The Value of the Research Data Alliance to Libraries

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The Research Data Alliance’s vision is Researchers and innovators openly sharing data across technologies, disciplines, and countries to address the grand challenges of society

The Research Data Alliance (RDA) is a community-driven organisation whose mission is to develop the social and technical data infrastructure needed to drive innovation surrounding data sharing and data interoperability.  Established in 2013, RDA supports more than 8,000 international members representing 137 countries, has generated 30 concrete outputs (eight of which are recognized as ICT technical specifications) with over 75 documented adoption cases (Feb 2019).
The Research Data Alliance enables data to be shared across barriers through outputs developed by focused Working Groups and Interest Groups, formed of volunteer experts from around the world and drawn from academia, private sector and government. Participation in RDA is open to anyone who agrees to its guiding principles of openness, consensus, balance, harmonisation, with a community driven and non-profit approach.
RDA has a grass-roots, inclusive approach covering all data lifecycle stages, engaging data producers, users and stewards, addressing data exchange, processing, and storage. It has succeeded in creating the neutral social platform where international research data experts meet to exchange views and to agree on topics including social hurdles on data sharing, education and training challenges, data management plans and certification of data repositories, disciplinary and interdisciplinary interoperability, as well as technological aspects.


“At their core, libraries in the information age provide a public means of accessing knowledge. People will come to see libraries as places to create the future, not just learn about the present.”David Pescovitz, research director at the Institute for the Future [1].

Libraries offer access to knowledge and data of the past, present and the future to their physical and virtual visitors every day, and preserving cultural and scientific heritage for the long term. In this digital age, libraries’ focus, position and tasks are rapidly changing and they need to deal more and more with a growing amount of data. Many libraries around the world are stepping into new roles and reviewing their value propositions. Engagement with RDA can enable libraries to redefine and expand their new roles and become an essential player in the area of Research Data Management (RDM), data curation and preservation.

Library and information service professionals within RDA are one of the largest single stakeholder groups in the community, currently counting over 11% of the members[2]. There are many on-going activities in RDA of interest to libraries and their staff, and it is clear that libraries are taking the initiative in addressing the technical and social infrastructure needed to enable and sustain open research.



  • Get involved in an enabling organisation offering a global, open, neutral, experienced and independent forum for librarians to interact with data professionals, researchers, ICT experts and academics;
  • Partner with experts from across the globe to augment the library community and corresponding data interoperability solutions;
  • Develop strategic, collaborative relationships and partnerships with data producing stakeholders (researchers, data scientists, computer scientists etc.) across various domains;
  • Engage in institution-wide advocacy processes for development of institutional and national technical and human infrastructures, legal frameworks, training programmes and policies for data stewardship.
  • Engage in an international forum that facilitates the harmonisation, integration and/or implementation of existing standards and methods for data interoperability;
  • Adopt RDA recommendations and outputs to support the strategic aims of libraries in relation to research data management, curation, preservation and publication;
  • Get actively involved in a unique forum for creating use cases and a 'working space' for library and information professionals;
  • Discover and engage in opportunities and networks for data management skills development and expertise.



Librarians as trained information management professionals contribute to the development of research data management services in their own institutions, and work directly with domain researchers to support research data management and publication. Consequently, RDA offers these professionals a forum to:

  • Gain greater experience and expertise in data management and data science regardless of whether one is a student, early or seasoned career professional;
  • Enhance the quality and effectiveness of personal work and activities;
  • Improve their competitive advantage professionally and position themselves for international leadership within the broader research and data community;
  • Access an extraordinary network of international colleagues and organisations with a broad set of experiences, perspectives, practices, and intellectual frameworks relevant to data-driven innovation.



RDA is a multi-disciplinary and cross-domain global initiative, offering an all-encompassing community of stakeholders. As the global community works towards the harmonisation of research data management, library professionals have skills and expertise which can contribute greatly to the development of best practices. Libraries offer significant contributions to the Research Data Alliance by:

  • Augmenting and enriching the worldwide network of international data experts and information professionals to address data challenges via RDA groups;
  • Contributing to the development and maintenance of high-quality, practical solutions for data interoperability in libraries across the globe, as well as addressing real-world challenges when creating and shaping RDA’s future Recommendations;
  • Acting as the bridge and communication hub for all activities surrounding the data creation and publication lifecycle;
  • Acting as RDA adopters who amplify, direct, and promote RDA Recommendations for the greatest effect and utility in libraries.




  • Become part of a large and international data community such as that offered by RDA, where experts meet from a range of domains and countries. Provide an organisational perspective of RDA, influence its direction, and assist in the implementation and adoption of RDA’s Recommendations. For many global organisations, RDA is a vehicle to help incorporate data sharing technologies. Join RDA as an organisational member and contribute an annual subscription fee based on the number of employees (< than 50 employees: USD1,000 per year | 50 and <250 employees: USD2,000 per year | >250 employees: USD10,000 per year).
  • As a library director, encourage your staff to become RDA community members. Individual membership[3] of the Research Data Alliance is free of charge.




Adopt RDA outputs:

Adoption of RDA Recommendations and Outputs can also help to support the strategic aims of libraries in relation to research data management, data curation and preservation.


The National Library of Ireland Adoption Case NLI[4] is developing a data publication policy, encompassing areas such as the appropriate licensing of born-digital and digitised collections; licensing of metadata; and data citation and persistent identifiers. This work aims to develop a policy which allows for the maximum openness of the data, while considering legislation and policy, including of course copyright legislation. The RDA & CODATA Legal Interoperability of Research Data: Principles and Implementation Guidelines[5] are being used to guide the research and development of this policy, particularly in regards to the open publication and licensing of NLI collections. The output provides high level principles (for example, “Determine the rights to and responsibilities for the data”) while also detailing guidelines for the application of these principles to data collections. The use of the output to underpin the NLI’s policy will ensure a focus on openness where appropriate, while balancing this with NLI’s legal obligations and the rights of creators and donors.

Figure 1 Overview of Legal Interoperability of Research Data: Principles & Implementation Guidelines