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The Research Data Alliance (RDA) has been around as now for almost five years. The 10th RDA Plenary meeting was held in Montréal in September 2017, and the number of participants has grown exponentially compared to the very first Plenary in Gothenburg in Spring 2013. In the end of 2013 there were 1 000 individual RDA members, now there are over 6 000! How did this happen?
Building the social and technical bridges to enable data sharing and reuse – the community-driven approach – is an elementary part of the RDA, which can be seen in a very concrete way in each plenary meeting. It is always amazing to see, how enthusiastic and genuinely engaged people are, when they come together from all over the world, to jointly work upon the data related issues.
And even if the plenaries sometimes seem chaotic, the results and outputs speak for themselves: there are indeed already 18 flagship outputs, of which nine have already been approved by the European Commission as ICT technical specifications for public procurement. Not to mention the various adoption cases in different countries across the globe. This means, RDA is not just a bunch of data nerds doing some random stuff, but it is real, sustainable development work, that contributes to solving global challenges by creating ways of handling the data and turning it into something useful. Data is revolutionarily changing the way research and business are being conducted, and the RDA has a huge impact on this all.
What makes RDA so special? According to community actors, RDA is a neutral platform for working with data issues. It is multi-disciplinary, and it is truly bottom-up, as it empowers its individual members to take control. With data sharing, there is really no other way than bottom-up. Engaging researchers is not an easy task, but RDA has managed to take big steps in the right direction.
In Europe, the data management framework that RDA offers, is essential for creating the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) and implementing the FAIR principles. The EOSC is a major effort by the European Commission, but it is important to note, that building an infrastructure is not enough – we need exactly the social and technical bridges for data management, and that is where RDA plays a role.
At national level, the RDA can provide concrete tools for researchers and communities, to help in data management. At the same time, it provides opportunities for having an impact by participating in the work of RDA. Interoperability is the key issue for European research infrastructures, and this is why we should actively explore opportunities for making use of RDA outputs on national and institutional levels, linking to national policies and ways of working with data.
The national work will now be an even stronger focus for RDA, as the next (fourth) phase of the RDA Europe project starts, introducing national nodes which will have a major role in engaging national RDA communities and establishing a sustainable structure throughout Europe. The aim is to have 22 national nodes by 2020.
"In Europe, the data management framework that RDA offers, is essential for creating the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) and implementing the FAIR principles."
The initial nodes are established in Finland, Netherlands, Greece, Ireland, UK, Germany, France and Italy. In addition, a number of European countries have been listed as potential nodes, and the RDA is currently reaching out to them. The idea is to build on existing networks to create a European network of nodes to enhance member state cooperation and support of RDA in many European countries by 2020, enhancing also European competitiveness and leadership within RDA Global.
National RDA events held lately in many European countries show, that there are a lot of activities going on in the member states related to data sharing and implementing open science. Joining forces and coordinating efforts is even more important, when we think about the global nature of science and research. Many challenges are universal and thus, it is more fruitful to address them in a global context.
As was noted in the Montréal plenary, RDA is now adolescent, maturing but in need for improvement. How to engage the disciplines that are still in minority in RDA, such as social sciences and humanities? How to deal with diversity and equality issues? What is the strategic thinking of RDA, dealing with the exponential growth and building sustainability?
These questions will surely be discussed as RDA most probably keeps on growing also in the future, but one thing is sure: The social and technical bridges are definitely needed in order to keep the key players – the communities – onboard in the efforts for making open science a reality. The next RDA plenary meeting will be held in Berlin, Germany, on 21–23 March 2018, and the theme is “From Data to Knowledge”. Hopefully even more actors from different communities will find their way to this event to give their valuable input into shaping the future of a global data-driven society.
The 11th RDA Plenary Meeting will take place from the 21st to the 23rd March 2018 in Berlin, Germany. Under the theme "From Data to Knowledge", the Plenary meeting welcomes the participation of all data scientists, experts and practitioners engaged in the advancement of data-driven science and economy.
View the highlights and register now: early bird rates end on 9th February 2018.
11th RDA Plenary Meeting Blog: Datatulevaisuus on meidän käsissämme (in Finnish)