TAB: What we do and how we do it
The RDA Governance Document states that the Technical Advisory Board (TAB) is “responsible for the technical direction of the RDA and provides technical expertise and advice to the Council, as well as helping to develop and review RDA Working and Interest Groups to promote their impact and effectiveness.” This page describes how TAB works and is intended to be a guide for newcomers to the Research Data Alliance (RDA).
The RDA TAB works as a team to accomplish technical, strategic and operational aims within its scope. The activity streams are described as follows. NOTE: In all these activities TAB members should not promote special interests, domains, regions or disciplines.
TAB functions and responsibilities are described in the RDA Governance Document (currently V3.0, March 2023), which is complemented by the TAB Responsibilities and Processes Document (currently V2.2, October 2020), which describes in particular TAB membership and elections.
TAB roles and responsibilities
Strategic thinking about technical scope of activity of TAB includes but is not limited to the following:
- How to conceive and talk about the activity of the WGs and IGs (e.g. mapping and clustering activities).
- How to maximize the effectiveness of WG/IG activity.
- Identify overlaps and gaps in activity and functionality, and propose actions to mitigate this, in particular suggest new Group and discussion topics (this set of activities have also been referred to at various times as roadmapping, gap analysis or technical architecture).
Engagement with RDA bodies and membership
- At least one of the TAB co-chairs participates as a consensus-forming but non-voting observer member of the RDA Council to:
- ensure better coordination;
- allow TAB to raise issues that need Council decisions;
- enable Council to ask for a TAB point of view during the discussions.
- At least one of the TAB co-chairs participates on a similar basis on the Organisational Advisory Board to ensure better coordination.
- TAB engages with the whole RDA membership (see below) and feeds their ideas, together with TAB perspectives, into RDA processes and strategies. One such channel is the engagement with RDA Working Groups and Interest Groups described below.
Engagement with RDA Working Groups and Interest Groups
Group Case Statement Review
- When a WG case statement or IG charter is received, it is presented to TAB, and two members with appropriate background knowledge and expertise volunteer to review it. This review ensures the Group’s specific objectives are achievable, in line with RDA principles, and meet RDA goals. A review template is available for IG and WG case statements, respectively. The two reviewers prepare a report that is submitted to the full TAB for comments and eventually includes comments from the broader RDA community, as posted through the public “Request for Comments” (RfC). If TAB considers that the expertise of its members on the topic is not sufficient, it can encourage knowledgeable people from outside TAB to post comments to the RfC. The report may include suggestions to improve the case statement, in particular to take into account elements within the RDA and in the external research data environment. TAB decides whether the case statement is rejected, requires improvement or is ready to be submitted to Council for approval. The TAB evaluation is then sent to the proposers. SeeIG review processandWG review process.
- When a IG or WG submits a case statement or charter, one TAB member is assigned as a liaison (two in exceptional cases), in addition to the two reviewers. The IG or WG is introduced to the liaison when the initial review report is sent to the Group, in case they have questions.
- Liaisons facilitate all stages but particularly the early (and latter, for WGs) phases of the work of RDA WGs and IGs. With the Secretariat liaisons, they are one of the key contacts between the Groups and RDA bodies. A main goal for the liaison is to convey the broader RDA vision, mission and landscape, the culture and operations of RDA, and how the group fits in, e.g. procedures for requesting and running meetings at plenary sessions, RDA resources for group activities (such as encouraging use of the RDA email list, RDA wiki pages, etc.), opportunities for collaboration with other groups in RDA, lessons learnt from the way other RDA groups organise their activities. An IG liaison assists Groups to identify possible Outputs that promote the RDA goals of adoption and impact, and helps IGs to develop spin-off WGs as appropriate. A WG liaison suggests post-WG follow-ups. These follow-ups include maintenance and retirement plans: does the WG want to propose a follow-up Group or a Maintenance Group? were they part of an IG which might take on these tasks, and if not would they want to propose one to have a more sustainable place to have continued discussion?
- It is recommended that the liaison joins the group email list. A key time for exchange with the Group Chairs is the preparation of the Group’s participation in the Plenary meetings. The liaison is expected to remind the Group Chairs about the Call for sessions, encourage them to submit a session or Joint session proposal and offer assistance for the session proposals, and to convey TAB evaluation of session proposals and eventual suggestions for improvements to the Chairs. The liaison is encouraged to attend group meetings in-person during RDA Plenaries to assist a group in making effective use of the valuable plenary session time and provide support from her/his knowledge of the RDA.
- Liaisons report to TAB on group activities as required and provide a qualitative sense of a group's status over time. Liaisons contribute to synthesis assessments of groups as-a-whole in strategic discussions and directions that the TAB considers.
- TAB is expected to work with WGs and IGs, and with the OAB, to promote adoption and effectiveness of their Outputs.
- TAB is expected to work with Council if requested, and with the OAB to help them evaluate Outputs
- Members of TAB facilitate relevant communication and coordination across the various WGs and IGs. This includes participating in WG/IG chair Collaboration meetings and stimulating discussion topics, encouraging cross-group interactions at Plenaries, through the evaluation of Group proposals and beyond, and seeking their input on RDA directions and coordination.
- Regular interactions are organised with IG and WG Chairs, with TAB/Chair meetings scheduled before or after the Plenaries to discuss Group work and results, interfaces between groups, processes, strategy, TAB/Chair interactions, and any other relevant topics.
