers (like DKRZ, pangaea, eso) that hold their multi-disciplinary data and digital objects. Admittedly, among the challenges encompassing ‘long-tail’ data preservation they identified heterogeneity issues, lack of unique standards and the amount of resources required to set-up and maintain a long-term research data infrastructure. Examples of the tools that they have developed to support data and digital objects management and citation are: a. RADAR, an interdisciplinary research data repository which preserves long tail, FAIR data and b. an Audio Visual Portal where Media Fragment Identifiers (MFIDs) are being used in order to make the digital objects citable at specific spots within their content. MFIDs are add-ons to DOIs and can be integrated with other technologies in strong infrastructures. The speech concluded with an indication to the importance of setting up trust with researchers and coming up with new workflows to accommodate research needs.


The Leiden Universities’ catalogue capacities

From Leiden University Libraries, Netherlands, Fieke Schoots gave an overview of their RDM Services catalogue. Their “Leiden Research Data Information Sheets” describe 50 services to provide researchers with information on the most suitable sources to use before, during and after the research process. That means that they cover issues from storage and metadata schemas to legal aspects and funding. They focus on all stakeholders: researchers with RDM provisions, faculties/ research institutions with protocols implementation, institution/ICT for the architecture and partners/ vendors for better coordination and supplies. Fieke also stated that ICT and external partners participated to the development of these services and that the catalogue has been developed with views from the UKDA lifecycle, Phase, the Data Curation Continuum and evaluated according to policies and evaluation protocols. However, their institutional RDM policy will be implemented by 2019.


“The biggest challenge is willingness” - Malcolm Wolski

With his talk entitled “ECOcloud for researchers”, Malcolm Wolski from Griffith University in Australia, introduced us to the infrastructure that they have been working on and is expected to be released in September 2017. It’s about “a place that all environmental, climate and biodiversity data is dynamically and natively available to common analysis tools”. Malcolm described the architecture and the technology behind it by confirming integration and interoperability problems as well as data discovery issues due to diversity of data. He also stated that the hardest areas to attack are relevant to their brokering system in correlation with the institutional repository. The speech ended with highlighting their need to interact with local institutional repositories and published institutional data as well as to collaborate with librarians and post-graduates.


“Can libraries act as concierges to provide reference service and connect users to resources and data services available to them?” - Michael Witt

Last on the “Lightning talks” list was Amy Nurnberger’s presentation entitled “Mission impossible: What do you do when the data doesn’t fit the repository?”, where University of Columbia Libraries paradigm was explained. Recognising the rapid pace with which data are being created and stored in their institutional repository, storage became an inevitable problem to be resolved. The creation of disciplinary repositories was rejected due to lack of resources, hence why they will be developing their own data centers, instead. For that purpose, they work closely with the library’s ITs, responsible for research and preservation issues, and altogether they collaborate with researchers to build sustainable RDS that will better accommodate and support research needs.


★    Note: To view the slides as presented at the 9th Plenary Meeting in Barcelona, please go to:


"Future of libraries is dependent on taking a larger role in research data management " Kathleen Shearer #RDAPlenary

— BHL Program Director (@BHLProgDirector) 7 Απριλίου 2017


The main question that members and attendees of the IG L4RD in Barcelona were invited to contribute their answers to was “How to move RDS in the libraries main stream? Is there a role that this group within RDA can play?”, as addressed by Kathleen Shearer.

Participants immediately responded to the call, ideas started floating around in the room as people were enthusiastically exchanging opinions and analysing their suggestions as to the gaps that they had also identified and to the best directions to take in that matter. The outcome of this interactive discussion is summarised into 6 +1 suggestions, which at the same time show the areas that could kick a start in defining new activities to be performed by the IG in the future. These activities will involve ways to better:

1. formalise the role of library around RDM

2. provide value beyond institutions

3. librarians to confidently adopt the services and provide support

4. define services within the data librarian role (e.g. for traditional librarianship one of these services is cataloging)

5. build bridges, internally and externally, through collaborations and engagement with other stakeholders

6. help researchers during the process of research, because - as very accurately stated by a delegate - “researchers don’t wait for solutions, they build their own solutions”


7. look at resource allocations and models and share this information within RDA, which could potentially mean the creation of a new WG

The session closed with Michael Witt announcing the new co-chairs of the Interest Group Libraries for Research Data (L4RD):  Birgit Schmidt and Andi Ogier. They will be taking Kathleen and Wolfram’s places with a tenure that is expected to have a span of two years time.


★   Note: You can find more tweets shared while the Plenary Meeting in Barcelona was underway by searching for the hashtags: #RDAPlenary, #rdaplenary9, #rda9.


The interactive part of the L4RD session made me realise the importance and the vast spectrum of opportunities that characterises these meetings. Not only group members get to better communicate with each other, assess the old and set new goals and prioritise activities in their progress timeline but they also learn from each other's experiences as well as they achieve collaborations with new members, libraries, organisations and with other IGs/WGs, too.


To wrap up my post, I would like to thank everyone behind the RDA for opening these opportunities to early careers! It was an amazing Plenary Meeting that I wish every data enthusiast could have experienced with us! In fact, I hope that this blog post helps a bit in that respect! :)



Elli Papadopoulou


P.S. Thank you to Michael Witt for welcoming me into the group and for all of his support!

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