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03 May 2017

Research Data Alliance: why to get involved

For the past years, Research Data Alliance (RDA) has been kindly welcoming early career researchers and fellows to Plenary Meetings held twice a year in different locations around the World. This year (2017) I was among the lucky people that were awarded a scholarship in order to attend the 9th Plenary Meeting in Barcelona, between 5-7 of April.

I still can not describe all those wonderful feelings I have because of that fact, so I thought that the best way to put them into words is to share with you my own story and opinions regarding the Research Data Alliance.

But first, let me take you back to how I actually found out about data management and RDA!

It was back in 2013 that I had to do a six-month placement at a library post, so that I complete the required from the Alexander Technological Educational Institute of Thessaloniki working experience before getting my degree in Library Science and Information Systems. I decided to apply for the Erasmus grant and do my placement at the University of Bath Library, UK.

“Happy me - spontaneously - walking away from the Library’s main entrance”

It must have been one of my very first days in the Library when Mrs Linda Humphreys, Science Faculty Librarian and my supervisor, had organised all sort of inductions aimed to introduce me to the library services, staff and available resources. What caught my eye during one of these days, was the new - by that time - service run by a freshly hired professional under the job position of Data Scientist. Unfortunately, as it was a new service and workflows had to be designed yet together with all other tasks and responsibilities tied to that role (such as establishing communication with researchers and creating data management plans), I didn’t have the chance to work with Dr Catherine Pink - now Senior Data Librarian. However, I used to go to her office and have mini conversations with her about what her role was and how - why was research data management useful to libraries. I remember that her passion about her work was so contagious, that she is one of the main reasons I also got so passionate about research data myself.

Following my placement, another mandatory step before getting my degree was to write and defend a dissertation. Out of the subjects taught in the curriculum, I tried to pick one that I could feel motivated to perform a research on, but nothing seemed to excite me more other than something relevant to research data. By then, that was a subject that was not included in the curriculum (that remains the same even today; only some topics were recently added in the Masters degree level) which meant two things for me: a. that I had to find a professor who had knowledge on the subject and agree on a topic for my future dissertation-research attempt and b. that I had to do my own research and delve into the depths of research data management, open data, plans, policies, funders mandates and infrastructures for data preservation.

Being very intrigued to explore the Digital Preservation (DP) and RDM provisions and practices that are being followed by the Greek Academic Libraries, the title of my dissertation was formed as follows: "Data management: librarians’ and libraries’ role in the creation of institutional data policy: research on Greek and foreign universities".

It was that time, when I was searching for sources to use in my dissertation, that I came across some RDA activities and next thing I know, I was a loyal participant to the webinars that were organised more and more frequently and WGs and IGs already producing outputs.

With that being said - or, more accurately, written - RDA (together with EUDAT and OpenAIRE) played and continue to play a key role in my research attempts together with forming my knowledge around Data Science, Data Management, Data Preservation, Open Data.

So, my suggestion to an early career/ post doc who finds the data science field interesting and wants to learn more about particular areas and trends in it, is to have a look at the different WGs, IGs and BoFs listed on the RDA website!

  • Note: There is an Interest Group in the making, that exclusively targets early career researchers and newcomers. It is chaired by Devan Ray Donaldson and co-chaired by Fotis Psomopoulos and their goal is to "create a space and a place for early career researchers to learn about RDA and each other and get support". You can have a look at their draft charter, add your comments and opinions on the issues under discussion and, should you feel like becoming a member of the group, feel free to also add your name and contact details on the list found in that document!

Signing up to the mailing lists of the given groups will keep you up-to-date with thoughts that are being shared regarding the given subject areas and the webinars that are being periodically organised will inform you about the deliverables of activities performed by these groups.

In addition, you - as a data enthusiast - will automatically gain membership to a community where diversity is highly appreciated and interdisciplinary research is encouraged. That is, personally, one of the most important elements constituting the RDA: the fact that everyone - despite levels of Higher Education, background, professional status, etc - is encouraged to actively participate to a community that motivates you to be yourself and inspires you to think out-of-the-box and exchange ideas that could potentially have a great impact with lots of benefits to the wider community that we live in.

The other element is collaboration! As described in many terms that revolve around “research data”, a vital factor in succeeding in the management, curation, sharing, preservation of data is establishing a network where all stakeholders can come together under the same umbrella and exchange opinions about their needs and concerns and find common ground for best practices to be developed and performed. RDA is that umbrella internationally and I am very grateful for the fact that I had the chance to be part of the 9th Plenary Meeting in Barcelona.

I would like to take this opportunity and express my gratitude to the founders of RDA who showed us that initiatives like that, despite the difficulties, are feasible when willingness and commonwealth is above all motives. Furthermore, a huge thank you to all advocates, chairing and actively participating to IGs/WGs/BoFs, for inspiring my research endeavours and for challenging me to grow in becoming a successful researcher and professional as one of their kind.

Looking forward to further collaborations in the future!


Elli Papadopoulou

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