Initial thoughts and recommendations on RDA as a Standardisation body

RDA Council Strategy Subcommittee - 8 November 2016


Context

The RDA has a clear and transparent process for producing and endorsing its outputs as “Recommendations”[1].

Standards are reference documents that represent a consensus in a field and are based on the field’s collective knowledge. Standardisation can facilitate interoperability and innovation and build user trust in products, services and systems.

The first four RDA Outputs have been through European Multi-Stakeholders Platform on ICT Standardisation (E02758) to be recognised as Technical Specifications[2]. The European Commission see this as a very positive outcome and would encourage RDA to put more Recommendations through this process. We have not clarified the views of other funders.

The standardisation process raised some questions about the robustness and openness of the RDA process, which were successfully addressed by Hilary Hanahoe to the satisfaction of the Multi-stakeholder panel although this was quite a lot of work.

There may be lessons learned from this process that could be useful to improve the RDA process of endorsing its outputs as recommendations.

 

Questions for consideration with the RDA membership

Does RDA wish for its Recommendations to be recognised by other bodies?

If so, should RDA review its processes so that Recommendations are more easily adopted by other standardisation bodies?

Should RDA enter into discussions with one or more formal standardisation bodies in some way so that RDA Recommendations can get a fast track to becoming standards?  (The mechanism is likely to be different for each standards organisation so they will have to be considered individually)

  • Pros
    • Adoption by other bodies would provide a quantifiable metric of outputs (eg N standards were produced this year)
    • Adoption by other bodies would provide a validation of the RDA output process by a “higher authority”
    • RDA may be seen as important and versatile as it works with multiple standards organisations
    • Adoption by other bodies would build trust and engagement in new user communities
  • Cons
    • Could be seen to Imply that RDA recommendations are of lesser status than the “other” standards
    • May be a lot of work (But should be just one-off work for each organisation)
    • Could slow down the RDA process (This could probably be avoided)
    • May lead to a loss of independence  (This should definitely be avoided)
  • If the answer to the above is No: are we satisfied that RDA recommendations will be widely adopted?  What are our quantifiable metrics for success of our Recommendations, and are we satisfied that they are sufficient?
  • If the answer to the above is Yes: how do we go about doing it in a systematic manner?

Recommendations

The strategy Subcommittee have considered these questions and make the following recommendations for consideration with the RDA membership before presentation to the RDA Council:

  1. RDA should continue to engage with the European Multi-Stakeholders Platform on ICT Standardisation (MSP) and endeavour to have all appropriate Recommendations adopted by MSP. This should be undertaken by the RDA Europe project
  2. RDA should encourage any WG or IG that wishes to pursue taking its outputs through a standardisation body to do so. This can be done without formal endorsement from RDA.
  3. Council should consider whether there are other standards organisations it might be beneficial to engage with at an organisational level and if there are should begin discussions with them. An individual or group of individuals will need to be given responsibility for taking this forward.

Drafted by Juan Bicarregui, RDA OAB Co-Chair & RDA Council Subcommittee Member


[1] https://rd-alliance.org/groups/creating-and-managing-rda-groups/working-...

[2] (http://ec.europa.eu/transparency/regexpert/index.cfm?do=groupDetail.groupDetail&groupID=2758)

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  • Elizabeth Griffin's picture

    Author: Elizabeth Griffin

    Date: 16 Nov, 2016

    A "standard" is a "code" that is adopted and applied by all involved, as widely and as thoroughly as needs be.   My analogy is the Highway Code.  Without everyone conforming, there would be anarchy.

    For the RDA to develop standards and NOT try to share them abroad would effectively ostracise it from the communities of research and data science, and delay the essential closing of the present-day gaps in these matters,

     

    The chief reason why the whole matter of terminology, definitions, practice, etc., in the world of data management cannot at present easily lead to the Open Sharing of data that is the mandate of the RDA,  is the lack of precisely those standards and codes.

    Every 'body' would like to promote the standards with which it is most comfortable.  WIde consultation is therefore necessary.  It is not sufficient to select consensus values or statements; they need to spring from fundamental, valid and valuable premises, even though they could be promoted or favoured by only the minority.

     

     

  • Elizabeth Griffin's picture

    Author: Elizabeth Griffin

    Date: 16 Nov, 2016

    A "standard" is a "code" that is adopted and applied by all involved, as widely and as thoroughly as needs be.   My analogy is the Highway Code.  Without everyone conforming, there would be anarchy.

