As a new PhD with the Irish Research Council (IRC), being invited to participate in the Research Data Alliance (RDA) 3rd plenary meeting was an opportunity to meet new people of varied disciplines and background’s from all around the world with a common vision, data alliance. Host infection and regenerative medicine are my research areas so I felt that my work was only loosely connected to the open access data theme of the RDA. However, I strongly believe that data sharing, open access, standardisation and communication between researchers and research groups is integral to the progress and success of an early researcher, such as myself, thus making this conference relevant to all scientists of various disciplines. In light of this, I applied for Early Career Researcher and Scientist support programme, which facilitated my attendance to the conference. Upon award of the programme I was allocated the Interest Group Structural Biology (SB), which I felt was most relevant to my field. A Newcomers session was held in the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin city centre prior to the conference, which I felt was very beneficial. Being able to put faces to the names involved in the organisation and establishment of the RDA was, in my opinion, very valuable. It made the entire experience quite personal and helped me realise that my opinion counted.
The plenary session was hosted in the Croke Park Stadium, which was very apt for the event. Croke Park is a historical land mark in Ireland and represents the strength and resilience of the Irish people during times of turbulence. In unison with this, research is continuously evolving and changing with data being generated exponentially so implementation of the policies and solutions proposed by the RDA to accommodate this will be challenging. As challenging as this may be, the eagerness and attentiveness of the people present at the meeting was undeniable. This suggests to me that the RDA will succeed in overcoming these issues undoubtedly.
The SB interest group meeting was filled with ideas, interest and curiosity. From a “data generator” and user point of view, it would appear that there are several road blocks which need attention beginning from the lower levels of the data life cycle, such as the varied use of techniques within structural biology, availability of wet laboratory protocols, accessing primary unpublished data, data management, and maintaining and developing SB data and meta data. From the discussion at the end of the seminar, it was evident that these issues need to be tackled from the level of the researcher. In addition, there are plenty of software and technical issues that need attention, which are not directly related to my area at this early stage of my career but will eventually become a pressing issue as my research progresses. Additional training on how to manage data generated would be required before I can proceed to access other researchers’ data. These issues were discussed with great debate emanating from all areas of science. As a newcomer, I felt confident taking notes and absorbing the points that were made, and I hope to contribute more at the next plenary session in September!
Overall, the RDA 3rd plenary meeting was a great experience for a budding researcher at an early stage of their scientific to be able to voice their opinion and part take in an international debate that concerns research data.