Group Process & Procedures

 

This webpage provides an overview of Working Groups (see “Setting up a Working Group”), Interest Groups (see “Setting up an Interest Group”), Birds of a Feather (BoFs) (see “Setting up a BoF”), Working Group Processes, Interest Group Processes, Charters, and Case Statements. Please note that the documents herein are a work in progress. We want people to work through these guidelines and to provide constructive feedback on their usefulness. Please contact us with your feedback.

Introduction

The Research Data Alliance accomplishes its mission primarily through two important mechanisms: (1) Working Groups; and (2) Interest Groups. A third mechanism are short-term (3) BoFs held at plenaries, which can lead to new Interest or Working Groups. Table 1 illustrates these three types of groups.

Any RDA member may initiate or join an RDA Working Group, Interest Group, or BoF. To become a member of the RDA, individuals should register with the RDA online community, thereby affirming their support for the RDA Guiding Principles.

RDA works to implement functional infrastructure through Working Groups. Working Groups are comprised of experts from the international community that are engaged in creating deliverables that will directly enable data sharing, exchange, or interoperability.  Working Groups conduct short-lived, 12-18 month efforts that implement specific tools, code, best practices, standards, etc. at multiple institutions. For more detail on the expected WG outcomes, see Working Group Goals and Outcomes.

Working Groups undergo a review process before they are endorsed by RDA. RDA endorsement is dependent upon the Working Group committing to produce deliverables within an 18-month time frame that will be implemented and adopted by one or more specific communities. Working Group deliverables include, but are not limited to, technical specifications and implementation practices, conceptual models or frameworks, implemented policies, and other documents and practices that improve data exchange. These targeted, concrete efforts are the focus of RDA, but often the community needs to work together for a while to define these specific implementable activities. RDA has developed a process that enables groups of researchers and data scientists to define common issues and interests through longer-term Interest Groups.

Interest Groups are comprised of experts from the community that are committed to directly or indirectly enabling data sharing, exchange, or interoperability. Interest groups develop brief charters that also undergo a review process before the group is endorsed by RDA.  RDA endorsement is dependent upon the Interest Group serving as a platform for communication and coordination among individuals, outside and within RDA, with shared interests. They produce important deliverables such as surveys, recommendations, reports, and Working Group case statements. Interest groups must have international participation and a demonstrated community. They should not be for promoting specific projects or technologies. Interest Groups remain in operation as long as they remain active, subject to periodic evaluation of their activity and its relevance to RDA aims.  If an interest group has been inactive for six months, it may be disbanded by Council.

Birds of a Feather groups (BoFs) are formed to hold one-time meetings at plenaries. The aim of a BoF session is to find other RDA members interested in the topic, and to explore whether there is interest in establishing an Interest or Working Group on the topic.

 

Interest Groups

Working Groups

BoFs

Membership

All RDA members can join

All RDA members can join

All RDA members can join

Duration

As long as the group is active

12-18 months

Short-term around a Plenary

Outcomes

Possibly case statements for new WGs, coordination, communication

Concrete deliverables - “Running code”, tools, standards, etc.

Convert to IG, convert to WG, or retire BoF

RDA liaisons

1 Tab member, 1 Secretariat member

1-2 TAB members, 1 Secretariat member

1 Secretariat member

Review process

Community review (4+ weeks), then review by TAB (2 weeks) and Council (2 weeks)

Community review (4+ weeks), then review by TAB (4 weeks) and Council (2 weeks)

Review by TAB

Table 1: Differences between IGs, WGs, and BoFs

How to initiate an RDA Group

Setting up a BoF

Any member or members of RDA can propose a BoF session at the next plenary, with the aim to assess interest in the BOF’s topic. The expected outcome from the session would be a decision by the participants to either convert the group to an IG or a WG, or to retire the group. The process to request and conduct a BoF is as follows:

