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RDA/EOSC Future Project Grantee Spotlight: Monica Marin

By Alexandra Delipalta

The RDA/EOSC Future team is launching a series of spotlights to showcase the grantees, their work and experience.

Find out more about the RDA/EOSC Future grants.

This week we spoke to Monica Marin from the project EU FAR – EU Funds by Area Results

Can you tell us about the origins of the idea behind the project? (who/when/how did the group of people behind the project come together)•    Can you tell us about the origins of the idea behind the project? (who/when/how did the group of people behind the project come together)

The key idea of the project is related to my PhD thesis on EU funds absorption in the case of rural areas in Romania. By that time, Romania was only in the initial stage; at the present time, we are at the end of the second programming period, and many both positive and less positive experiences have already accumulated. Nonetheless, without a clear image at the most detailed level, it is difficult to analyze what has actually happened. EU FAR fills in this gap of granular data on municipalities’ EU funds absorption and ensures a methodological approach that can be replicated in other EU countries.

The EU FAR database is aligned to the FAIR movement and significantly increases the reusability of open government data. Reducing territorial disparities is one of the aims of EU Cohesion Policy funding, and EU FAR is in direct relationship with this aim. I have previously worked on different projects with colleagues from my team:

How has the project plan (and perhaps the idea) evolved during execution?

The main focus of data analysis has been on rural communities. However, searching for additional relevant data, we aggregated data at the county level (a second tier of public administration in Romania) and mapped mountain and border areas in Romania. The analysis on rural communities also made use of Eurostat public data on whether the local communities belong to a functional urban area and whether this has an impact on the volume of EU funding. In terms of dissemination channels, although we initially searched for EOSC-related services and products, during project implementation, we used a preprint service that is not part of EOSC, namely, Research Square,  as well as another well-known platform for data dissemination – Harvard Dataverse repository.

Additionally, during the project implementation, we realized that there is a need for other potential refinements of data analysis – a clear demarcation on types of EU funding (European Social Fund, European Regional Development Fund, European Territorial Cooperation Program, European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, etc.) and an added value that can be brought by census data. To develop comparable data, we used euro at constant 2010 prices per inhabitant, yet final census data at the locality level can provide a better image. We will use them in the process of data updates as well as in future analyses conducted on the EU FAR database. To obtain a global image, we will integrate into the EU FAR database the years 2022 and 2023. In this way, the entire programming period of 2014-2020 will be covered for all municipalities in Romania.

Have there been any surprises (new opportunities or challenges)?

One of the opportunities offered by the RDA grant is that it has minimum administrative requirements and high flexibility in the implementation process. For this small and focused project, it has been very beneficial. Another opportunity is participation in the RDA Plenary Meeting – we did not think of it at the beginning, but with the support of this grant, we were able to participate and better communicate with other interested colleagues and extend the network of professionals.

Another challenge that we did not anticipate in the beginning of the project is related to the integration of the database into CESSDA – Consortium of European Social Sciences Data Archive. The Romanian partner from CESSDA is no longer functional, and the publication of the database into CESSDA can only be undertaken through one of the partner organisations. We have contacted other CESSDA partners, and the Institute of Sociology from the Czech Academy of Sciences has responded positively to our request, and we’ll publish the database though them. Additionally, we have used another EOSC service, specialized in data publication, which is RoHub,  and the corresponding metadata and analyses are also published.

Can you tell us more about the team and how it has evolved? New skills/learning acquired, working methods shaped by the RDA/EOSC environment?

The already accumulated working experience between the members of the team and the Project Coordinator resulted in a smooth implementation of the project. We have used the EOSC training materials and RDA recommendations to acquire new knowledge/refine the existing skills on open science and FAIR sharing of data. They are explicitly mentioned in the policy brief created in the project. Based on RDA recommendations for promoting and assessing FAIR data, we have developed metadata associated with the EU FAR database as well as corresponding policy recommendations to increase the FAIRness of open governmental data. We have also learned that any type of research result, like conference presentations or graphical representations can be freely distributed in the research. Furthermore, the EOSC services used, such as RoHub and CESSDA, will eventually contribute to increased discoverability of the EU FAR database and, hopefully, to a larger uptake.

Are there any lessons learnt that you could share with the community?

For the community of researchers in Romania and worldwide, the Research Data Alliance represents a trustful, secure and collaborative structure that truly values open science. For the Romanian funding environment where open science is not always the rule, I think this is one of the key lessons I have personally learnt. Becoming a RDA member and supported by this grant, I have succeeded in getting to know other researchers across the world.

What do you want to get out of the RDA 20th Plenary Meeting?

I will continue to promote EU FAR project results, especially to the members/interested parties in the RDA Working Group on Social Sciences. EU FAR methodology can be used in other EU countries, and I would like to reinforce this feature to intensify the chances of having an enlarged uptake of granular data on EU funding. In addition, I would like to learn more about other fruitful experiences from the sessions on Sensitive data contexts and disciplines or the plenary sessions on Building Institutional Partnerships for the Future and Growing international coordination across social science infrastructures, and explore potential synergies with other projects from EOSC Future or various interesting topics from the program, such as evaluation of research. Moreover, I think I can personally contribute to the RDA community with useful ideas from my research experience, aiming to bring into the frontline the added value of social sciences for society as a whole.