Guidelines for determining WG and IG Chairs


These are presented as guidelines for groups to consider in determaining chairs for their groups. The key point is that a group needs to establish a process; this can be a simple vote or whatever makes sense to the group as long as it is open and democratic. The other guidelines are to help achieve balance and harmonisation in acordance with RDA principles.

  • Each group defines their own method of selecting co-chairs.
  • The selection method must be open, equitable, and democratic. It can be anything from a straight vote of all registered members of the group to a consensus-based process. It must allow all group members to provide input, not just those physically present at a meeting. The Secretariat can help conduct this process if needed.
  • Determining a method for chair selection should be one of the first orders of Group business. This is a consensus building exercise in its own right.
  • There should be no more than four co-chairs and no fewer than two.
  • The chairs should ideally be both regionally and organizationally balanced (recognising that this won't always be possible). This would mean aiming for chairs to come from a minimum of two regions and two organisations. Regions are defined in the same way as for TAB elections: Europe / Africa, Americas, Asia / Australasia.
  • Interest Group chairs should be renewed or reconsidered at least every two years in the process defined by the group at the outset. A current chair can continue but they should be re-selected periodically to enable the group to consider the chair's contributions to the group's overall functioning.
  • Replacement of chairs should be managed to ensure continuity, e.g. half the chairs might be renewed every year. Existing groups can decide how best to respond to this guideline.
  • Council can remove a chair in extreme circumstance for breach of the RDA principles.

  • Mark Parsons's picture

    Author: Mark Parsons

    Date: 11 Nov, 2015

    * the two-year renewal requirment means that many of our current IGs need to reconsider their chairs.

  • Ingrid Dillo's picture

    Author: Ingrid Dillo

    Date: 12 Nov, 2015

    I rather like the idea of the renewal of IG-chairs, although it might not always be easy to find volunteers. If I e.g. look at the IG Certification that I co-chair, my feeling is that this is a very loose group with continuously changing membership. People come and go, so there is also a danger that a group like that might loose momentum when you cannot find enthousiastic volunteers to continue the work.

    Furthermore I do not know whether you should specify the term region? Or is that clear for everyone?

  • Andrew Treloar's picture

    Author: Andrew Treloar

    Date: 19 Nov, 2015

    I was assuming that we would use the same regions as for TAB elections: "

    1. Region
      There should be between 2-5 TAB members who represent each region (Europe / Africa, Americas, Asia / Australasia)"

    But we should probably spell that out.

  • Mark Parsons's picture

    Author: Mark Parsons

    Date: 20 Nov, 2015

    Right. Use the TAB regions, but we should be clear.


  • Mark Parsons's picture

    Author: Mark Parsons

    Date: 20 Nov, 2015

    I'm not sure there needs to be a new chair every 2 yrs, but it should at least be considered. The current chair could still continue. 2 year 7erms but no term limits.

  • Wenbo Chu's picture

    Author: Wenbo Chu

    Date: 26 Nov, 2015

    I think I have seen RDA principles somewhere. It's not easy to find quickly. Maybe add a hyperlink?

  • Peter Wittenburg's picture

    Author: Peter Wittenburg

    Date: 16 Feb, 2016

    Voting would be required perhaps in extreme cases when it turnes out that a group does not function any longer. In general we need to stress the "rough consensus" principle. Why is voting problematic: we often have many registered members but it is quite normal also in similar initiatives that a number of core people are driving such groups and that others are more in an observing role. Also the group of active people changes over time due to vrious circumstances - mostly since people changed job and have new responsibilities.

    There may be cases of conflicts within the group of active people. The question is then how to resolve such conflicts. Guess that if these conflicts occur (did we have them already?) Secretariat, TAB or even Council will be informed about it. For TAB this means that the liaison person should interact with the chair and opponents, raise the issue to TAB and find a solution. It could be that TAB recommends a voting procedure for example.

    my 2 cents


  • Robert Hanisch's picture

    Author: Robert Hanisch

    Date: 28 Feb, 2016

    I think setting up too many rules will inhibit people from utilizing RDA as a platform for discussion and development.  All of this work is volunteer!  If a community comes together with an IG with a single chair, or six co-chairs, I would say fine -- let's see what works for you.  Ditto with term limits or renewals, as you are just setting up yet another bureaucratic process with no obvious benefit and that could discourage volunteers.  Requiring a replacement of co-chairs is also a bad idea.  We might well end up empty-handed if we force such a change.

  • Rebecca Koskela's picture

    Author: Rebecca Koskela

    Date: 28 Feb, 2016

    It might be a good idea to review the RDA Group Process & Procedures .   Those procedures require identified co-chairs before an IG or WG can be formed.  Are you now trying to tell a group of people with a common interest in a particular topic how they should proceed?  The process of setting up a Working Group is already difficult and takes 11 months (personal experience).  WG/IG co-leads and members are volunteers and this point seems to escape the rule makers.

