I have tried to summarize in this blog my experience during the RDA 6th Plenary Meeting in Paris (France) However, words are not enough to describe the whole experience accurately and completely. Hope that pictures help!! One acronym (LEARN) helps me to put these 5 exciting days in a nutshell.
INFRASTRUCTURES BECOME “UBIQUITOUS, ACCESSIBLE, RELIABLE, AND TRANSPARENT” AS THEY MATURE
EDWARDS ET AL., 2007
SO, “WHEN IS INFRASTRUCTURE?”
MARK PARSONS, IN THE COMMON OPENING RDA PLENARY MEETING
LEARNING NEW THINGS during BoFs, IGs, WGs, and joint meetings
I could never imagine how many things I could learn from attending the RDA 6th Plenary Meeting in Paris in September 2015. The first day (September 22) I attended the track “Infrastructure for understanding the Human Brain” together with another RDA European Fellow from Austria, Asura Enkhbayar. Sean Hill, both the co-Director of the Blue Brain Project and the co-Director of Neuroinformatics in the European Union funded Human Brain Project was the chair of this track. The goal of this track was to find ways in which researchers could share information and any kind of data in order to have a more coherent and better understanding of the brain. Sean Hill put together researchers and projects from other disciplines which focus on distinct topics, namely the fly brain. By doing this, he wanted to share with the audience in the room what types of data sharing infrastructures already exist in order to take advantage of the same infrastructure model for the human brain, and to avoid duplication of efforts. Other goals of this track was to share challenges, obstacles and potential solutions for sharing data of the human brain, and to initiate RDA working groups on this topic.
Provided that my empirical research for my PhD dissertation is within the biomedicine and translational research, that session was really interesting for me in order to know directly more about the challenges for sharing data of the most complex and complete processing machines of the world (paraphrasing Sean Hill): the human brain.
METADATA ARE THE ONLY CONVERSATION WE CAN HAVE WITH THE DATA PRODUCERS”
MARY VARDIGAN (ICPSR – UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN)
During my second day (September 23) I attended the BoF on International Access to Sensitive Social and Economic Microdata (Working Meeting Session 1) Several archives and projects shared during the session the ways in which they deal with personal microdata. Mary Vardingan (ICPSR, University of Michigan, US) made an excellent contribution to the session insisting on the relevance of metadata for an international access to data, stating that metadata are the only “conversation” we can have with the data producers. Among the great challenges for the use of metadata, she mentioned that data are expensive to produce; data are often added at the last minute of the sharing process; and that data are incomplete for international use because they are unstructured and unparseable. She provided several recommendations for making metadata a more useful tool for international access to data. Among these recommendations she suggests capturing metadata at the primary source and to re-use metadata. Someone from the public shared a project on sharing biomedical data which seems to be very interesting for my PhD research, the Open Science Link (http://opensciencelink.eu/) During Session 2 I attended the Joint Meeting of IG Data Rescue, IG Geospatial, IG Big Data Analytics, IG Domain Repositories & IG Libraries for Research Data where the chair made a great effort to make sure that all voices from all groups were heard. I found her effort towards integration and participation of a great value.
During Working Meeting Session 3, I took notes of the IG Education and Training on handling of research data. Yuri Demchenko and Laura Molloy were very nice and Laura was an excellent leading chair of the IG. After presenting some updates from the previous RDA 5th Plenary Meeting in San Diego (California, US) on how to identify professions related to research data handling (so far, research librarians, research administrators, research infrastructure managers, and researchers); how these professions are interconnected with each other; and what the skills are that these professionals have, Laura encouraged the public to raise questions and to participate in the discussion. There were very interesting interventions from the public, but these are the highlights:
•When should the skills be acquired: during undergrad, master, professional practice, certifications?
•Should we better talk about competences or skills?
•How can we plan a training program given the extremely changing needs for research data management and handling?
•What about training in data management for researchers and professionals in industry?
•How to get sustainable funding for a long term training program?
