CODATA-RDA Schools for Research Data Science group updates and new challenges

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26 Feb 2022
Meeting objectives: 

Early this year, we hosted our first sustainability workshop at which we invited participants with previous experiences in this type of project and asked them to discuss pros and cons of the following models: (a) Project funding; (b) Additional Support from CODATA national members; (c) Higher Education Institute / Research Performing Organization subscription or contribution; (d) Participant Charging; and (e) Appeal for Donations. 

Our session at RDA P19 will focus on the sustainability topic. We aim to share with the RDA community our growth/expansion plans as well as the funding models that have been proposed during our sustainability workshop and we hope to get the feedback from the community regarding these plans and funding models. We recommend that people attending this session read our Sustainability Model Document and our Ignition Report


  • Present our plans for the school growth/expansion;
    • Discuss opportunities for expansion (bring your own breakout room, online delivery, physical schools) and implications for funding.
  • Present the funding models discussed during our Sustainability workshop: (a) Project funding; (b) Additional Support from CODATA national members; (c) Higher Education Institute / Research Performing Organization subscription or contribution; (d) Participant Charging; and (e) Appeal for Donations. 
  • Receive the community’s feedback on the expansion and funding ideas for the schools.
Meeting agenda: 

Collaborative sessione notes:

  • Introduction and Session Format Review (10’)
  • Present plans for school growth/expansion (15’)
  • Present funding models (15’)
  • Discussion (40’)
  • Summarization of the main discussion points (10’)
Target Audience: 

All of RDA interested in Education and Outreach as well as community building and self-sustainability

Group chair serving as contact person: 
Brief introduction describing the activities and scope of the group: 

The Interest Group works to grow a community of instructors that participate in the Schools for Research Data Science (SRDS) for Early Career Researchers (ECRs). In particular, the SRDS offers a model for providing that cohort with a set of foundational skills for processing, analyzing, managing, and visualizing research data. The SRDS are primarily aimed at ECRs from Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs), and the first of these Schools ran at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), Trieste, Italy, in August 2016. During this edition we’ve delivered the school to 67 students from over 30 countries. Since then 10 additional physical schools have been run in Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Rwanda, South Africa, Brazil and Australia. CODATA also ran pilot schools in Nairobi, Beijing (2014), Bangalore and Jakarta (2015). The AOSP Pilot Project ran a school in Antananarivo, Madagascar (2017).

Since 2016, 602 students have been taught in virtual and physical schools; 335 students have been taught in the physical ECR schools on five continents and 267 students in the virtual schools. This corresponds to $650K (based on a calculation for a UK-based department where fees are fixed) worth of teaching and what is remarkable is that all this has so far been achieved using an entirely volunteer network drawn from over 20 countries. The school organization, instructor/helpers travel arrangements have been sponsored largely by CODATA, RDA, and the local school host. Such support has helped the schools so far and our main aim now is to become self-sustainable, such that we can promote new schools at new locations without needing to rely on host institution funds.

The present situation with respect to COVID-19 has not stopped the school from continuing its delivery of teaching. In August 2020 the annual Trieste school was replaced by an online event with a focus on providing a refresher course and train-the-trainer for the Alumni of the school. From May to July 2021 the first entirely online version of the school was hosted by the University of Pretoria in South Africa. From September to November the second implementation of this was hosted by the ICTP in Trieste. This school adopted an innovative hybrid format, at which the students would gain access to recorded materials (lectures and exercises) that they could watch and follow at their own pace. Also, for each topic covered by the school, we hosted 2 live sessions that the participants had to attend and during which we posed ethical questions and also a Q&A session regarding the offline lecture and exercises materials

Short Group Status: 

The initiative is continuing with support and engagement from both CODATA and RDA. We have achieved the status of Recognised and Endorsed. Up to this point, the group has had several financial contributions from several organizations (International Centre for Theoretical Physics - ICTP, FAIRsFAIR, RDA/US, among others) that helped with hosting the events and covering most of their costs. Still, we are looking for ways to ensure that the initiative reaches long term financial independence. That would mean being able to do more long term planning as well as organizing schools in other places that have a deficit for this type of training.

On top of running the full curriculum school, we have also run, with support from the EU network FAIRsFAIR, two online events for Data Stewards at the University of Manchester and UNA in Costa Rica. More events are planned in 2021 in Botswana and European locations.

Secondary to this issue is the need for an instructor training model that allows for the alumni to get involved with the schools and be able to replicate them in their home countries. This will help to fulfill the IG’s goal of creating a network of schools.

Type of Meeting: 
Working meeting
Meeting presenters: 
Louise Bezuidenhout, Raphael Cobe, Marcela Alfaro Córdoba, Sara El Jadid, Bianca Peterson, Robert Quick, Hugh Shanahan, Shanmugasundaram Venkataraman