The Value of the Research Data Alliance to the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC)

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28 March 2019 2026 reads

The Research Data Alliance’s vision is Researchers and innovators openly sharing data across technologies, disciplines, and countries to address the grand challenges of society

The Research Data Alliance’s vision is Researchers and innovators openly sharing data across technologies, disciplines, and countries to address the grand challenges of society

The Research Data Alliance (RDA) is a community-driven organization whose mission is to develop the social and technical data infrastructure needed to drive innovation surrounding data sharing and data interoperability.  Established in 2013, RDA supports more than 8,400 international members representing 137 countries, has generated 32 concrete outputs [3] (eight of which are recognized as European ICT technical specifications) with over 95 documented adoption cases (May 2019).
The Research Data Alliance enables data to be shared across barriers through outputs developed by focused Working Groups and Interest Groups, formed of volunteer experts from around the world and drawn from academia, private sector and government. Participation in RDA is open to anyone who agrees to its guiding principles of openness, consensus, balance, harmonisation, with a community driven and non-profit approach.
RDA has a grass-roots, inclusive approach covering all data lifecycle stages, engaging data producers, users and stewards, addressing data exchange, processing, and storage. It has succeeded in creating the neutral social platform where international research data experts meet to exchange views and to agree on topics including social hurdles on data sharing, education and training challenges, data management plans and certification of data repositories, disciplinary and interdisciplinary interoperability, as well as technological aspects

 

What is the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC)?

The objective of the EOSC is to give the European Union a global lead in research data management and ensure that European scientists reap the full benefits of data-driven science, by offering ‘1.7 million European researchers and 70 million professionals in science and technology a virtual environment with free at the point of use, open and seamless services for storage, management, analysis and re-use of research data, across borders and scientific disciplines’ [2]

 

Open Science is seen as a crucial component in advancing science and benefiting society [3], and sharing of Research Data is central to these aims.  RDA addresses this need for open and interoperable sharing of research data and builds the social, technical and cross-disciplinary links to enable such sharing on a global scale. Furthermore, the implementation of the EOSC as a “federated model that combines effectiveness and flexibility, primarily through the Research Infrastructures (including eInfrastructures)” [4] will require seamless access to data and integration of services which implies standards.  RDA provides a neutral, global forum to further research innovation, efficiency and reproducibility. It facilitates socio-technical discussion and exchange by identifying best practices and standards for research data, tools and infrastructure.

 

The EOSC Implementation Roadmap envisages the following six actions lines (Figure 1):

(a) architecture,
(b) data,
(c) services,
(d) access and interfaces,
(e) rules and
(f) governance.

RDA provides an international forum for discussing and agreeing relevant technical standards for the first 4 action lines: architecture, data, services, access and interfaces, all of which are within the scope of RDA. Through this function international knowledge, expertise and experience can be incorporated in the development of these standards and European developments can be tested in an international environment.

The RDA processes for ratification of working groups and recommendations, which is already being recognised as relevant to the definition of ICT Technical Specifications within the Multi-stakeholder Platform [5], can play a role in formalising the 5th action line on Rules of Participation for the EOSC. Given the RDA relevance to all these, a representative of the RDA has been selected as a member of the EOSC Executive Board and RDA therefore also has a role in the 6th action line, Governance.

 

Existing RDA activities relevant to EOSC Implementation

Architecture

EOSC will be a federation of research data infrastructures, adding a soft overlay to connect them and making them operate as one seamless European research data infrastructure. This kind of federated architecture is central to RDA vision of barrier removal and data sharing. RDA already has a number of working groups relevant to this activity, for example:

 

Data

RDA fosters the development of professional practices in research data management and stewardship on an international scale. Specifically related to:

  • better culture and practical skills in research data management, 
  • developing FAIR data tools, and
  • fostering demand for FAIR data through consistent FAIR data mandates and incentives.

These relate to all the aspects of FAIR data: Making data Findable through catalogues of data and services and metadata; making data Accessible through Persistent Unique Identifiers and Data Management Plans; making data Interoperable through interoperable standards and common metadata; and making data Reusable, through common IPR and legal provisions such as Creative Commons. Furthermore, disciplinary interoperability frameworks like R are essential to the realisation of FAIR and fora, like RDA, are well-placed to encourage interdisciplinary and cross-profession exchange [6].

