This month’s MetaTips is a reflection back on my week at the seventh Research Data Alliance Plenary Meeting (RDA P7) in Tokyo, Japan, three weeks ago. RDA is an international community with a mission to build the social and technical infrastructure to support open data sharing across disciplines. RDA is particularly significant because it has balanced participation and leadership internationally from government organizations, funders, publishers, libraries, computational scientists, and researchers—in essence, the core stakeholders for SHARE. In turn, RDA is the perfect environment in which to develop strategies that are jointly conceived, championed, and implemented by members of a diverse community. The focal points and vehicles for all activity are working groups, each of which has a specific charge and set of deliverables that must be achieved within 18 months. The end result is that the community has already delivered steady progress on research-data goals, instead of being stalled by being too ambitious.
Another aspect that makes RDA different from other communities is that the Plenary Meeting is not really a conference, but rather a meeting for everyone involved in working groups to assemble and coordinate working group activity for the next six months.
This brings us to the seventh Plenary Meeting (RDA P7 programme) in Tokyo this month. In addition to the community representatives already mentioned, many large aggregators of repository and/or research events were also present, such as OpenAIRE (Europe), RD-Switchboard (represented by Australian National Data Service), PANGAEA, and SHARE. There were more than 50 sessions of working groups (WGs), interest groups (IGs), and birds of a feather (BoFs). Before an IG or WG is created, interested parties can convene a BoF session one time during an RDA Plenary Meeting to gauge interest and organize ideas around a particular topic. Particularly notable at RDA P7 was community alignment around data sharing and connectivity between hubs and repositories in the BoF on Data Search, BoF Preparation of the Research Data Repository Interoperability WG, and the WG RDA/WDS Publishing Data Services sessions.
There seems to be the common realization that we will be able to do more together than independently. What if each data hub did not focus on harvesting from every data source, but on a targeted subset? Then…what if each data hub freely shared metadata records with other data hubs, such that any record harvested by any node within this larger network appeared in shared search results? Of course there are details to work out, such as how should records appear in each system (e.g., a record in the SHARE feed marked with the source OpenAIRE)? What shared metadata schema(s) should be used to map across systems? Discussions have been developing in these areas already, but this sharpened focus gives those efforts new purpose. Plus, this is possibly more of an organizational-alignment strategy as opposed to a technology one, which makes the vocal support from many groups at RDA so encouraging.
The BoF on Data Search focused on a few different topics, including: common search interfaces, combined networks and infrastructure in support of data search, and commonly shared data models to enable data search. As a result, the BoF on Data Search may spawn one or more IGs and WGs in the future.
The BoF Preparation of the Research Data Repository Interoperability WG will be defining an initial strategy within the larger strategy of design/selection, promotion, adoption, and enabling repository interoperability. Paraphrasing a question that was posed during this session: “Could we have something that works like OAI-PMH and SWORD but operates at a layer similar to TCP/IP where the barrier to adoption by any repository system would be extremely low?” In other words, do we need another OAI-PMH, SWORD, or ResourceSync, or should we be thinking more creatively?
The Publishing Data Services WG, which concluded during RDA P7, focused on developing a prototype of a universal, open literature-data interlinking service. Researchers must currently work with multiple interfaces to submit data and articles for sharing and publication (e.g., repositories, publishers, funders). This WG developed a prototype service to streamline this work flow into a single process. The prototype work flow currently includes OpenAIRE, and discussions are in progress to create a future working group with two possible aims: (1) expand the work flow to include additional hubs, like SHARE; (2) support linking more types of research data, such as funder information and analytical code.
Over the coming months, we will be engaging in discussions as ideas for these new working groups are developed. Momentum should be strong leading up to the next Plenary Meeting, RDA P8, in Denver, Colorado, during the week of September 11–17 as one part of International Data Week 2016.
For more information about RDA and to get involved, visit http://rd-alliance.org/.