  1. The BoF chair creates a new group of type BoF via the “Initiate new Group” option in the “Working and Interest Groups” menu (or using this link), including a brief description of the BoF, and changes the Group Type to "BoF". (The Secretariat is happy to help with this step).TAB and the RDA Secretariat get notified that the new BoF has been proposed.
  2. The RDA Secretariat will allocate a Secretariat Liaison to the BoF and inform the BoF chairs.
  3. After the deadline for proposing breakout sessions at the plenary is past, the TAB will review the BoF according to the following criteria:
  • Alignment with RDA mission and vision
  • No overlap with existing IGs / WGs
  • Not focussed exclusively on one technology / product
  • One-off meeting at plenary
  • Time slot available for the BoF at the next plenary
  1. TAB will contact the BoF chair(s) and inform them of the outcome.
  2. If the BoF session has been approved, the BoF will be listed in the plenary program. It is recommended that the BoF chair(s) advertise the BoF and contact potential participants.
  3. The BoF session is then held at the next plenary.

At or shortly after the BoF session at the plenary, the BoF participants should decide if they want the BoF to be a one-off event, or if they want to continue their discussions by converting the BoF into an Interest or Working Group, in which case the BoF participants need to develop a charter or case statement. If the BoF participants decide not to convert the BoF, the BoF chairs should notify the Secretariat so that the BoF’s Organic Group can be retired.

Setting up an Interest Group

Interest Groups are long-term initiatives within the RDA.  With respect to function and outcomes, Interest Groups may do one or more of the following:

1)   serve as a platform that leads to the formation of one or more  Working Groups. An existing Interest Group may refine their ideas into implementable actions by creating focused Case Statements to create one or more Working Groups. The process of establishing a Working Group is described in the “Setting up a Working Group” section below.

2)   support communication and coordination among a cluster of related Working Groups/Interest Groups that may be grouped by theme (e.g., research domain, data publishing, data life cycle component, etc.)

3)   enable better communication and coordination across different Working Groups/Interest Groups (e.g, all domain-specific groups, all education groups, between technically oriented and domain-specific groups, etc.)

4)   serve to communicate and coordinate with a specific community outside RDA, fostering synergies, bringing new  groups/members to RDA and conversely bringing the WGs activities to the attention of external parties.

Interest Groups undergo a formal review (see Figure 1) before they are recognized and endorsed by RDA. Review criteria include the following:

  • 2-4 co-chairs leading the initiative
  • Members are international experts, ideally the group spans at least 3 continents
  • Platform for communication and coordination around the topic of interest
  • Not promoting one specific product or technology
  • No overlap with existing IGs / WGs

The process for initiating an RDA Interest Group is as follows:

1.       The prospective Interest Group (IG) puts together a short  charter following the Interest Group Charter template, describing their activities and listing two to four co-chairs. One of the IG members (typically a chair) creates a new Interest Group via the “Initiate new group” button in the “Working and Interest Groups” menu, or using this link, changes the Group Type to "Interest Group", and adds the charter to this group. (The Secretariat is happy to help with this step). The Secretariat designates a liaison to work with the proposed IG, and will contact the IG chairs.

2.       The Secretariat notifies the TAB, Council, and the broader community that the document has been posted and is now ready for community review. The community will be given at least four weeks to review and comment on the document.

3.       If there have been significant comments, the IG is expected to post a revised Charter, based on the comments made during community review.

4.       TAB reviews the IG charter. After TAB has accepted the Charter, TAB will designate a TAB member as liaison to the group. 

5.       Council reviews the IG charter in consultation with TAB, and makes one of four possible decisions:

  • Recognized and endorsed as is: Strong Charter. Group is recognized as an RDA IG and should commence its work.
  • Recognized and endorsed subject to specific revisions: Worthwhile idea, changes need to be made to strengthen the Charter and meet approval criteria. After the approach has been modified, the group will be recognized by RDA and commence its work.
  • Encouraged but not presently endorsed: Good idea but needs refinement. The group needs to mature its concept and refine its Charter for approval. Council and/or TAB will provide specific feedback and clarification on what is needed.
  • Not endorsed: The idea is not a good fit for the RDA or does not meet other criteria for approval. Council will provide specific feedback and clarification.

