RDA Working and Interest Group Chairs: Roles and Responsibilities

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22 March 2016 12943 reads


This page is intended as a primer for RDA Working and Interest Group Chairs, and, due to the evolving nature of RDA, should be of interest to both first-time and more experienced Chairs.  

To address the growing global need for data infrastructure, the Research Data Alliance was created in 2013 as an international, community-powered organization. Membership is open at no cost to any individual who agrees to the RDA principles of openness, consensus-based decision making, balanced representation, technology neutrality, and harmonization across communities and technologies. 

Working Groups (WG), Interest Groups (IG) and Birds of a Feather (BoF) groups are the heart of RDA. Members within these groups collaborate through their group's section of the RDA website, regional workshops and at formal RDA Plenaries that are held twice a year. 

For 12 to 18 months, WGs collaborate to develop Recommendations to implement specific tools, code, best practices, standards, etc. that will promote data sharing and exchange, and increase data-driven innovation. IGs define common issues and interests that may lead to the creation of more focused Working Groups or to other outputs. BoF groups aim to find other RDA members interested in a specific topic and explore whether there is sufficient interest to create an IG or WG on the topic. WGs, IGs and BoFs should not promote a specific product or technology.

RDA wants groups to be active during their lifespan. A group may be declared inactive for a variety of reasons. Interest Groups that have shown no activity for 1 year will initially be contacted by a member of the RDA Secretariat or the RDA Technical Advisory Board to see if RDA can help re-invigorate the group.


Roles and Responsibilities

WG and IG Group Chairs are responsible for initiating the formation of their Groups and leading their members in delivering specific outputs that directly enable data sharing, exchange or interoperability.  RDA requires at least two but no more than four co-chairs from at least two continents to take primary responsibility for the quality, scope, timeliness and usefulness of the work produced by these groups. Groups can establish their own decision-making processes, but from an RDA perspective, there are no "lead" chairs. All co-chairs are considered equals.

Chairs provide an effective organization structure, ensure their group functions in accordance with the RDA Guiding Principles and perform various administrative responsibilities related to the operation of the Group. For RDA IGs in particular, RDA recommends rotating at least some of the group's co-chairs periodically, balancing continuity with changed group perspective and circumstances. 

If chairs for a group change, one of the chairs should email enquiries[at]rd-alliance[dot]org with all remaining, outcoming and incoming chairs cc'd.

Role descriptions are categorized below by phases in the WG and IG Group lifecycle. Please note that group chairs and group members are always welcome to contact the Secretariat (enquiries[at]rd-alliance[dot]org) if they have any questions or comments, or need assistance, throughout the lifespan of their group.


Recruiting Group Members

  • Ensure membership represents at least 2, but preferably 3 or more continents and comprises multiple sectors/disciplines and roles. If you would like RDA to broker conversations with members from specific regions, please contact enquiries [at] rd-alliance[dot]org.
  • Communicate the 12-18 month participation requirement to WG members (IGs remain in operation as long as they remain active, subject to periodic evaluation of their activity and its relevance to RDA aims).


Initiating an RDA Working or Interest Group

To initiate an RDA WG or IG, Chairs should:

  • Contact enquiries[at] rd-alliance[dot]org about your intent to develop a WG or IG; the Secretariat will then assist the group throughout its duration.

For WGs, lead the Case Statement development process; which includes:

  • Submitting a case statement that includes the issues the group will address, Recommendations and other outputs it will produce, who will benefit from the group’s effort, its work plan and its adoption plan.
  • Responding to community comments posted on the Case Statement page during the Community Review Phase.
  • Working with the group to revise case statement based on feedback from community, TAB, and Council.

Learn more about the Case Statement Development and Review Process.

For IGs, lead the Charter development process, which includes:

  • Developing a short charter following the Interest Group Charter template, describing their activities and listing two to four co-chairs.
  • Responding to community comments posted on the Charter's page during the Community Review Phase.
  • Ensuring there is no avoidable overlap with existing groups.

Learn more about the Review Process for IGs.

After a group has been endorsed by the RDA, a liaison from the RDA Technical Advisory Board (TAB) will be assigned to the group. More information on how the TAB liaison can support the group can be found under "Liaison" in the document outlining what TAB does


Administering Operations of the Working and Interest Groups

  • For WGs: Lead the development of Recommendations and other outputs as defined by the group's Case Statement (Recommendations and Supporting Outputs for WGs)
  • For IGs: Lead the development of outputs as defined by the group's Charter (for IGs).
  • Facilitate coordination and communication within the group.
  • Supported by the group’s TAB liaison, help the group keep abreast of related activities within RDA (other WGs and IGs) and actively seek collaborations where appropriate. (Note: this is an important task requiring a significant investment in time)).
    • Consider nominating group members as formal cross-group liaisons. These group members would join related / relevant existing RDA Groups and report back to your group, exploring synergies and making sure both groups are aware of the other group's activities.
  • Develop record of relevant notes, minutes and materials from Groups for archive purposes and share these on the group's pages on the RDA web site.
  • Organize and facilitate regular group meetings.
  • Utilize the RDA website and online interaction channels to engage the community and keep the community informed of their efforts.
  • Inform RDA of relevant outputs and outcomes and how they will be sustained.
  • Participate in plenaries, including facilitation of WG/IG meetings and participation in TAB/WG/IG chairs meeting (schedule permitting).


Plenary Sessions

Plenary sessions should be working meeting that favour discussion and problem solving over presentation. In preparing, chairs should

  • Provide clear title, description, and goals of the session.
  • Provide any required or useful background material for the session on the session page (the Secretariat can help).
  • Make any presentation slides available on the session page by the start of the session.
  • Encourage participants to take collaborative notes (Secretariat will provide a Google doc for each session, linked from the session page)

Plenary sessions should be facilitated (not just chaired) by the group chairs. In Plenary sessions, chairs should

  • Pay careful attention to ensure all voices are heard and none dominate.
  • Where appropriate, use feedback tools and techniques (real-time voting, team challenges, breakouts, panels) to build understanding and consensus. RDA is currently compiling a list of tools and examples for Chairs to draw on. If you have any suggestions for additions to this list, please email enquiries[at]rd-alliance[dot]org.


Outputs and Adoption

  • Lead the development and distribution of reports to RDA members on outputs and outcomes produced from WG and IG activities
  • Report out at Plenaries on outputs and outcomes
    • For WGs - at or about the 12-month point, as counted from Council Recognition and Endorsement, present a status of your work.  Use this presentation template.
    • For WGs - at or about the 18-month point, as counted from Council Recognition and Endorsement, present your final Recommendation.  Use this presentation template.
    • IG Chairs interested in reporting about outputs from their group at a Plenary should contact enquiries[at]rd-alliance[dot]org. 
  • In particular for WGs:
    • Conduct outreach to outside organizations and members to gain support on outputs
    • Communicate to members the importance of adoption of outputs and, together with group members, actively look for adopters.
    • Provide the Secretariat with a publishable version of the WG’s Recommendation, a maintenance plan, and other information required for publishing the Recommendation and for the endorsement process.

Learn more about WG Outputs and the endorsement process.

If you have questions about any aspect of this document, please email the RDA Secretariat at enquiries[at]rd-alliance[dot]org.