The Research Data Alliance in Amsterdam and the KB

Originally posted at http://researchkb.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/the-research-data-alliance-in-amsterdam-and-the-kb/

Prof. C. Borgman Image: Inge Angevaare KB-NL

Our colleagues from DANS organized the 4th Plenary Meeting of the Research Data Alliance ( RDA: research data sharing without barriers) in Amsterdam, held this past three days. I was there, representing the KB, one of the few national libraries present. The concept that national libraries have “research data” is a concept that needs some explanation. There are repositories that collect data sets that are a result of research, often underpinning an article. DANS and 3TU are good examples of this. But there are also repositories that have “collections” to facilitate research, like sensor data, astronomical data, climate data. This is similar to what the KB offers the researchers: a vast amount of digitized historical texts and a (restricted accessible) web archive. Researchers use these sets, see for example the Webart project. With the growing attention for digital scholarship or e-Humanities, we can expect more use. And to make the process complete, the results of research done on KB collections might end up as a publication in the KB and a data set at DANS. An NCDD working group on Enhanced Publications is looking into ways to present both outputs smoothly as an integral entity to the user. In short, there are good reasons for libraries to be at RDA! The opening of the conference had several speakers from the European Commission. Both Robert Jan Smits (Director General DG Research) and Neelie Kroes, Vice president of the European Commision via video, stressed that the European Commission expects RDA to contribute to the growing importance of sharing and preserving research data, as open access to research data is a key message in the Horizon 2020 Programme. With a new cohort of EU politicians, some canvassing work to convince them of the ins and outs of this and the role of RDA will be necessary. Prof. dr. Barend Mons from Leiden University and founder of the “fair data” initiative was asked to give his views on the matter. FAIR data being: Findable, Accessible Interoperable and Re-usable, for both humans and computers. With the motto “Bringing data to Broadway” he pleaded for professionalism in data publishing by a good infrastructure for data and a rewarding system for researchers (data should have the same “status” as a publication) and for real data stewardship. Difficulties in hiring and keeping competent data scientists, for example are a barrier. Are publishers ready for data publishing or will the data end up in a black hole? Despite the trend of putting data central, he believes that there will always be “a narrative” explaining the findings (read: articles, books). To improve professional data stewardship, he pleaded to reserve 5% of research budgets to achieve the goals of FAIR data. Prof. Christine Borgman of UCLA gave an interesting talk in which she criticized some assumptions related to research data. For example data sharing: this is not common practice in every discipline and (again) as long as researchers are not rewarded for it, it will not happen. The emphasis on data might not be fair, publications are not simply “containers for data” but are arguments, supported by the data. The carefully designed process in publications (for example the order of appearance of the authors) is not even designed yet for data sets. More of this will be described in her new book, to be published by the end of the year. The rest of the work these days was done in a variety of Interest Groups (IGs) and Working Groups (WGs). The KB participates in the activities on Certification of Digital Repositories and Data Publishing (about workflows in data publishing, of interest for our (inter-) national e-Depot, about costs for data centers). All information is available from the RDA website. At the final meeting an interesting announcement was made: in December a follow up of the Riding the Wave report will be published, with the working title Harvesting the Data. Knowing the immense impact the Riding the Wave report had, this is something to look forward to. The Research Data Alliance started as a small group and has now over 2500 members, with a large range of Interest Groups and Working Groups. Time has come to streamline the activities more in order to integrate the results and to think about the sustainability of the RDA itself. The results of this process will be discussed in the next Plenary Meeting in San Diego 9-11 March 2015.

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