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17 Dec 2018

Report on the First RDA-France Annual Meeting (Paris, 5 December 2018)

The first annual meeting of the RDA France National Node was held on December 5th, 2018, the second day of the first ever Journées Nationales de la Science Ouverte (4-6 December, JNSO2018, Open Science National Days, see below). The National Node was created in March 2018 within the framework of the RDA Europe 4.0 project. It is the link between the national community, RDA Global and RDA Europe, it organises national activities related to RDA and disseminates information about RDA and RDA Europe activities to the French community to encourage participation. It is managed by CNRS, and coordinated by us, Françoise Genova (Strasbourg Astronomical Observatory) and Francis André (CNRS/DIST).

We have seen lots of interest for RDA, and more generally for science data sharing, since the creation of the National Node. A significant indicator has been the amazing growth of the pre-existing RDA-France mailing list, from 143 registered members at the end of May to 356 before the meeting, with 23 more registrations during the meeting and just after it. The National Node had participated in many events since March, but the Annual Meeting was the first occasion to gather the community. The huge interest in RDA, and more generally for open science, was immediately confirmed when registration for the meeting was open. About 400 people initially expressed interest for the RDA day, whereas there were only 200 seats in the amphitheatre! The whole meeting was webcasted live, and the videos are available on line. The room was full, and there were all in all 382 connections at some point during the day, with continuously 100 to 120 people on line.

We expected and effectively got participation of people with diverse profiles, researchers, IT specialists, librarians, data stewards, project managers, and also policy makers (facilitated by the fact that the meeting was organised at the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation) and funders. We also anticipated that many participants would not know much about RDA, whereas others would already be active in the Alliance. This diversity in participants’ profiles and organisation activity knowledge is a constant of RDA meetings, and has always to be taken into account so that all attendants can take the best advantage from their participation. The RDA day was organised with the aims to disseminate information about RDA activities and outputs and French participation in it, to offer a forum where French RDA active participants could exchange, to encourage participation and output adoption, and to discuss possible topics for RDA-France with the community.

The day was organised in four sessions: a general presentation of the RDA; feedback from French RDA members active in Working and Interest Groups; examples of adoption of RDA outputs; and a brainstorming about activities to facilitate data sharing to identify topics for RDA-France. We were lucky enough to have two prestigious international speakers for the introductory session: Hilary Hanahoe, the RDA Secretary General, and Christine Borgman, Distinguised Research Professor at UCLA.

The first session was introduced by Francis André, who gave an insight on the participants’ profiles, and Françoise Genova, who showed how to use the RDA web site to access the RDA-France web page and become a RDA member. Then Hilary Hanahoe gave a great presentation of RDA, RDA, Bienvenue à Bord/Welcome on Board, and Christine Borgman showed us how the RDA fits into the international landscape, both also referring RDA to the context of the French National Open Science Plan, which was published in July 2018 (French version, English version) and was central to the 3 days of the Open Science meeting.

The floor was then given to RDA members who work in France and are leading or active in RDA Working and Interest Groups (WGs & IGs) for the second session. The speakers were given a common template for their talks, each of the following points being exposed with one slide: context and issues (why the activity was proposed and the objectives); how the work was or is being performed; results; RDA contribution and difficulties encountered if any; and then – what are the follow-up activities. We heard contributions about several Agriculture Groups (Agricultural Data IG, Agrisemantics WG, Wheat Data Interoperability WG – Sophie Aubin, Esther Dzale Yeumo, INRA) , in which the French community has been very active from the beginning;  the Vocabulary Services IG (Clément Jonquet, LIRMM); the Global Water Information IG (Sylvain Grellet, BRGM); Exposing Data Management Plans WG  and Active Data Management Plans IG  (Marie-Christine Jacquemot, INIST); Software Source Code IG and Software Source Code Identification WG (Roberto di Cosmo, Univ. Paris Diderot/INRIA & Software Heritage), the Federated Identity Management IG and the Group of European Data Experts in RDA or GEDE (Carlo-Maria Zwölf, Paris Observatory); and Sharing Rewards and Credit (SHARC) IG (Anne Cambon-Thomsen, Laurence Mabile, INSERM/Univ. Toulouse III). This session allowed the participants to explore the wide palette of RDA topics, and to catch up that whatever their field of work and profile they were likely to find or could propose topics of interest for them. This was also the opportunity for the speakers to learn the activities and results of other RDA French members – an embryonic Forum of RDA French members.

