The Value of RDA for COVID-19

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13 July 2020 12267 reads

Under public health emergencies, and particularly the COVID19 pandemic, it is fundamental that data is shared in both a timely and an accurate manner. This coupled with the harmonisation of the many diverse data infrastructures is, now more than ever, imperative to share preliminary data and results early and often. It is clear that open research data is a key component to pandemic preparedness and response.

In late March, RDA received a direct request from one of its funders, the European Commission, to create global guidelines and recommendations for data sharing under COVID-19 circumstances. Over 600 data professionals and domain experts signed up and began work in early April 2020. They have produced a rich set of detailed guidelines to help researchers and data stewards follow best practices to maximise the efficiency of their work, and to act as a blueprint for future emergencies; coupled with recommendations to help policymakers and funders to maximise timely, quality data sharing and appropriate responses in such health emergencies.

On 30 June 2020, RDA published the final version of the RDA COVID-19 Recommendations and Guidelines on data sharing covering four research areas – clinical data, omics practices, epidemiology and social sciences - complemented by overarching areas focusing on legal and ethical considerations, research software, community participation and indigenous data.

The Outputs

The COVID-19 WG, from April 1st through June 30th, 2020, created more than five releases of the recommendations and guidelines, leading to the final endorsed version, "RDA COVID-19 Recommendations and Guidelines for Data Sharing," with ongoing efforts to add and review materials.


Citation:  RDA COVID-19 Working Group. Recommendations and Guidelines on data sharing. Research Data Alliance, 2020. DOI:


Joint Statements


A series of weekly "RDA COVID-19 Update Webinar" occurred almost every Tuesday between April and June 2020 and provided updates on the overarching COVID-19, Legal and Ethical, Research Software, Community Participation Working Groups, Indigenous Data contribution, and the four research themes (clinical, omics, epidemiology, social sciences), along with an opportunity for members to ask questions. Recordings and presentations from these sessions are posted on the Events meeting links.

Upcoming events:

Past events include:

RDA for COVID-19 Profiles

The following are a series of profiles of RDA COVID19 working group contributors generated by regional programmes as a means of highlighting the regional contribution to this global effort.

My biggest takeaway from this experience is that there are no problems, only solutions. We, humanity, can find and build those solutions that will get us past COVID-19 and prevent future such disasters. The question is, will we do it.

Claire Austin: My experience as a participant in the RDA COVID-19 Working Group


This project clearly demonstrated the benefit of having the research software community collaborate on important strategic activities to increase the recognition and value of research software as a fundamental and vital component of research worldwide.

Michelle Barker: My experience as a participant in the RDA COVID-19 Working Group

Pre-COVID, this type of report would have typically taken RDA years to produce. The urgency of this situation made it possible to achieve what would have previously been considered impossible. Furthermore, it was done entirely virtually. This is unprecedented for RDA, which has always relied on face-to-face meetings to progress its work. I think we've realised how much we can achieve even by meeting virtually.

Kheeran Dharmawardena: My experience as a participant in the RDA COVID-19 Working Group


I had a strong desire to contribute in some way to the global response. The Digital Repository of Ireland (DRI), where I am Director, had released a statement about how, as a digital archive for HSS data, we intended to support preservation and access to COVID-19 related data, to fast track data deposit, and support to members in our areas of expertise.

Natalie Harrower, Director of the Digital Repository of Ireland


The recommendations are global and not just European, and they are based on sound community and vulnerable-group ethical imperatives. So I for one would like to see a more fundamental consideration of data sharing recommendations like this tied in with broader human-rights type discussion.

Brian Pickering, Senior Research Fellow, University of Southampton


The geographical as well domain diversity of the group’s expertise is well reflected in the document. A global pandemic impacts everyone; the response can’t be localised. An international initiative such as RDA demonstrates the power of a global community, knowledge and connectivity. 

Priyanka Pillai: My experience as a participant in the RDA-COVID19 Working Group


RDA for COVID-19 in the news

News & articles

Press clippings & sharing


The Working Group & subgroups

The main COVID-19 WG: for overall updates on the initiative, including announcements regarding the update webinars.

The COVID-19 sub-group by expertise and interest:

  1. Clinical
  2. Omics
  3. Epidemiology
  4. Social Sciences
  5. Community Participation
  6. Indigenous Data
  7. Legal and Ethical
  8. Software

The RDA COVID-19 activities were conducted under the RDA guiding principles of Openness, Consensus, Balance, Harmonisation, Community-driven, Non-profit and Technology-neutral. The results and outputs are open to all.