    I don't what problem(s) these guidelines are attempting to solve but if it is with a small number of groups, then deal with it indivdually rather than creating yet more rules and bureaucracy. I was under the impression that RDA was intended to be a bottom up organization.  Apparently this is an incorrect assumption.

    I don't think there is a need for these guidelines.


  • Keith Jeffery's picture

    Author: Keith Jeffery

    Date: 02 Mar, 2016

    Agenda 4: Group Chairs

    I don’t really see the point of this.  Throughout it stresses that groups can more or less do what they like.  I suggest that either there are no guidelines (groups organise themselves using the RDA ‘bottom-up’ philosophy) or there are meaningful guidelines that ensure groups operate in a way that RDA (as a community) wishes them to do. My major concerns about RDA remain what they were (and what I presented) at P2: too many groups and too long/tortuous a process.

  • Jason Baird Jackson's picture

    Author: Jason Baird Jackson

    Date: 02 Mar, 2016

    I appreciate the effort to state RDA ideals, even if they will not always be realizable in practice.

  • Michael Witt's picture

    Author: Michael Witt

    Date: 02 Mar, 2016

    The TAB liaison should have good communication with the chairs and a handle on the vitality and functioning of a group. I suggest addressing asymmetry at the level of the chairs and their TAB liaisons and not require the groups to establish more processes with prescribed parameters, e.g., number of chairs, distributions, etc.

    What would be helpful, I think, is a generic prompt that goes out every other year to all members of all groups to thoughtfully consider the issue of leadership and how the group is functioning - in whatever manner they deem appropriate - and leave it at that.

    The prompt could contain language about principles of the organization, promoting new perspectives and energy, flexibility and stability, gratitude for service, etc. It would be a clear signal and opportunity for dialog for chairs who might welcome an opportunity to step down as well as new folks who might be interested in embracing the glory and agony of chairing the group themselves. Or if things are going well as they are, just keep on trucking.

  • George Alter's picture

    Author: George Alter

    Date: 02 Mar, 2016

    Two points:
    First, creating a truly democratic process for IG leadership strikes me as unrealistic.  Instead of aiming for "open and democratic," I would recommend "open and transparent."  As others have commented, these are voluntary commitments, and imposing a burdensome selection process will be counterproductive.  I belong to an organization that has had a similar interest group structure since 1976. It is extremely unusual for IGs to hold elections.  In most cases, it requires a great deal of persuasion and personal influence to get anyone to take on responsibilities that are unpaid and unrecognized, and no one wants to be risk being embarrassed by losing an election under these circumstances.  Members of the IG do not object to having current leaders designate their successors, as long as the leadership makes a good faith effort to be inclusive.
    Second, in my experience the two most important points are the ones listed close to the end: renewal/reconsideration and continuity.  Insisting that the co-shairs of every group have designated, overlapping terms creates a mechanism for both continuity and circulation of leadership.  

  • Keith Jeffery's picture

    Author: Keith Jeffery

    Date: 06 Mar, 2016

    Now I have had time to consider (again) this proposal my conclusion remains essentially as commented rapidly when I first saw it.

    As I see it, these 'rules' are not solving the real problem(s).  For me these are:

    1. Process: the long and tortuous process to get a group endorsed.  The group is of volunteers. They have enthusiasm but this wanes after a year of process - and in a fast-moving field the initial requirements may change.  RDA should not increase discouragement but encourage fast-acting groups with a much more lightweight process.

    2. Chairs: getting people to volunteer as co-chairs is commonly an 'arm-twisting' business - after all everyone is busy and this work is unpaid, unrecognised and costly in time and funds. RDA should be happy if group co-chairs exist.  I believe all RDA people understand (as international researchers) the regional / organisational / gender (not mentioned in the rules) balance aspects required and in the need for openess and transparency.

    3. Interaction: groups should be able to interact easily and freely with other groups.  Right now there are 60+ groups.  A key requirement - in my opinion - is for the 'infrastructure' groups to be able to check requirements and validate their solutions / outputs with the 'discipline/domain' groups.  With so many groups this becomes a signifiant problem - discipline/domain groups are potentially requested to discuss various technical aspects with many infrastructure groups: a problem that appproaches n**2.  Recognising this, already the metadata groups have formed a kind of cluster to try to 'speak with one voice' to disciplinary (and other infrastructure) groups about discovery, contextualisation, access and curation, provenance.  The 'publishing groups' seem to be doing something similar.  One could imagine such a cluster around repositories and another around identifiers.  The 'RDA group space' charts produced at San Diego seem to have disappeared. Reducing the cardinality would enable meaningful cross-group meetings.  We all discover at RDA plenaries that we wish to be in 3 meetings at once.  The result of the large number of groups is dispersion of both energy/effort and policy direction.  Reducing or clusstering the groups would reduce the number of interfaces and hence promote interactions leading to significant outputs (in turn leading to adoption).


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