•This IG should work together with the IG Libraries for research data
“A POLICY SHOULD BE ALWAYS ACCOMPANIED BY AN IMPLEMENTATION PLAN AND BY AVAILABLE SERVICES IN ORDER TO COMPLY WITH POLICIES”
SOMEONE FROM THE PUBLIC DURING THE MEETING OF THE IG LIBRARIES FOR RESEARCH DATA
During the Working Meeting Session 4 on Thursday (September 24), I attended the IG Libraries for Research Data: developing and adapting to research data policies in libraries. Again I found very nice and motivated chairs in this group: Wolfram Horstmann, Kathleen Shearer, and Michael Witt. However, the leaders of the session and discussion were both Amy Nurnberger (Columbia University) and Birgit Schmidt (University of Göttingen). Several research projects on policies were presented, and some provocative recommendations and questions arose from the presenters:
•Developing policies is not hard. Implementing policies is the hard part
•How and whether libraries should be proactive in developing and implementing policies?
•Do current policies encourage quality and creativity in learning?
•How can policies address the current changes in knowledge production?
Presentations though were very short because the session chairs were very interested in the public’s opinion, concerns and questions. These are my highlights from the public’s contribution:
•There is a very changing landscape of policies, and some policies contradict each other. Guidelines and principles are better than policies. Researchers do not comply with policies. The term “guidelines” is better. Could the term “roadmap” work better?
•Libraries should engage in conversations about policies with main stakeholders of and experts on these policies.
•A policy or guideline should not be a “checklist”. It should aim at changing the researchers’ behavior towards a more collaborative research.
During Working Meeting Session 5, I spent my time in the WG Metadata Standards Catalog. Someone in the public raised the need for clarification of the word “catalog”. There were some discrepancies on the differences or similarities of the terms “catalog” and “directory”. Someone else proposed the term “registry” instead of a catalog.
“ETHICS IS CONTEXTUALLY DEPENDENT. A CHECK-LIST CAN BE DANGEROUS”
MARGARET HEDSTROM, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN SCHOOL OF INFORMATION
From the rest of the group meetings I attended in sessions 6, 7, 8 and 9, I found the two latter ones to be the most relevant for my PhD research. The Joint meeting of IG ELIXIR Bridging Force & WG BioSharing Registry: life sciences and sensitive data was very interesting in terms of knowing about projects and infrastructures which are already dealing with sensitive data sharing issues in both Europe and US. Regarding the IG Ethics and Social Aspects of Data, I found Margaret Hedstrom’s comment very illuminating (see box above). Also, Alison Specht’s comment on the differences of ethics used by citizen researchers and scientific researchers was thought-provoking.
EXPERIENCING DIFFERENT COLLABORATIVE CLIMATES
In general I found a great collaborative climate at the “RDA family”. However, you could see different working dynamics and collaborative climates depending on whether the group was an interest group (IG), a working group (WG), a birds-of-a-feather group (BoFG), or a joint meeting of different types of groups. I had the chance to attend all kinds of meetings, and I could observe the different working dynamics. Also, leadership of the chair and the number of attendees were factors affecting the climate and dynamics of the group.
If you ever attend an RDA Plenary Meeting, leap at the opportunity to attend meetings of all kinds of groups!
ACKNOWLEDGING OLD COLLEAGUES
I was very excited I could meet old colleagues from the University of Michigan and from events I participated some time ago.
I had the chance to meet Herbert Grüttermeier (CNRS) a year ago in Valencia during the 1st International Workshop on Open Research Data organized by MUGI within the Open Access Week. A few days before the 6th Plenary Meeting he wrote to me because he saw my name as one of the RDA European Fellows attending the plenary. He wanted to know about my progress with my PhD dissertation. I jumped for joy when I received his message. It was nice knowing that he still remembered me and my research.
Herbert Grüttermeier and
Inma Aleixos Borrás at the RDA 6th Plenary Meeting in Paris
REFLECTING ON MY RESEARCH
The RDA 6th Plenary Meeting was a great opportunity for me to share my research project for my PhD dissertation with different researchers and professionals. Everyone I share the idea with found my research very interesting and promising. Some people made suggestions and striking questions about my research. Now back at my desk at INGENIO (http://www.ingenio.upv.es/en
) I am considering these suggestions in order to improve my research.
I also got an invitation from Austria to visit their research institute and to share my research project with them.
If there is a best place for networking in the research data world, that place is the RDA Plenary Meetings!! At the beginning, it can be a bit intimidating to approach people in order to introduce yourself and to start a conversation. However, once you attend a couple of meetings you feel brave enough to start talking to people.
If you have some special interest in someone, make sure you find something about their professional background and interests before you attend the RDA plenary meeting. This will give you the confidence in talking to your target contacts.