- TAB will liaise with affiliate organisations and other non-RDA activities in technical matters where coordination and alignment of work is desirable. In particular, it will ensure that groups are aware of any similar work going on in other organisations, so as to avoid duplication.
- Work with the Secretariat and local organizers to develop the technical program for the plenary.
- Help define the call for sessions and how sessions should coordinate.
- Review of session proposals, with insight from TAB liaisons to determine potential for revisions. This effort includes a holistic review of all session proposals to identify potential overlap and their relevance to RDA mission, especially but not only for the Birds of a Feather (BoF) sessions. Session proposals are also evaluated with respect to the Group status and activities. TAB members are invited to at least review all those sessions and Joint sessions proposed by Groups where they are the liaison (for those they are expected to provide a comment, which can just be ‘OK’) and, as far as possible, BoF proposals, which have no liaison assigned.
- Preparation of the TAB decisions about which sessions will be accepted and which will be rejected.
- Feedback to session proposers, to suggest improvements as discussed by TAB.
- Use information provided about conflicts that need to be avoided/minimized to devise the allocation of sessions to rooms and time slots. This includes clustering Working and Interest Group sessions to avoid scheduling conflicts wherever possible.
WG/IG Activity Classification (sometimes called "Landscape analysis")
- Guide newcomers in finding knowledge, expertise, and solutions, and in joining appropriate groups and sessions at plenary meetings
- Help outsiders find focus and coherence of RDA's approach and solutions
- Guide RDA members who want to start a new activity in what is already being done and how to avoid overlaps
- Help inform WG/IG members about other groups’ activities
- Help TAB guide and assist existing and new groups
- Help TAB and WGs/IGs identify gaps and overlaps with other WG/IG activities
- Develop a holistic view of all the various WGs and IGs and how they relate to each other in a broader socio-technical landscape.
This is a complex and difficult topic, because of the various perspectives of members on RDA activities, which makes the definition of methodology and convergence difficult. Several activities are ongoing on that topic, for example, recent TAB input (2017-2018) included clustering of keywords provided by Group chairs (folksonomy-type analysis) and preliminary definition of metadata to describe RDA activities. Several attempts have been made since the beginning of the RDA to develop a classification, which are briefly summarized here:
- TAB undertook a thematic clustering activity during 2014-2015. The clustering was along two dimensions. A questionnaire was sent to Groups that led to an initial rough mapping.
- A second activity, the so-called TAB/LOG initiative (performed by a sub-group of TAB), was started after the Tokyo Plenary in 2016. This included testing of a graphical representation of the interactions between Groups. The conclusion of this activity was the need to have dedicated resources for this analysis and its on-going maintenance.
Internal functioning of TAB
- Continually work to make the processes inside TAB, and those for interacting with new/existing WG/IGs, as lightweight as possible while still being effective.
- Participate as required in discussions about RDA processes (specific Task Forces including TAB representatives as well as Council and Secretariat members have previously been set up for this purpose).
- Report when difficulties with RDA processes are found, either during the functioning of TAB, or when identified during the interactions with Group Chairs or RDA membership. TAB will propose possible solutions and also evaluate those made elsewhere e.g. by the Secretariat.
TAB way of working
- TAB uses the RDA technical infrastructure (wiki and mailing list) for its discussions.
- TAB works through regular virtual and face-to-face interaction.
- TAB decides on the frequency and mechanisms for its meetings. The meeting times are generally chosen to share the inconveniences of time zones as fairly as possible across the members. Notes are taken at each meeting.
- TAB meeting agendas are generated by the co-chairs with support from the Secretariat. The Secretariat keeps track of the Group submission workflow.
- TAB membership needs to be mindful of the international breadth of the group as it carries out its interactions so as to maximize contributions of all members. This includes taking into account diversity on a range of dimensions, including language.
- TAB makes decisions by consensus where possible. It defines its own procedures for operating and reaching consensus under the guidance of the co-chairs whose role includes encouraging and detecting that consensus.
- TAB informs the RDA community about its activities within the boundaries of individual privacy, as far as possible with the available resources. Since the beginning of 2018, a summary of TAB meeting agenda topics is published on the TAB public page on a monthly basis.
Terms of elected TAB members
- TAB members are elected for three year terms, with at most one re-election for another 3-year term to a maximum of 6 years. A person can only be on TAB for a maximum of 6 out of 9 consecutive years.
Election of TAB co-chairs
- TAB co-chairs are elected by the TAB members, through a simple majority voting with one vote for each TAB member.
- TAB co-chairs are elected for 2 years at a time with a maximum of one consecutive re-election (i.e. maximum 4 years). The co-chair elections are staggered so that one co-chair is elected each year.
- After their time as co-chair, regardless of whether they were elected a co-chair for one or two consecutive two-year periods, a TAB member is ineligible to be re-elected as TAB co-chair until 2 years have passed.
TAB Recruiting/ Renewal
- Existing TAB members identify potential new TAB members and encourage them to put themselves forward. Existing members also manage the process of bringing people onto TAB (onboarding), the transfer of institutional knowledge from exiting TAB members as they leave TAB, and retaining formal connections to past members, in particular past chairs (offboarding). This activity is currently undertaken by the two TAB co-chairs.