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20 Oct 2016

My Experience as a RDA US Data Share Fellow

I can truly say that my experience as a RDA US Data Share Fellow has been life-changing! I applied for the fellowship during my first year as an Assistant Professor in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University, Bloomington. The program’s stated commitment to early career development attracted me to it. I knew that I would need to take advantage of every possible opportunity for early career development because the demands of tenure at a research intensive university are tough; mentoring, networking, and collaboration are critical.

The RDA US Data Share Fellowship has surpassed my wildest dreams in terms of the ways in which it has advanced my career. Being a “proactive” participant and networking during the RDA P6 plenary in Paris and RDA P7 plenary in Tokyo led to opportunities which have strengthened my research and teaching—-two core pillars of my career and how I am evaluated for tenure and promotion. With regard to my research, during RDA P6, I was able to share my research on understanding the value of audit and certification of Trustworthy Digital Repositories with members of the RDA/WDS Certification of Digital Repositories Interest Group, including Ingrid Dillo and Herve L’Hours. I received helpful feedback from them as well as participation from other interest group members which led to more data collection thereby allowing me to strengthen the results of my study. During RDA P7, I attended a joint meeting of the IG RDA/CODATA Materials Data, Infrastructure & Interoperability, IG Chemistry Research Data, and IG Research data needs of the Photon and Neutron Science community. While at that meeting, I thought of an idea for a study on understanding and facilitating neutron data sharing and reuse. Speaking with co-chairs of the interest groups, in particular RDA member Thomas Proffen, led to me conducting the initial phase of the study I envisioned at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory during summer of 2016! I presented preliminary results of my study in a research poster entitled “Understanding Perspectives on Sharing Neutron Data at Oak Ridge National Laboratory” during the RDA P8 plenary in Denver, CO during International Data Week!

With regard to teaching, I attended the joint meeting of IG Education and Training on handling of research data, WG RDA/CODATA Summer Schools in Data Science and Cloud Computing in the Developing World: International Coordination of Research Data Education and Training Requirements. Afterwards, I spoke with RDA members Hugh Shanahan and Simon Hodson about becoming an Assistant Instructor for the RDA/CODATA Summer School in Data Science in Trieste, Italy during summer 2016. From these discussions, I became involved in the summer school and served as one of the Assistant Instructors for it. This experience afforded me the opportunity to hone my skills as an instructor on the topic of research data management by teaching a classroom of students from all over the world, which was a new experience for me. This experience also exposed me to new material taught by other instructors during the summer school, some of which I in turn have integrated into the curriculum I teach for my graduate-level courses back at Indiana University, Bloomington. For example, I have added high performance computing as a topic in my digital curation course, which includes interactive lab sessions with Big Red II, Karst, and Jestream, high performance computing resources at IU and beyond.  

In my experience, I have found that existing RDA members have been supportive of me as an early career researcher, and have identified opportunities for me to advance my research and teaching as a result of me being an active participant during RDA plenaries. It is important to note that these opportunities did not create themselves. I introduced myself to current RDA members and explained to them who I am, what I research, and what work I was interested in doing with them. Consequently, we worked together to develop opportunities for my research and teaching that were interesting and appropriate given where I am in my career.  

Overall, I believe that being a RDA US Data Share fellow has advanced my career beyond measure. The mentoring, opportunities for research and collaboration as well as enhancing my teaching skills has strengthened my portfolio for tenure and promotion at my institution. I am grateful to Beth Plale (past Co-Chair, Technical Advisory Board, RDA) for her mentorship all along the way. I am also grateful to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for its support of the fellowship program. I cannot imagine my experience as an Assistant Professor without being a RDA US Data Share Fellow and all that it has to offer!


Devan Ray Donaldson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Information and Library Science (ILS)
School of Informatics and Computing (SoIC)
Indiana University, Bloomington

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