Council Update

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01 Aug 2016

Council Update

The RDA Council is the senior body of RDA responsible for the overall vision and direction of RDA. The Council formally endorses RDA Working and Interest Groups and their Recommendations in line with RDA Principles. Council is comprised of senior statespeople selected by a nominations committee and approved by the general membership.

In the early days of RDA, Council was focused on building support for RDA and ensuring that organisational governance and processes were established. Last year, Council worked with the community to develop the Future Directions Document, which lays out key activities for the organisation over the next several years. Now that RDA is beginning to mature as an organisation, Council is focusing on ensuring the health and sustainability of the organisation.

Council is akin to a Board of Directors. They are responsible for the health of organisation but do not deal with general operations. To that end, Council has recently established several subcommittees to assist in Council business and to advise Council in important areas. This has allowed Council to focus on more strategic and long-term issues. Chief among these is the sustainability of RDA.

Council considers multiple aspects of sustainability:

  • Leadership sustainability: Ensuring strong group chairs and strong and regularly renewed membership of Council, TAB, and OAB.
  • Financial sustainability: managing a portfolio of fund sources including base level funding, project funding, and other sources.
  • Organisational sustainability: Ensuring a strong and effective secretariat and other operational structures.
  • Regional sustainability: Ensuring that each regional group has good support and relationship with the broader RDA community
  • Community sustainability: Ensuring that RDA members get value from their participation, a sense of community, and a real opportunity to influence the work of RDA.

To date, the focus has been on leadership and financial sustainability.

RDA is blessed to have an abundance of strong leaders both within its governing bodies and in the Working and Interest Groups themselves. There are, however, challenges in continuing to keep people engaged, bringing in new perspectives, and ensuring that leaders are connected both to the community and to senior stakeholders. Council is working closely with TAB and OAB to recruit, entrain, and recognize new leaders. Council has actively engaged non-Council members in its subcommittees; TAB is actively recruiting new members; and Council and OAB are developing strategies to engage more organisations in the Organisational Assembly, especially industry.

The most critical and most challenging issue is ensuring the financial sustainability of RDA. This was a central discussion for Council and the Funders Forum at the Plenary in Tokyo and at Council’s annual meeting in May.

Government research agencies and foundations around the world have been supportive of RDA and generally continue to be supporters, but it is always a struggle for research agencies to provide ongoing organisational support. Council has been working with the Funders Forum to better define the business model for RDA and the core services RDA needs to provide to enable the community to thrive. Some key questions under consideration include: What are the budget numbers around those core services? What are the different mechanisms, both regional and global, for supporting those services? What other mechanisms should be considered, including Plenaries, sponsorship, and more targeted engagement with foundations and industrial partners? How can RDA leverage all the work and connections of the community to achieve more than the sum of their parts?

These are all difficult questions, and Council will continue to grapple with them over the coming months. Fortunately, RDA has already shown to be quite resilient. With a strong and growing membership community and the continued support of diverse sponsors around the world, RDA is continuing to thrive.