    For the RDA to develop standards and NOT try to share them abroad would effectively ostracise it from the communities of research and data science, and delay the essential closing of the present-day gaps in these matters,

    The chief reason why the whole matter of terminology, definitions, practice, etc., in the world of data management cannot at present easily lead to the Open Sharing of data that is the mandate of the RDA,  is the lack of precisely those standards and codes.

    Every 'body' would like to promote the standards with which it is most comfortable.  WIde consultation is therefore necessary.  It is not sufficient to select consensus values or statements; they need to spring from fundamental, valid and valuable premises, even though they could be promoted or favoured by only the minority.

     

     

  • Stuart Chalk's picture

    Author: Stuart Chalk

    Date: 21 Nov, 2016

    I think it is important for RDA to publish recommendations (and other outputs) as standards as:

    i) it formally recognizes the contribution that the RDA community members involved in the recommendation have made

    ii) it serves as an important perspective for those developing recommendations - the formal standardization of the recommendation and its subsequent implementation

  • Tobias Weigel's picture

    Author: Tobias Weigel

    Date: 08 Dec, 2016

    I know that the role of RDA and its outputs in terms of standardization has been around since near P1, and I think this is a very important topic for RDA as a whole. I wager that a move of RDA towards more formal standardization would be a significant policy change that may clash with the bottom-up idea and take some momentum out of the community. Building standards of high quality within 18M is probably only possible in very few cases, if at all. WG work may also get overloaded by a standards track, leaving too little room to make changes and adapt to ideas from the whole plenary.

    But I'm wondering if there can't be a middle way in the form of a "standardization support group" that helps chairs/motivated group members (typically after M18) with transferring recommendations from RDA to a standards body - a bit like the way TAB is helping with spawning new groups and shpeherding as required. The driving force would still stay with the individual WG, but there would be a visible path.

    Also, not all things qualifying as RDA Recommendations will likely match what's considered a standard. I'm thinking of training / best practices type of outputs, which would then face the already mentioned problem of getting a "second grade" feeling. These would need distinct additional support to make up for the difference - and all of it must be communicated clearly.

  • Francoise Genova's picture

    Author: Francoise Genova

    Date: 02 Jan, 2017

    One could add a fourth recommendation, about the fact that the RDA has to keep track of the outcomes which are submitted in a standardization process. I know that this is not easy and that we already have some problems to identify the outcomes which could be promoted to 'supporting outputs' but it would be really important to be able to produce a list. This could be one of the items of the 'WG closure document' but it is not sufficient because this can happen after the end of a WG or also in the context of an IG. A task for the liaisons, in addition to general messages sent regularly by the Secretary General?

  • Malcolm Wolski's picture

    Author: Malcolm Wolski

    Date: 12 Jan, 2017

    I agree with the approach in the recommendations. RDA (& WG/IGs) should engage with other existing standards organisations wherever possible and appropriate.

    Having said that there is probably a class of recommendations from WGs/IGs that don't have have an appropriate standards organisation to approach. Will these be recognised as "standards" internationally just because RDA publishes them as such is another question? 

  • Kevin Ashley's picture

    Author: Kevin Ashley

    Date: 13 Jan, 2017

    I am broadly supportive of this document and strongly in support of recommendation (2). In fact, I would favour broadening recommendation (2) to include providing support to any RDA sub-community that wishes to pursue standardisation of RDA outputs. I say this because the path to standardisation will vary hugely depending on the standards body, the type of output and the maturity of the domain to which it is targeted. In many cases the WGs/IGs creating the outputs will see the value of standardisation. In other cases it may take some years for this value to become apparent; by then the original group may no longer exist but other supporters will have emerged.

    As others have observed, not all RDA outputs are suitable for standardisation and even for those that are, it is only in some cases that standardisation will have a material effect on uptake, which is RDA's concern. So I think it's important to support standardisation efforts where there is enthusiasm from the groups, to encourage it where it seems appropriate but not to present it as a natural mode of activity for all groups.

    I don't have strong feelings about recommendation (1), which is of value to the RDA/funder relationship but where I don't have any evidence for or against any wider value.

    Recommendation (3) needs caution - the existing phrasing "Council should consider" seems appropriate. If we see a body through which we are likely to want to move a number of standards then it is worth investing the effort in establishing relationships at an organisational level. But until that point is reached then we don't want to invest time and effort (which is in short supply) on tasks which may well not be of benefit. In some existing cases, those involved in particular groups may already have a good understanding of the workings of the standards bodies appropriate for their outputs and some of these may be domain-specific. I think the central support and encouragement for these efforts is likely to offer greater payback in the medium term than high-level relationships with particular bodies.

    (I've expressed these views already in an OAB meeting but am adding them here because it's better that they're collected with the other comments.)

     

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