The third session after lunch dealt with the next step in the life cycle of RDA-enabled activities following the work of the Working and Interest Groups: it exposed several examples of adoption of RDA recommendations.  Two talks were devoted to the outcome of the DSA-WDS Repository Audit and Certification WG, which merged the Data Seal of Approval (DSA) and World Data System (WDS) certification methods and criteria. As explained by Mustapha Mokrane (RD Consulting), DSA and WDS adopted the WG results, which led to the creation of CoreTrustSeal (CTS), which provides core level certification for trustworthy repositories. Gilles Landais (Observatoire Astronomique de Strasbourg) then explained why and how Strasbourg astronomical data centre CDS sought WDS, then DSA, then CTS certification. Adoption of repository certification by the French community is a priority of RDA France. Carlo-Maria Zwölf then showed how the Virtual Atomic and Molecular Data Centre VAMDC uses the ‘Dynamic Data Citation’ and ‘Scholix’ recommendation to enable proper citation of its data holdings, with a nice demonstration of the resulting citation ecosystem. Finally, Odile Hologne and Sophie Aubin showed how INRA, which has been one of the key actors of the development of the Agriculture topic in RDA, has been adopting multiple RDA recommendations, beyond the ones from the Agriculture Groups, with among others reference to the FAIRSharing Registry. They also explained the complementarity between RDA and the other organisations active in the field.

The last session was a lively brainstorming, starting with a discussion of the context and RDA role with respect to other elements of the national and European context. RDA is not a political organisation per se, but it can contribute to feed strategic thoughts. As an international, neutral forum, it enables its members to widen their network, to share good practices and to work in common on building blocks which are of interest for them or their organisation. It provides implementable recommendations and outputs, and is also a good place for technological and methodological watch.

Several topics of interest which could possibly tackled by the national node were discussed, with complementary input received afterwards. The topics are very diverse and would be useful at different levels: 

  • Relationship with the research infrastructures, in particular those from the National Research Infrastructure Roadmap, with the examples of Elixir, Huma-Num and Progedo. It could be useful to establish relationship with groups of infrastructures which have common missions and challenges;
  • The need to have a catalogue of specialists and available services was identified. CatOpidor could be a starting point but input from the community is needed to make it as accurate and exhaustive as possible (it is a collaborative space);
  • Capacity building activities for the implementation and usage of controlled vocabularies in the context of the semantic web, which requires a dialog between researchers, librarians/data stewards and IT specialists, was discussed in some details. Questions such as the definition of essential variables for different communities should be tackled at the international level. But a meeting to explore the different aspects which are relevant to the national level would be useful;
  • The creation of a group gathering the French teams which use DataVerse was proposed, both to RDA-France and the national Open Science Committee. This would be of interest for different research fields and different organisations;
  • The creation of a group gathering people in charge of cursus in Universities was proposed. They would be willing to use RDA expertise and it would provide them with a neutral meeting forum;
  • Use RDA-France to increase cooperation between RDA Working Groups, which is one of the RDA key objectives, by building a relationship at the national level which would be useful at the national level but could also be a trigger for improving interactions at the RDA Global level;
  • Possible extension to public data beyond research data;
  • Identify experts to increase the national presence internationally (one of the aims of the European and International College of the national Open Science Committee), and identify possible problems arising in European discussions.

RDA-France could also get a regional dimension. A test will be made with a meeting to be organised in Toulouse, with a presentation of RDA, a session on Certification, and a discussion of possible RDA Groups of interest for regional actors. This could be used as a template for other regional meetings if successful. It will be useful to collect the names of possible regional contact points.

The question of multilingualism was also asked. RDA France is translating RDA documents and providing resources in French, which can be used in other French speaking countries.

Not all the proposed activities are relevant to RDA-France, since other structures such as the Open Science Committee or the national networks which target different professional profiles (librarians, IT specialists, etc) can be more relevant. It would be very useful to create a RDA-France Forum to be able to tackle different activities without overloading the mailing list.

Participants were asked to fill an evaluation form which included suggestions for future topics. We got 101 forms, which is a sign of the participants’ interest and motivation! The forms will be used to evaluate the meeting, to understand how to organise the next annual meeting at best, and to get additional input on possible activities. Positive comments were also received from people who had attended the meeting remotely.

This meeting was the first act of the constitution of the RDA France community. We shared it with a vibrant crowd of very diverse people, and we warmly thank all the participants who attended on the spot or remotely for their interest and active involvement. We will go back to the community in the coming months with proposals for future actions.

Françoise Genova & Francis André




The Journées Nationales de la Science Ouverte were organised by the Comité pour la Science Ouverte (CoSO - Open Science Committee), newly created by the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation (MESRI), in the momentum of the Plan National pour la Science Ouverte. See the blog “Opening Science in France” by Hilary Hanahoe.

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