status: Recognised & Endorsed

Chair (s): Hea Lim Rhee, Francis P. Crawley, Rory Macneil, Adam Vials Moore, Emmanuel Adamolekun

Group Email: [group_email]

Secretariat Liaison: [field_secretariat_liaison]

RDA-OfR Mapping the landscape of digital research tools WG

NOTE: WG name changed from 'Mapping the digital research data infrastructure landscape WG'

Scroll to the bottom of this page for all WG meeting documentation



The digital research data infrastructure landscape comprises a myriad of tools for managing and sharing research data during various stages of the research data lifecycle. Such research tools vary widely depending on data type, user requirement, provider, and subject area. In the context of this WG, research ‘tools enable researchers to perform one or more operations, typically on data, and often with data as the output. Tools are usually intended for use by humans. In this context we are explicitly excluding physical instruments.’


The diversity and variety of research tools can prove overwhelming and challenging for stakeholders working within the digital research data ecosystem to understand, navigate, and select the most appropriate tool to meet their needs and objectives. The categorisation of research tools, based on their features, functionalities and how they interoperate, remains unclear. In many cases, research tools are not interoperable, often leading to siloed working within organisations and disciplines, thereby limiting the scope of research and the ability to share and reuse data. 


This RDA Working Group (WG), supported by Oracle for Research (OfR), aims to address these challenges by: (i) categorising different types of research tools; and, (ii) mapping different types of research tools to the research data lifecycle based on their features and functionalities. 



The WG will produce a categorisation schema (a conceptual framework) of research tool types that includes terminology, definitions and associated metadata describing features and functionalities of different tool types. The categorisation schema will be stored in an autonomous database provided by Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. The WG will undertake the following programme of work to achieve its deliverables:


The creation of a research data lifecycle model and crosswalk to existing models (Deliverable 1)


The WG will examine and identify the different stages of the research data lifecycle. Since numerous different models of the research data lifecycle exist that have been conceptualised for specific research paradigms and audiences, the WG will conduct a landscape review to research and consult existing models (see Section 3) and identify common stages of the research data lifecycle for use as the framework to guide the research tool categorisation. Each research data lifecycle stage will be supported by terminology and definitions. The WG will create a crosswalk to demonstrate connections between the chosen model and existing models. 


The identification, categorisation, and mapping of different types of research tools: A categorisation schema (Deliverable 2)


The WG will research and consult existing work in the area to identify, categorise, and map different types of research tools. Such tools may include, but are not limited to: open science frameworks, data management planning tools, electronic laboratory notebooks (ELNs), laboratory information management systems (LIMS), virtual research environments (VREs), databases, repositories, and archives. Types of research tools will be described, categorised, and mapped to the research data lifecycle framework based on their utility, and assessed based on their interoperability. 


The aim of this deliverable is to highlight the potential for and current limitations of streamlined flow of research data and metadata throughout the research data lifecycle based on how different types of research tools interoperate. This will be highly valuable in the context of the development of the national and international open research commons. 


This work will contribute to and build on the work of the RDA’s Global Open Research Commons IG and GORC International Model WG. Task Group 5 of the GORC International WG has undertaken an extensive literature review and released a Commons Attributes Model (Version 0.5) that identifies a suite of services and tools that will inform the work of this WG. Efforts to describe the features, functionality, and interoperability of different types of research tools will complement the development of the ‘Commons Integration Roadmap’ (GORC WG Deliverable) by providing key information about different types of research tools, and highlighting areas for the improvement of their interoperability and user experience. 


The creation of a preliminary structural framework for an online open access ‘map of the digital research tool landscape’ (Deliverable 3)


The WG will undertake the necessary foundational work required to create an autonomous relational database that is hosted by the RDA Foundation (as a legal entity on behalf of the RDA), owned by the community, and powered by Oracle for Software. This arrangement has been discussed and agreed by RDA and Oracle for Research. 


The open access database, navigable by research data lifecycle stage, will: (i) contain searchable information (e.g., features, functionalities, interoperability) about different types of research tools; and: (ii) allow for ongoing community curation and further development. The WG will provide recommendations for the long-term maintenance, sustainability, and adoption of the database to ensure that it remains current, relevant, and useful for the research data community. Such recommendations will also propose methodologies for future community-curation (detailing who can contribute and how), management, and governance of the database. 


The ultimate goal is to provide the research data community with a dynamic resource that remains up to date with newly emerging types of research tools and evolves with the ever-changing digital research data infrastructure landscape. This may include significant data and software-related developments, e.g., Artificial Intelligence (AI).


Meetings and Deliverables (see WG meeting folder

Date (2023-2024)


Documentation and Deliverables 

23 April 2023   

Brainstorming workshops: Definition of WG scope  

22 May

1st WG meeting: Revision of case statement   


29 June  

2nd WG meeting: Creating/Selecting a Research Data Life Cycle Model - The Discovery Phase

  • Kickstarting the WG
  • Discovery phase: Collecting research data life cycle models in breakouts - formation of task groups 
20 July 

3rd WG meeting: Creating/Selecting a Research Data Life Cycle Model - The Harmonisation Phase 

  • Discovery phase: Presentation of research data life cycle models by group nominated leads/rapporteur(s) 
  • Harmonisation phase: Crosswalk of research data life cycle models and selection of a framework to guide categorisation schema for types of research tool   
17 August     

4th WG meeting: Finalisation of Deliverable 1 - Creation/selection of a Research Data Life Cycle Model 

  • Presentation of harmonised research data life cycle model (MaLDReTH) by co-chairs
  • Selection and/or creation of harmonised terminologies and definitions of each research data lifecycle stage
  • Finalisation of the model and suggestions for next steps
14 September                    

5th WG meeting: A roadmap for the creation of a categorisation schema of research tools 



9 October              

6th WG meeting: Approach to Deliverable 2 (Categorisation Schema of research tools) 

  • Start of the landscape review to collect research tools used during the 'Publication' stage of the MaLDReTH Research Data Lifecycle Model


26 October             

7th WG meeting: Mapping the landscape of digital research tools working meeting 

Breakout session 5: 07:00 - 08:30 UTC (P21 session programme)
The aim of this working meeting is to present the new RDA-OfR Mapping the Landscape of Digital Research Tools WG and receive feedback, input, and further direction on the WG’s aims, objectives, methodologies, and deliverables as well as expand the WG’s collaborations within RDA and attract an expanded and more diverse WG membership.


9 November 

8th WG meeting: Post-plenary 'Pause and reflect' meeting 

  • Reflection on the P21 Plenary session 
7 December 

9th WG meeting: Building upon the work of the Global Open Research Commons (GORC) International Model WG


13 December 

10th WG meeting: Formation of Task Groups to finalise Deliverable 2: Turning the landscape review into a categorisation schema of research tools

  • Create 4 task groups, each task group covers 3 stages of the research data life cycle model. 
  • Identify top 3-4 representative, typical tools for description.
  • Identify tools that are present across more than one stage of the research data lifecycle. 
  • Add column in the spreadsheet to include ‘disciplinary or generic’.
  • Add column in the spreadsheet to include a note/acknowledgement about interoperability.
25 January 

11th WG meeting: Finalising Deliverable 2 - A categorisation schema of different types of research tools 

  • To learn about Invest in Open Infrastructure product

  • To finalise Deliverable 2 and discuss the next steps for the WG 

22 February  12th WG meeting: Finalising Deliverable 2 and Planning Deliverable 3 - Creation of an online, open access map of the digital research tool landscape