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29 Aug 2023

TAB – the keystone to consensus and transparency: What does it do and how does it work?

The Technical Advisory Board (TAB) is an efficient and essential family member of the RDA. TAB members contribute considerable time and effort, working behind the scenes to ensure the smooth-running of the RDA. The Secretariat and RDA community are extremely grateful for their effort and commitment.


We try new approaches, we ensure consistency and above all consensus within the RDA family”, says Isabelle Perseil, INSERM, France, TAB member since 2019, and co-chair since 2020 “but this only happens because of  the concerted efforts of the dedicated TAB team.

All these words align with the RDA’s governing principles of Consensus, Openness, and Inclusivity. The Technical Advisory Board (TAB) which has been in place since RDA’s inception,  takes  a consensus-led approach to managing the technical aspects of the RDA, a 13,000+ member-strong community-driven organisation. It goes without saying that this work should not be under-estimated in such an active network as the RDA and TAB’s efforts are immensely important: TAB provides a critical service to the RDA community by supporting  the operation of more than 100 RDA groups.  

As the TAB elections approach, we shine a  spotlight on TAB as a key RDA family member.  The RDA Governance board comprises several key members  in addition to TAB (including the Council, Funders Forum, and Organisational and Regional Advisory Board) that collectively govern and contribute the smooth running of various activities within the RDA that ultimately lead to the creation of high-quality solutions for data sharing and reuse. 

Why is TAB important for RDA?

The RDA Working and Interest Groups require careful guidance and oversight to be successful. While the RDA Secretariat is responsible for the administration and operational management of groups, TAB serves as a neutral body to liaise with and provide support for all groups (new, active and maintenance groups) in a fair and transparent manner.  The diligent oversight by  the TAB ensures that all applications for new RDA groups, as well as group recommendations and outputs, are carefully reviewed and assessed for relevance and applicability, thereby ensuring the work of the RDA remains novel, impactful and innovative within the research data landscape.


DID YOU KNOW? There are currently 34 Working Groups and 56 Interest Groups up and running. ON AVERAGE TAB receives 6 RDA group applications per year for review.


What does the TAB do? The day-to-day work of TAB is divided into three areas: technical, strategic and organisational. Biweekly TAB meetings (accommodating international time zones) bring a diverse team of TAB members from all corners of the globe together to share their knowledge, expertise and perspectives. One of the Chairs (currently Isabelle Perseil) ensures coherence and cohesion between the two meetings by attending both. Meetings consist of a full agenda that covers, but is not limited to the following topics:

1. Technical expertise: Endorsement of Groups: TAB oversees a group’s progress from inception, when groups submit case statements, charters or Community of Practice Agreements. This documentation required for initiating new groups is passed to TAB for their expert assessment. Each new group application is reviewed by two TAB members who assess the applications based on: 

  • The impact of the measurable outputs and feasibility of take-up by the community. 
  • Feasibility of the intended Work Plan group capacity in terms of time.
  • Assessment of the impact on the open science landscape and the anticipated community engagement. 
  • Lastly, TAB provides recommendations and concrete suggestions to optimize the groups’ plans. Part of the work is coming up with new and innovative ideas, experimenting with approaches. 

The detailed feedback and analysis is very impressive. “We take care to consider  the value a new group will bring to the Open Science landscape; we look carefully for redundancies, duplications across different groups, or weaknesses in the scientific approach” says Rob Quick, University of Indiana, TAB Co-chair and member since 2019  “We also need to ensure plans are realistic and can be carried out by the volunteer group, and try to  spot any gaps in expertise”.

2. Steering the Groups over their life-cycle: Each TAB member is the Liaison for between 5 and 8 groups. The TAB liaison attends all the relevant Group meetings if timezone permits. The TAB also contribute to the discussion of the ongoing activities of groups, and identify overlapping activities between groups.

3. Organisational Support: It’s not widely known that TAB also assesses session applications for RDA Plenaries. TAB members carefully review applications, assessing them for relevance, with particular attention paid to  new ideas presented during Birds of a Feather sessions (BoFs).  

Who contributes to TAB?

TAB is composed of 15 (soon to be 16) elected and committed individuals from the RDA global membership. Because TAB members are elected, the board comprises an inherently diverse team that encompasses disciplinary knowledge, expertise, and leadership skills. 

TAB reflects the RDA membership base: Aside from ensuring TAB represents a broad range of disciplinary and scientific knowledge, great care is taken that TAB comprises broad regional representation.  TAB members are nominated by a community vote and the selection of new members follows a rubric that ensures balance across regions and disciplines.


DID YOU KNOW:  The current TAB represents nine different countries: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, South Africa, Sweden and the United States.



TAB is led by two co-chairs who attend the meetings and chair the agenda. Co-chairs play a pivotal role by setting the pace of work, engaging all TAB members and collaborating with the other RDA bodies, namely the RDA Council and Organisational and Regional Advisory Boards. In this way, they serve as an important linking pin and point of contact to ensure alignment across these RDA bodies. 

A commitment of three years minimum: Being a TAB member is a commitment. TAB members are elected by the RDA community during annual elections and each serves a three year term upon election. Members can be re-elected but only for a maximum of 6 years within a 9-year period. A TAB co-chair serves from two to four years. To be eligible for TAB election, applicants must have proven experience, expertise and a track record of knowledge relating to data topics.


It should be acknowledged that each TAB member clocks up well over 100 hours per year, the co-chairs even more.  They do this in addition to their day jobs as well as their personal involvement as members of RDA Working and Interest Groups. Again, the whole of RDA benefits from this huge commitment and input from this expert network!

Are you interested in becoming a member of TAB? The call for elections is now open!

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