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07 Apr 2015

Research Data Alliance/US Fellows Program Completes a Successful Inaugural Year

1) Anne Thessen asks a question following Dr. Friend's keynote address, 2) - 3) Sarah Ramdeen and Brandon Costelloe-Kuehn discuss their research at the Early Career/ Fellows Poster Reception.

The Research Data Alliance welcomed the first RDA/US cohort of early career fellows of 2014-2015. The fellows program is under the direction of Dr. Beth Plale and Dr. Inna Kouper at the Data to Insight Center, Indiana University Bloomington and is supported by the National Science Foundation (award #1349002). It engages students and early career researchers in RDA through opportunities to work on the pragmatic, real-world challenges that are encountered in reducing the technical and social barriers to global data sharing.

For the academic year 2014-2015, RDA/US selected five fellows to work with RDA’s groups on implementing RDA’s data sharing principles into their own practice and working with domain communities to understand how RDA can meet specific disciplinary data sharing needs. This group of fellows, including Rachael Black (Arizona Geological Survey), Brandon Costelloe-Kuehn (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), John Kratz (California Digital Library), Sarah Ramdeen (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), and Anne Thessen (Ronin Institute for Independent Scholarship), joined RDA at Plenary 5 in San Diego where they participated in the RDA for Newcomer’s session, presented a poster of their work, asked insightful questions during plenary events, and actively supported their IGs or WGs during breakout meetings.

Based on the success of this pilot program, RDA/US is launching a redesigned and expanded fellowship program, the “RDA Data Share Program”, with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.  In the new program fellows receive both research and travel support to engage over 12 – 18 months and intensively work on a project during one or two summers.

Drs. Plale and Kouper described the first year of the program as a successful pilot that has generated  strong awareness of the program within RDA and a lot of positive feedback on the fellows’ contributions. The new re-designed Data Share fellowship program will not only continue to expose fellows to rich data environments and data problematics, but by providing solid research and travel support for the fellows, it will improve their career options and strengthen RDA as a dynamic productive organization that delivers useful products.

Fellow’s Corner

What was your most memorable moment from Plenary 5 in San Diego?

Brandon Costelloe-Kuehn: Right after giving a presentation for RDA newcomers, which was largely about how RDA is a perfect space for weaving different threads of my research together, I was approached by someone congratulating me on the projects I'm working on. Turns out she's the lead scientist for the system on which my primary dissertation case-study, the EnviroAtlas, was built. Now I'm working on building a platform to support my own communication and collaboration practices (in history and ethnography), drawing on insights from ethnographic analysis of projects like the EnviroAtlas. So it was an uncanny moment where I could really see the potential for data sharing between disciplines, but also the value in sharing design logics, methodological strategies, and more. The rest of the conference continued to provide a remarkable space for connecting with people with similar goals and challenges.

For more information on Brandon, see his page at and follow him on twitter @brandonjck.

What was your most memorable moment from Plenary 5 in San Diego?

Sarah Ramdeen: As a PhD candidate and early career scientist, being at a conference or meeting can be a bit intimidating.  You are surrounded by peers and mentors, a mix of experts and scholars, some of which you may have cited in your own research.  You spend the whole time worried someone will tell you that you are still learning and don’t belong.  Or they will find out that you are a fraud, only pretending to fit in. This year was my 3rd RDA Plenary, and the RDA community isn’t like that.  People don’t dismiss me or my work when they hear I am a student.  They ignore rank, titles, etc. and are just enthusiastic to discuss ideas.  Everyone is excited to be there. They are excited to find out what you do, how it might be different from their own work, and often, how you might collaborate in the future.  As I mentioned in the new comers session, we are all from different domains and bring with us different experiences and insights.  That is what makes RDA great – you can bring your own expertise to the conversation.  Even as a student, you might have a perspective that a senior research in another domain doesn’t have.  There is so much room for sharing, learning, collaboration, and networking.

One of my most memorable moments from this year’s RDA Plenary occurred during one of the breaks.  I was about to grab a cookie and someone asked if they could talk to me about my dissertation research.  While we were chatting a second person came over and interrupted … they wanted to follow up on something I said in a session.  It was amazing.  People wanted to hear what I had to say, and were seeking me out.  One was a senior researcher.  Both respected my perspective and wanted to find out more.  And I still can’t get over it - they sought me out!  I am sure once I have been in my career for a while, the novelty and shine will wear off such experiences.  But I don’t think so.   Having someone validate your work and ask for your perspective on something is pretty amazing.  And being in a community or environment that encourages that kind of engagement is pretty memorable.  I hope to have more of these moments at future RDA Plenaries.  If you’re there, come find me and let’s talk.

For more information on Sarah, see her page at and follow her on twitter @evil_aliol.

Deadline Reminder: If you are interested in applying for the RDA Data Share Program, more information can be found at Applications are due April 16, 2015 with award notifications coming out on May 1st. The fellowship formally begins June 18-19th with the orientation workshop in Bloomington, IN.

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