Forward Strides for Research Data Alliance (RDA) ICT Technical Specification – A story of adoption and sustainability
“Building social and technical bridges to facilitate data sharing and re-use.” In a nutshell that is the mission of the Research Data Alliance, an international organisation that now counts more than 4300 members worldwide from over 110 countries.
Beyond any metaphor, these “bridges” are the actual Recommendations and Outputs delivered by the RDA Working and Interest groups, self-formed and directly managed by the RDA members. We call them bridges because they connect different systems, communities, tools etc. and generally take the form of technical specifications, data and reference models, recommended practice and harmonization of existing standards. 
So far 15 Working groups have published outputs in 4 different waves synchronized with the latest 4 RDA bi-annual working meetings, the RDA Plenaries. The Outputs have gone through community review, measuring consensus and facilitating uptake. But publishing the Recommendations is only the beginning as RDA is committed to expanding the awareness and the adoption of these Outputs, thus their value and impact in the global data management landscape. To date over 65 cases of uptake and implementation have been recorded by RDA from adoption in agricultural to biomedical data infrastructures, and from implementation in generic and Thematic (e.g. climate data) repositories.
As part of the Outputs exploitation and sustainability effort in Europe, RDA Europe, the European plug-in to the global RDA, has supported the approval of the four listed Recommendations as ICT specifications, a particular EU procedure designed to allow ICT specifications issued by a non-standards body to become endorsed standards and referenced in public procurement.
The set of RDA Recommendations submitted for recognition are:
- The Basic Vocabulary of Foundational Terminology and Query Tool - produced by the Data Foundation & Terminology WG which ensures researchers use a common terminology when referring to data.
- The Data Type Model and Registry published by the Data Type Registries WG providing machine-readable and researcher-accessible registries of data types that support the accurate use of data
- The Machine Actionable Policy Templates produced by the Practical Policy WG designed to support data sharing and interchange between communities.
- The Persistent Identifier Type Registry produced by the PID Information Types WG, a conceptual model for structuring typed information to better identify PIDs, common interface for access to this information.
The European Multi Stakeholder Platform (MSP), an expert advisory group on ICT standardization is currently assessing the compliance of these RDA technical specifications based on a set of requirements such as relevance, neutrality and stability, quality and availability.
The Recommendations are developed on the basis of open decision-making and part of a collaborative and consensus based process, the success of the effort sets a two-fold precedent for RDA, confirming that it is an open, consensus-based and transparent non-profit making membership organisation that develops ICT technical specifications.
There is just one more small step before the European Commission Decision will be published the Official Journal and listed on line which should be finalised by the end of the year.
In addition, the four technical specifications in question can be referenced in public procurement and their implementation and uptake will encourage competition, promote interoperability and innovation, and facilitate the provision of cross-border & cross-regional services.
Hilary Hanahoe, RDA Secretariat & Director Trust-IT Services Ltd. stated “We are extremely proud of this achievement and stamp of approval from a broad range of European member states and standards bodies. It is a wonderful recognition of the meticulous effort and energy of the RDA members, the producers of these implementable recommendations. This immensely important European milestone is a best practice to be implemented in other RDA regions and at international level. Of course this is just the beginning, we have another 9 technical specifications ready to be evaluated.”
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