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21 Mar 2016

An Unexpected Journey to Tokyo!

Blog by Emmanouil Chaniotakis, National Technical University of Athens- RDA Europe Plenary 7 Early Career Programme Winner

Hi, I am Manos (formally Emmanouil) Chaniotakis and I am a transportation engineering researcher. In the next few paragraphs I will try to give you an impression of how a newcomer experiences a plenary meeting in a country profoundly different that those used to visit. To know me better, I am 28, inhabit in Thessaloniki and a few months ago, I started working on some data-driven approaches and potential of using the so called “big data” in transportation modelling. Also, I have also another long lasting passion, that of open source software and open data, which I actually try to actively promote.

So how did all this started?

In one of our long lasting discussions about data driven approaches and the need to change the existing transportation models that are becoming obsolete, a colleague of mine, suggested that I should start following the Research Data Alliance updates and that there are meetings which someone could attend. So logged in the site only to find out that I could be admissible as an early career researcher. I had actually forgotten at some point that I applied and I did not expect to be accepted at all, however a few weeks after my application I received a very welcoming e-mail stating that my application has been favourably evaluated and that I was invited to attend the 7th RDA Plenary Meeting in TOKYO! That was it! I called our travel agent, booked some tickets and made a hotel reservation to a country so new to me, I did not even where to find the city centre.

This was the beginning of an unexpected journey to Tokyo- Japan in order to attend the 7th plenary session of the Research Data Alliance community. A few days before the meeting I made some preparations (money exchange, bought a travel guide). The day before the trip excitement was growing as I was about to make the longest air trip of my life (12.5 hours).So on Saturday the 27th of February I started my trip! 

I arrived on Sunday the 28th after some travelling and went straight ahead to my hotel room for a good night sleep. Fortunately, I avoided most of the jetlag consequences, and was able to be fine in the newcomer meeting. 


Newcomer Meeting

The first impression of what I was about to experience was given on the newcomers meeting where the structure of RDA, its mission, vision and operational structure was explained. Within this first glimpse of RDA I finally got to clearly understand what the thing that make RDA so special really was: the passion of the people involved towards making a difference. I understood the real value of the Birds of a Feather, Interest Groups and Working Groups, the fact that there for RDA producing tangible results that can be adopted is very important and the actual contribution of RDA to research. After the meeting we had a cocktail reception that was very good to get to know other newcomers.

Plenary Sessions & Keynote presentations

Another very interesting part of the RDA plenary meeting was the plenary sessions. During them, the work that has been produced within RDA was clearly explained and all the subjects were discussed in a very open and transparent way. This allowed for a further understanding of the values that RDA members appreciate such as openness and transparency. The keynote speeches were also very good in a way that aspects of data uses and advances were created. This was groundbreaking for me as there were many moments that I was thinking: we need to incorporate this in our research! It helped me understand that data is a common basis for many disciplines, including the one I am affiliated with and that we need to have this kind of interdisciplinary approaches or we might end up reinventing the wheel.


There were many IG, WG, and BF groups that I was interested to participate and thankfully some of them were assigned to me for note-taking and participation. As closest to my field the most important was the Geoscience IG where I met people with whom we already plan on cooperating! The weather, climate and air quality BF group was also very interesting for me as it allowed me to participate in a heated discussion and present a few things on the importance of the availability and openness of BoF on Weather, climate and air quality interest group. Finally the RDA/NISO Privacy Implications of Research Data Sets WG included a very interesting discussion about what privacy related implications exist in the context of open data and the increasing volume of data.


A very important aspect of RDA for me was the actual embracing to newcomers and the fact that I met very interesting people working in different fields! I hope I would have the change to participate in the next meetings and that I will be able to contribute to the vision of RDA. 

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