The Research Data Alliance builds the social and technical bridges that enable open sharing of data, and its guiding principles include harmonisation and consensus for data standards, policies, technologies, infrastructure, and communities. The RDA vision notes that currently, the global research data landscape is highly fragmented, as practice and policy develop separately according to research disciplines or domains.
Archivists, records professionals and librarians have long been tasked with acquiring, appraising, arranging, managing, preserving and making accessible research material, both digital and analogue. As the global community works towards the harmonisation of research data management, these professionals have skills and expertise which can contribute greatly to the development of best practices.
RDA Working Groups and Interest Groups
There are two groups which are aimed specifically at library and records professionals, the Archives and Records Professionals for Research Data Interest Group, and the Libraries for Research Data Interest Group. Information professionals have skills and expertise to contribute to the broader RDA community however, and some of the other groups which may be of interest are listed below.
Archives and Records Professionals for Research Data Interest Group
The objective of this group is to explore the areas where the principles and practices in the information disciplines of archives, records management, and research data curation overlap and where they diverge. Examining alignments in theoretical frameworks, practical implementations, and goals among these information disciplines and determining areas where practitioners across them can learn from each other could lead to the development of a vibrant community of information professionals working across different domains.
Libraries for Research Data Interest Group
Research Data have become a primary research asset that often requires continued access in the dynamic environment of mobile researchers, volatile repositories, transient products and short-lived standards. Libraries have looked after written research assets for centuries and now tackle the challenge of adapting their function to making data reliably accessible and re-usable.
Data Rescue Interest Group
The natural sciences possess a rich heritage of data spanning the entire era of research, encompassing both modern electronic formats and analogue ones (paper, film, books, pro-formas, charts, maps, photographic plates) or primitive magnetic tapes. The information in older data is critical for quantifying changes and trends and differentiating between natural or anthropogenic-induced changes. Unfortunately, most historical data have not been converted into electronic datasets. Those data cannot be accessed by present-day research - to the serious detriment of models that predict future changes. Even those that have been 'digitized' (whether catalogues of measurements or the actual observations) are rarely in interoperable, even easily readable, formats. Though essential to research for their unique time-stamp, heritage data are often in deteriorating state, abandoned, or effectively lost (if not actually destroyed). The objectives of the new IG will be (a) to ferret out and catalogue known data-rescue efforts as exemplars of what can be achieved, and thereby raising the profile of Data Rescue in the world at large, (b) to establish an advisory system for 'digitizing' and associated tasks, and (c) to communicate with relevant RDA IGs (Education, Metadata, History & Ethnography, Long Tail of Data, and the domain-specific standard-setters).
Research Data Provenance Interest Group
Tracking provenance for research data is vital to science and scholarship, providing answers to common questions researchers pose when sharing and exchanging data: Where did it come from? Who modified it? Is this copy the same as the copy I deposited? In what way is it the same? How do I resolve discrepancies or anomalies?
This group focuses on the comparison and evaluation of models for data provenance. It is concerned with questions of data origins, maintenance of identity through the data lifecycle, and how we account for data modification. Objectives of this group include: recommending general and expressive frameworks for documenting research data transactions proposing syntheses of complementary provenance views, and relating data provenance to problems of scientific equivalence and the assessment of data quality.
Research Data Collections Working Group
Several communities have expressed interest in leveraging aggregations of objects with particular focus on building such aggregations through PIDs and possibly providing identifiers for aggregation objects. There is however no unified cross-community approach to building and managing such collections and no common model for understanding them. The PID Information Types WG has defined a core model and the central interface for accessing object state information and provided a small number of example types, which were consequently registered in the Type Registry WG prototype. With these tools available to describe essential object information, collections can be described so to be able to deal with more than a single object at once.
Building collections within diverse domains and then sharing or expanding them across disciplines should enable common tools for end-users and e-infrastructure providers. Individual disciplinary communities can directly benefit if such tools are made widely available, and cross-community data sharing can benefit from increased unification between collection models and implementations. PID providers may benefit from marketing additional services on collections.
Empirical Humanities Metadata Working Group
The empirical humanities include history, folklore, cultural anthropology and other fields in which researchers collect primary data of different types that can be used for cultural analysis. Today, these researchers often need to collaborate to understand phenomena that operate across geographic regions, scale and communities of people. But established research practices and infrastructures in the empirical humanities do not support this. The Empirical Humanities Metadata WG (EHM) will conduct research, develop a statement of best practices and release an adoptable product centered on what needs to be in place (standards, protocols, policies, cultural expectations) to make ethnographic and historical data archivable, discoverable and shareable.
RDA/CODATA Legal Interoperability IG
The proposed Research Data Alliance – CODATA Working Group on Legal Interoperability of Research Data (RDA-CODATA WG), will be established to address and promote the following objectives:
● Define legal interoperability of research data and articulate why it is important for data interoperability and reuse.
● Document and analyze up to four case studies in the areas of geoscience, biodiversity research, social sciences, and humanities of legal interoperability solutions in interdisciplinary and international contexts.
● Develop and publish core principles and guidelines of best practices through which legal interoperability can be achieved, and link to related information resources online.
● Work with key stakeholder groups to get the core principles and guidelines of best practices adopted.
● Generally promote better understanding and greater use by the stakeholder groups in the research community of the agreed approaches to legal interoperability of research data, focused on highlighting and enabling better integration and reuse of such data.
If your Working Group or Interest Group may be of relevance to information professionals, please email enquiries[at]rd-alliance.org to have your group added to this page.
23 Things: Libraries for Research Data
A web resource developed by the RDA's Libraries for Research Data Interest Group that provides an overview of practical, free, online resources and tools that librarians can use to incorporate research data into their practice of librarianship.
Relevant events can be found on the RDA’s event page.
“The Archival Advantage: Integrating Archival Expertise into Management of Born-digital Library Materials”, Jackie Dooley, Archival Science Special Issue on Archiving Research Data, Vol. 7, Iss. 1 (March 2007)
‘Records management and data management: closing the gap’, John McDonald, Records Management Journal, 1, Vol. 20 (2010)
‘Skilling Up to Do Data: Whose Role, Whose Responsibility, Whose Career?’, Graham Pryor, Martin Donnelly, The International Journal of Digital Curation, Vol. 4, No. 2, (2009)
Author: Rebecca Grant, European Support Team, RDA