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03 Oct 2013

Summary of Plenary session III – Building Global Partnerships. The Perspective of Funders and Affiliate Organizations

by Elena Simukovic (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin),
Plenary III was seeking to provide perspectives from governments and funding agencies and affiliate organizations, particularly on data infrastructure, on interacting with RDA and on their look at the way forward. Plenary chair Chris Greer (NIST) opened session emphasizing the value of data sharing and data infrastructures for economic growth and the global character of challenges that government agencies around the world are facing today. Michael Stebbins (Office of Science and Technology Policy, OSTP) outlined then the Administration's position in thinking of data as three separate „buckets“ consisting of #government data, #data produced with government funding and #private sector data. The OSTP is going with the presumption that increased access to data is going to be good in accelerating research and driving economy. Following some very successful experience with the first bucket, he presented a new pilot project on creating international data commons for scientific research. In this pilot project, the data underlying published results should be made available – as this is obviously the point where a scientist decided that this data is of value and worth to communicate it to colleagues. The OSTP has been already talking to a number of publishers that have data sharing policies for their journals. The RDA has well-defined the problems related to data sharing and therefore can be seen as a group that provides an opportunity to develop practical solutions.
Next speaker Clare McLaughlin was representing the Australian government. In Australia, a lot has been invested into data infrastructure and development and establishment of the national data service ANDS. Beyond this, there have been a bunch of national research infrastructure initiatives across a whole range of disciplines. That has raised not only data collection, but also data (re)use, sharing, capability etc. issues in those disciplinary areas. Hence, Australian government is interested in interacting with RDA in answering questions, for example, how to move from those very specific focused areas to more holistic, to become more integrated and joined up, and how to leverage national investments. Following this, Kostas Glinos, Head of e-Infrastructure for the European Commission, emphasized the need for an international framework where the conversations among different communities and scientists could take place. The idea of setting-up something what became RDA today came up already 3 or 4 years ago, resulting from the G8+5 Group of Senior Officials recommendations. Funders and policy makers came together and agreed on six general principles as described in RDA Governance Document: openness, consensus, balance, harmonization, community-driven and non-profit. From the government's point of view the relationship with the RDA as a self-governed bottom-up effort should be maintained, providing adequate support including funding. What the RDA needs for the future success, from his perspective, is #to get really operational and provide results and #a very strong communication campaign to make it known to scientific communities but also, which is very important for its longterm sustainability, to policy makers worldwide – not only in the US, Australia and Europe, but really globally.
Mark Suskin (NSF) stressed again the importance of working bottom-up and acting by science and scientists. There is also a great deal of overlap, he stated, between the goals of RDA and those of the NSF, particularly, open access to data, increased sharing of data and increased collaboration among researchers. For NSF the RDA look like pioneers, that have to deal with dangers inherent to new trials and discovering new methods, but also to spread the word about the value of data sharing. Echoing Kostas Glinos, NSF would like to see concrete implementation and things on the ground. Using an excerpt from Aristotle's "Metaphysics" in Perseus digital library he also reminded us why the RDA is doing what it is doing, namely because enabling the collaboration among researchers makes the data sharing important in the first place. "I think it's good to keep that in mind", he concluded. Following the RDA Colloquium panel discussion, representatives from affiliate organisations provided their perspectives. Sara Graves started with presenting CODATA and some elements of it's strategic plan 2013-18. Among other things, she highlighted first steps in establishing the Data Policy Committee and an initiative to encourage Early Career Data Scientists, and attracted audience's attention to the recent CODATA report “Out of Cite, Out of Mind: The Current State of Practice, Policy, and Technology for the Citation of Data”. Jan Brase (DataCite) demonstrated then the value of citing datasets by giving an example of an article behind the paywall, but with underlying data openly available and linked through DataCite. Phil Archer (W3C) called the audience to use existing web standards to enable interoperability. “Data integration at web scale is called linked data. Use it.", he made a passionate plea, at the same time inviting all those interested in developing standards to join up in new working groups at W3C. Finally, Curt Tilmes (ESIP) saw the RDA as a mechanism to connect to disciplinary domains as science is no more in domain silos. It was generally agreed among the panelists, that a lot of organisations in the data sharing area are already in place, and they will all have to figure out how to work together.

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