Transparency and Openness in RDA


Transparency and Openness in RDA

By Stefanie Kethers

The Council Operations and Coordination Subcommittee (see has revised the document on Transparency and Openness in response to the community comment received on the previous version (which is attached to this page).  

Community comments on this new version are very welcome.


The Council Operations and Coordination Subcommittee would like to thank the RDA community for their comments on our original document. We have taken on board the main arguments presented, i.e. 1) while openness is desirable, there are some things that should not be open to all RDA members, and 2) that, in the interest of transparency, it would be desirable to keep restricted content on the RDA Web site, but to document clearly that it is there and has limited access. We have modified this document accordingly.


To improve adherence of the RDA organisation to the RDA guiding principle of openness. As a first step, the Operations and Coordination Subcommittee proposes a change to access to information on the RDA website. This document describes this change.


One of the RDA principles is openness. However, information about RDA activities is currently not available to all members. Depending on the role one plays in the organisation, the group to which one belongs and the area one is viewing, different RDA members can see very different things.

This has multiple flow-on effects:

  • acts as a barrier to collaboration and dissemination of RDA results,
  • prevents the maximum community involvement,
  • constrains our ability to maximise the value of our available resources, e.g. volunteer activities,
  • impairs trust,
  • slows the organization down, and
  • makes the organization less efficient.


  • Information on the RDA website should be publicly readable whenever possible. However, there is information that should not be visible to all RDA members, e.g. RDA Council discussions, TAB reviews in progress, or financial discussions in Plenary organising committees.
  • We are currently investigating the best way to separate open and restricted information.
  • To improve transparency, the RDA Web site should document what information is open, and what information is not, and who can access the restricted information (e.g., Council members, TAB members, etc). This documentation is currently being developed.
  • An authorization will still be required for editing content.

Please note that this is purely an administrative effort, with results expected by July 2017. There is no member effort required, although we invite comments by email to Stefanie[dot]Kethers[at]


Output Status: 
Other Outputs (Not official)
Group content visibility: 
Public - accessible to all site users
  • Francoise Genova's picture

    Author: Francoise Genova

    Date: 16 Dec, 2016

    Andrew and I agree on the following comments:

    • transparency is highly desirable, but it is not an absolute
    • in particular, the governance bodies of the RDA (Council, TAB, Secretariat, OAB) need the ability to conduct their activities with a degree of confidentiality (because of the subject matter they deal with, and because they make time to converge on a consensus view)
    • for this reason, TAB believes that its internal wiki pages and mailing lists need to stay private to TAB, but the results of TAB decisions (such as reviews) should be public

    Francoise & Andrew

  • Malcolm Wolski's picture

    Author: Malcolm Wolski

    Date: 13 Jan, 2017

    I support the approach in principle except on the point all content on the site is open.  If you state everything on the site is open you force people off the site to communicate when they want to share some wisdom that they don't feel comfortable making publicly. It may have unintended consequences.  

    Also if you are really going to make the statement everything is open as a principle then we should be publishing goto meeting records, emails and even WG documents not currently on the site etc etc.   

    One work around is to publish a data classification scheme starting from the position that everything is open then document the exceptions and at what level of restriction. You could also publish the method by which a third party might get to see any restricted information.  It is still approach that is transparent and based on open principles but with a practical twist that supports effective operations. 

    However I appreciate the technical limitations of implementing some these principles/practices. I find it very annoying seeing something on a website but when you try to view the content you get an "access denied" message. The technical solution has to provide more information about access to restricted content when a user tries to access it. That is, it is important to have published principles but be pragmatic about how it can be implemented with the software you have.


  • Christoph Bruch's picture

    Author: Christoph Bruch

    Date: 12 Jan, 2017

    Dear All,

    Transparency and legitimate confidentiality are of equal importance.

    I therefore support similar comments urging to protect necessary confidentiality especially for deliberations.



  • Kevin Ashley's picture

    Author: Kevin Ashley

    Date: 13 Jan, 2017

    I'm with the broad spirit of this statement but not its detail. That is, I think transparency is the right way to work and it's a broader thing than being open. I think the proposal itself does the opposite.

    I can't tell to what extent the situation described in 'Content' is true. I know what I can see, but almost by definition I don't know what I can't see. I think transparency is a worthwhile goal and I agree with some of what's said about the *potential* effects of not being transparent. However, I'm not sure that any lack of transparency is in what is or is not viewable on the web site. (I've since gathered in conversation that there is such an issue. Different people apparently see different things on the site depending on various group memberships but it's apparently unclear to many exactly what's going on. That's a technical issue not a issue about principles.)

    I disagree with the last bullet of the proposal.

    Bullet(1) says that all information should be open 'by default.' That's fine, as long as one interprets it to mean that some information should not be open. Working and interest groups should be working in the open. Some other business needs at least the potential to be restricted.

    But bullet(3) then says that the solution to this is to keep everything that needs to be private off the web. I think that's being less transparent, not more transparent, and it is certainly less efficient. There is no rationale for this statement and I think it's just wrong. Something like the private OAB space at least declares its existence on the web site so even if I can't read it I know it's there. If it moves somewhere else I may not even be aware that it exists. That's reducing transparency and it's also adding administrative overhead for everyone involved.


  • Stefanie Kethers's picture

    Author: Stefanie Kethers

    Date: 01 Feb, 2017

    Dear RDA Community,

    Thank you very much for your comments on the Transparency and Openness in RDA document drafted by the RDA Council Operations and Coordination subcommittee. We will take your comments on board and publish a revised version in about a month.

    The OCC Subcommittee (Rainer Stotzka (chair), Andrew Treloar, Larry Lannom, Leif Laaksonen, Stefanie Kethers, Yasuhiro Murayama)

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