 

Disciplinary Group examples:

 

Services

RDA is active in the 5 types of services mentioned in roadmap: Identification and authentication services; Work environment/space services (e.g. logbook, settings, compliance record and pending issues); Access to relevant service information ; Services to find, access, re-use and analyse research data generated by others, accessible through appropriate catalogues of datasets and data services (e.g. analytics, fusion, mining, processing); and Services to make their own data FAIR, to store them and ensure long-term preservation.

Generalising services currently being provided to specific scientific communities, so they are not limited by the contexts of disciplines or national boundaries.

 

Access and interface

Services provided under the EOSC would be made accessible via an EOSC portal, globalising metadata standards for including of these services in catalogues, both for universal entry point for all potential users and for community specific interfaces built on a common platform.

 

Rules of Participation

Leveraging the clear and transparent RDA process for producing and endorsing its outputs as “Recommendations", in Europe, two waves of outputs from the RDA groups have been submitted to the European multi-stakeholders’ platform on ICT standardisation (MSP - e02758) to be recognised as ICT technical specifications. This standardisation process has also targeted the robustness and openness of the RDA process, positively evaluated by the MSP as a pre-condition for the ICT technical specifications identification process. [7]

RDA recommendations recognised as ICT technical specifications:

  1. *TS1 Data Foundation & Terminology Model
  2. *TS2 PID Information Types API- Persistent Identifier Type Registry
  3. *TS3 Data Type Registries Model
  4. *TS4 Practical Policies recommendations
  5. **TS5 Dynamic-data Citation Methodology
  6. **TS6 Data Description Registry Interoperability Model
  7. **TS7 RDA/WDS Repository Audit and Certification Catalogues
  8. **TS8 RDA/WDS Publishing Data Services

 

*Approved and published in the Official Journal of the European Union “COMMISSION IMPLEMENTING DECISION (EU) 2017/1358” of 20 July 2017 on the identification of ICT Technical Specifications for referencing in public procurement https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32017D1358
**approved but awaiting publication in March 2019

 

Governance and Global Engagement

RDA is a bottom up organization, but equally an organization that funders and others trust to carry out its mission subject to its guiding principles. The RDA Council [8] is responsible for the oversight, sustainability, and overall success of RDA, including approval of candidate Working and Interest Groups to ensure alignment with RDA goals, it is composed of 9 elected members from across the globe. The RDA Technical Advisory Board (TAB) [9] provides technical expertise and advice to the Council, and assists in development, review and promotion of RDA Working & Interest Groups. The RDA Organisational Advisory Board (OAB) [10] represents the interests of RDA’s organisational members and ensure that their input and needs play a role in guiding the programs and activities of the RDA. The RDA Funders Forum is composed of a group of funding organisations / representatives with an interest in research data and related data policies who meet at RDA plenaries to share information and openly discuss challenges/opportunities facing funding agencies. The Funders Forum also have an Interest Group [11] in which funders from around the globe bring subjects that they wish to discuss publicly among themselves and on which they want to gather input from the RDA community.

Since its launch in 2013, European Research Infrastructure projects have been actively involved in RDA. The Group of European Data Experts (GEDE) [12] a group of European data professionals appointed by invitation from various European Research Infrastructures and some specialists from RDA, promotes, fosters and drives discussions and consensus forming on creating guidelines, core components and concrete data fabric configuration building based on a bottom-up process.

Finally, a series of RDA groups, are specifically focused on supporting UN Sustainable Development Goals, including:

 

[1] RDA Outputs are the technical and social infrastructure solutions developed by RDA Working Groups or Interest Groups that enable data sharing, exchange, and interoperability. 
These Outputs have an important impact in two areas: solving problems, and incorporation and/or adoption in infrastructure environments by individuals, projects and organisations.
RDA Outputs have the following classifications: 1. RDA Recommendations; 2. Supporting Outputs; 3. Other Outputs

[2] Implementation Roadmap for the European Open Science Cloud, SWD (2018) 83, March 2018

[3] Towards a common European data space, SWD(2018) 125, April 2018

[4] SWD(2018) 83.