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22 May 2020

Participation at RDA 15th Plenary Virtual Meeting challenged by the world pandemic

Earlier this year, I was awarded  one of the  RDA Europe 4.0  Early Career Researcher grants  for attending the RDA 15th Plenary Meeting in Melbourne, Australia. My research focus is sex specificity of stress regulation in the brain with specific interest in connection of stress and neurodegeneration. The scientific project I currently lead, focuses on monitoring of epigenetic changes in brain memory center, upon stressful conditions. In the light of RDA activities, this was my first RDA meeting and I am interested in big data analysis and open data sharing among the biomedical community. The RDA meeting was the first of this kind for me and at the beginning I was a bit lost and confused with a great number of interesting sessions. I would like to thank the RDA Europe team for the help with getting around, organizing the poster session and giving the RDA grantees detailed instructions on the sessions.

As I was looking forward to meeting the experts from all over the world in the field of big data, the COVID-19 pandemic was evolving rapidly around the globe and on the March12th the RDA Secretariat made a decision to cancel the physical event and switch online.  I was a little bit sceptical, because the organizers had very short time to organize the virtual meeting, but in the end everything worked perfectly.

I followed four sessions during a Plenary meeting and I also participated in the Poster session where I presented my research work. I would like to single out the Software Source Code: FAIR Principles for Research Software session. I learned about the importance of FAIR principles as a useful tool to research software providing transparency, reproducibility and reusability of research. I never thought about software in a way presented during this session where software and data are considered as different kinds of research objects. This session had a very nice discussion upon an issue if software should be considered data or not.

I also followed The Role of Data in a Rapid and Coordinated Response to Infectious Disease Outbreaks session. This session illustrated various strategies of managing research data. Good Research Data Management is a key factor of research integrity and reproducibility. Those elements are emphasized by governments and the academic community, but often the word is not spread to the broader scientific community as information and discussion are more often limited to librarians or data professionals. This session reflected on the current COVID-19 situation and combining the data from different sources for prompt response of the health and medical agencies towards a disease outbreak.

One of the most interesting parts was participation in a poster session where I had the opportunity to represent myself, my research field and meet the experts in the field of big data analysis as well as communicate with many interdisciplinary experts. I got some useful advice regarding my data organization from experts during the virtual poster discussion. I was amazed by the broad specter of research fields involved. I enjoyed answering the questions and communicating with other participants.

Even though I was a bit disappointed at first when the physical meeting had been cancelled, in the end, I was overall amazed and I would like to express my appreciation and congratulate the organizers for the excellent last minute switching to the virtual world. All the sessions were technically well supported, the time difference was solved with offering slides and recordings afterwards. I learned a lot about the data analysis, big data organization and reproducibility which will directly improve my own work, especially the new project I have just started working on. I would like to stay in touch with the RDA community and my biggest wish is to attend the next plenary, which I hope would be held in a real, physical environment.

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