15 May 2020, Fourth release of RDA COVID-19 Guidelines and Recommendations

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15 May 2020, Fourth release of RDA COVID-19 Guidelines and Recommendations
15 May 2020

15 May 2020, Fourth release of RDA COVID-19 Guidelines and Recommendations

Final Report Published on 30 June 2020

During a pandemic, data combined with the right context and meaning can be transformed into knowledge for informing public health responses. Timely and accurate collection, reporting and sharing of data with the research community, public health practitioners, clinicians and policy makers will inform assessment of the likely impact of a pandemic to implement efficient and effective response strategies.

Public health emergencies clearly demonstrate the challenges associated with rapid collection, sharing and dissemination of data and research findings to inform response. There is global capacity to implement systems to share data during a pandemic, yet the timeliness of accessing data and harmonisation across information systems are currently major roadblocks. The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) statement on data sharing during public health emergencies clearly summarises the need for timely sharing of preliminary results and research data. There is also a strong support for recognising open research data as a key component of pandemic preparedness and response, evidenced by the 117 cross-sectoral signatories to the Wellcome Trust statement on 31st January 2020, and the further agreement by 30 leading publishers on immediate open access to COVID-19 publications and underlying data.

The 4th version of the RDA COVID-19 Guidelines and Recommendations have been published today, 15 May 2020 

4th Release Highlights:

As of 15 May, there are over 440 members of the CWG, relatively evenly spread across the 7 groups. The first three drafts were released and simultaneously opened for comment  on 24 April, 1 May and 8 May,  indicating huge progress in the space of 5 weeks. This 15 May version marks the release of a newly structured document, that attempts to retain the semantic uniqueness required by each research area, while also harmonising the format for ease of navigation. The fifth and final draft release will carry this integration further, attempting to identify possible elements that are common across most groups. The current timeline will see the 5th (final) release on 28 May, followed by a 10 day period for community feedback. The final endorsed release of Version 1 of the Recommended Guidelines is slated for 30 June.  This effort also reflects the work of a host of other RDA Working Groups, as well as external stakeholder organizations, that has developed over a number of years - we want to recognize and highlight those efforts. 

The seven sub-groups have kept up their relentless pace and the main updates in this version, with respect to the 1st three releases, include:

  • Overarching structural changes throughout the document
  • Sections 1 & 2 - revisions
  • Section 3 - Clinical - General edits and section restructuring in 3.3.1 & 3.3.2
  • Section 4-  Community Participation - no changes after larger restructure
  • Section 5 - Epidemiology - updates to all sections
  • Section 6 - Omics - added section 6.2,  revisions to 6.1, 6.3, 6.4
  • Section 7 - Social Sciences - added sections 7.2, 7.3; updates to 7.4
  • Section 8 - Software - Added to Section 8.2 Scope, Swapped 8.4 and 8.5, general text revisions throughout 
  • Section 9 - Legal/Ethical - added sections 9.4.3, 9.4.4, and 9.4.6
  • Section 10 – Additional working documents – new section added
  • Section 11 - New Reference section added; includes references tagged “*CITEDresource” in Zotero library
  • Section 12 - Contributors - new section added

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this document are those of the individuals identified, and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of their respective employers, or of any government agency or organisation.


The objectives of the RDA COVID-19 Working Group (CWG) focusing on essential Clinical, Community Participation, Epidemiology, Legal & Ethical, Omics, and Social Sciences, and Software are:

  1. to clearly define detailed guidelines on data sharing under the present COVID-19 circumstances to help stakeholders follow best practices to maximize the efficiency of their work, and to act as a blueprint for future emergencies;
  2. to develop guidelines for policymakers to maximise timely, quality data sharing and appropriate responses in such health emergencies;
  3. to address the interests of researchers, policy makers, funders, publishers, and providers of data sharing infrastructures.

Specific subgroup members, events, posts, wiki and documents can be viewed on each of the subgroups here:

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

Timing and Future Releases:

The current timeline will produce a new release on Thursday, May 28, followed by a round of community feedback, and a final endorsed release of Version 1 of the Guidelines for June 30. 

More information and insights on the plans for those releases, as well as highlights from the sub-groups are given during the informative webinars – see COVID-19 WG Events page for details and to access previous recordings and presentations.

Request for Comments:

In the spirit of the RDA community and its open process, your feedback on the content of the releases, the scope, the direction, are vital for all involved to shape and focus the document and the sections to be a useful and meaningful tool.

See all 4 releases and details at https://doi.org/10.15497/rda00046