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02 May 2017

Personal 9th RDA Plenary highlights - Data, Research, and Barcelona

Data, Research, interesting people, and Barcelona. Four ingredients that have made my first participation at the RDA plenary an extremely enjoyable experience.

It was not difficult to navigate many parallel sessions, although sometimes, the decision on which one to attend was not an easy to make. Especially after being encouraged (at the very informative introductory session for the newcomers) to attend a few session on the topics that are not within my particular scientific area of interest. Given I have entered the data world only recently (a year ago) I was very happy to see many familiar faces. And, of course, to meet some new ones.

I am an evolutionary biologist (according to my DPhil) but I have started to be interested in Open Data (and Open Science) after I conducted a meta-analysis (as one of my thesis chapters). First, I have realised that many studies do not report their results properly (or report even contradictory information). Second, looking for the original data these studies had used has turned out to be a futile work. This made me aware of many problems that the research practices face. Thus, I have started my current project, on the interface between Open Science and Ecological and evolutionary research (I do this at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology). There is a huge knowledge gap between what current infrastructures and services (developed as a part of Open Science) offer to research, and the research community in ecology and evolutionary biology (for example, none of my current or previous colleagues has ever heard of RDA, or OpenAIRE). I am to bridge this gap. Getting the early career fellowship support to attend the 9th RDA plenary was certainly a step further in achieving this.

At the plenary, I have presented a poster on the work I’m conducting together with Paolo Manghi (who also attended the plenary) and  Miriam Baglioni, both from CNR (Italy): how to find datasets if you are an ecological and/or evolutionary biologist. I hope this effort will increase the reuse of Open data in these fields, and in a positive feedback loop increase the amount and quality of Open datasets.

The overall experience in attending the plenary was an amazing one: all the sessions seemed interesting and really relevant, there were a plenty of opportunities for networking, catering was perfect (apart from the lack of coffee after lunch breaks), and the atmosphere was professional but very relaxed. Because I am sure that learning more about different talks and the general organizational aspects of the event should be easy (the RDA website), I would like to mention my personal highlights. These might seem to be random, but I hope they will be of use to the researchers with a similar background as mine.

  • There is a JOVE journal ( )
  • DataOne is a developing engine for data quality check (which will be released in a few months)
  • There is a Registry of tools in bioinformatics
  • A list of around 17 journals that publish software can be found here
  • Software Sustainability Institute fellows can be invited to give workshops
  • Tim Berners-Lee TED talk on linked data, worth watching
  • Zenodo is now Teamed up with github (you can sign in zenodo using github)
  • The global research community generates 2.5 millions scholarly articles/year: 90% is never cited, 50% is never read!
  •  provides a list of tools for TDM (and it is possible to register new ones)
  • Google scholar has released indexing for datasets
  • We drank ~300 bottles of wine at the gala dinner

Further, as a result of attending the plenary, now I’m organizing a workshop on Open Science and Ecology at my institute, writing a paper of researchers attitudes towards data sharing, and keeping in touch with several researchers with whom I hope to develop some collaborative work. And finally, I have got some ideas on a possible Horizon2020 project for 2018... It might be about implementing the current infrastructures and tools into some interesting evolutiary ecology research.

Overall, this was one of the most productive and enjoyable meetings I have attended, and I definitely plan to attend the next plenary in Canada.

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