The group’s revision contact, a member of TAB, Council, or the Secretariat, will notify the IG of the review outcomes and inform the group who will be working with them on any remaining issues.

6.       Once the document has been revised, the group chair should post it in its Discussion group. Council and TAB will then review the document again.

7.       If Council perceives reasonable community consistence and clear needs, deliverables, and beneficiaries, they formally recognize the group.

Once the IG is recognised, the Secretariat will help the IG establish working, communication, and recording processes. Joint activities with RDA affiliates are encouraged.

 

Figure 1: IG Charter Review Process.

Setting up a Working Group

Working Groups (WGs) require more commitment than Interest Groups. Working Groups develop Case Statements that are then reviewed by the RDA Community, TAB, and Council. Review criteria include: 

  • Fit with the overall RDA vision and mission
  • International membership spanning ideally 3 or more continents
  • 2-4 co-chairs leading the initiative
  • Measurable outcomes
  • Outcomes will foster data sharing and/or exchange, and be taken up by the intended community
  • Proposed work, outcomes /deliverables, and Action Plan described in the Case Statement can be accomplished in 12-18 months
  • Appropriate scope of the WG
  • The effort adds value over and above what is currently being done within the community.

More information on the required components and review criteria relevant to a Case Statement can be found on the Case Statement page.

Candidate WGs should contact enquiries [at] rd-alliance.org about their intent to develop an RDA Working Group Case Statement. A Secretariat liaison will be assigned to the candidate WG as a resource to assist them throughout the life of the WG.

The process for setting up an RDA Working group is as follows (see also Figure 2):

  1. The WG develops their Case Statement describing the Working Group’s beneficiaries, goals, outcomes, and operational approach. The WG chair(s) creates a new Case Statement, if there is already an RDA Organic Group for the group, or creates a new Working Group via the “Initiate new group” button in the “Working and Interest Groups” menu, or using this link, and adds the Case Statement to this group. (The Secretariat is happy to help with this step).
  2. The Secretariat notifies the TAB, Council, and the broader community that the document has been posted and is now ready for community review. The community will be given at least four weeks to review and comment on the document. TAB will also designate one or two TAB members to work with the candidate group to help guide the review process and, in particular for Working Groups, advise on technical considerations, representation, and alignment with the RDA Technical Roadmap
  3. If there have been significant comments, the WG is expected to post a revised Case Statement, based on the comments made during community review.
  4. TAB reviews the Case Statement. This is expected to take 2-4 weeks. After TAB has accepted the Charter, TAB will designate a TAB member as liaison to the group. 
  5. After the TAB review, Council will review the Case Statement. This is expected to take about 4 weeks. Council will make one of four possible decisions about a document:
  • Recognized and endorsed as is: Strong Case Statement. Group is recognized as RDA WG and should commence its work.
  • Recognized and endorsed subject to specific revisions: Worthwhile idea, changes need to be made to strengthen the Case Statement and meet approval criteria. After the approach has been modified, the group will be recognized by RDA and commence its work.
  • Encouraged but not presently endorsed: Good idea but needs refinement. The group needs to mature its concept and refine its Case Statement for approval. Council and/or TAB will provide specific feedback and clarification on what is needed.
  • Not endorsed: The idea is not a good fit for the RDA or does not meet other criteria for approval. Council will provide specific feedback and clarification. Council may feel that the group may be more appropriate as discussion-oriented Interest Groups, from which specific outcome-oriented Working Group ideas and Case Statement submissions may arise later.
  1. After the Council review, a designated member of either TAB or Council, or the Secretariat will get back to the WG chairs with any comments or revisions, and information on who will work with the group on those. The chairs then post a revised version of the Case Statement on the case statement page.
  2. TAB and/or Council will review the Case Statement again. If Council perceives reasonable community consistence and clear needs, deliverables, and beneficiaries, they formally recognize the group.

The outcomes of recognized Working Groups are strongly promoted by Council, the OAB, the TAB, the Secretariat, and the RDA Membership at large. We work hard to encourage research agencies, industry, and academia to adopt the products of RDA Working Groups.

Figure 2: WG Case Statement Review Process.