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27 Mar 2015

Looking Back at the 5th Plenary

Two weeks ago I spent several insightful days in Southern California - at the 5th Plenary of the Research Data Alliance in San Diego to be precise. The RDA, for those of you not familiar with the organization, is a global consortium of individuals and organizations with a common goal: building the social and technical bridges that enable open sharing of data in research. It's vision is: "Researchers and innovators openly sharing data across technologies, disciplines, and countries to address the grand challenges of society." The organization has high-level backing: among its supporters are funding heavyweights NSF, NIH, and the European Commission.

My stay in San Diego was made possible by the generous financial support provided by RDA Europe's Early Career Programme. I applied as I was especially interested in the Data Citation working group headed by fellow Austrian Andreas Rauber and his co-chairs Ari Asmi and Dieter van Uytvanck. I was closely following the activities of this group throughout the meeting and acted as a scribe for the group in the working group meeting, their presentation in the plenary and the Data Publishing interest group. The Data Citation WG has come up with a way to make dynamic and highly volatile dataets and parts thereof citable. Data citations of this kind are very important for reproducibility of science and they are not supported by current solutions. I was very impressed with the results of the working group - and by the pilots and workshops that are being carried out by NERC, ESIP, CLARIN, and NASA. If I have sparked your interest, I'd encourage you to check out the website of the WG and join the group.

In a way, the Data Citation WG embodies the RDA's spirit: solution-oriented, focused and implementation-driven. Nevertheless there was also plenty of room for high-level talk at the meeting. I was impressed by the keynote by Stephen Friend of SAGE Bionetworks (check out the recording of his and other talk here). He provided a look into a data-driven future in biomedical research illustrated by a number of projects that have turned heads beyond the research community. These include Accelerating Medicines Partnership in Alzheimer’s Disease (AMP-AD) and Apple’s ResearchKit.

Bibliometrics and altmetrics, which are two of my main research foci, were also discussed in the course of the Plenary; most notably during the Publishing Data Bibliometrics WG of course, but also in the Publishing Data Interest Group. There, I presented two recent studies that I had been part of, dealing with the distribution of data citations and altmetrics. More information can be found in the accompanying slides.

I also contributed to the event by presenting a poster on the overview visualization of scholarly materials that I have developed in my PhD. More information on that in the poster below and in this blogpost. Discovery was also the main topic in the Data Description Registry Interoperability (DDRI) session. Amir Aryani presented the Research Data Switchboard, which connects datasets over repositories using semantic relations. Can’t wait to try this one out myself!

The RDA meeting was a unique experience. I did get to meet many fascinating people, and it was awesome to see just how many people are working towards promoting and enabling sharing research data in an open manner. I will certainly follow the work of the working groups that I participated in and I will try to contribute as much as I can - and I would encourage everyone interested in open research data to do the same!

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