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RDA Meeting Part 1: The RDA Organization

Posted in UC3

This week nearly 400 data nerds flooded the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC, for the second Plenary Meeting of the Research Data Alliance. I was among those nerds, and I’ll review some highlights of the #RDAplenary in my next blog post. First, however, I want to provide an overview of this thing called RDA.

The organization is funded via Australian, European Union, and US government agencies. Work started around August 2012 and focuses on “research data sharing without barriers”.  The National Science Foundation awarded $2.5 million to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to participate in the RDA (read more in the NSF press release), which suggests that the NSF is very interested in the mission of the RDA. From the RDA website:

The Research Data Alliance aims to accelerate and facilitate research data sharing and exchange. The work of the Research Data Alliance is primarily undertaken through its working groups. Participation in working groups and interest groups, starting new working groups, and attendance at the twice-yearly plenary meetings is open to all.

An important note is that the RDA is NOT a funding body. It doesn’t fund participants at meetings, nor does it pay for infrastructure development or implementation. Think of the RDA as a means for folks interested in common subjects to get together twice yearly and try to ensure that

  1. no one is reinventing the wheel,
  2. standards, ontologies, and solutions are as universal as possible, and
  3. careful consideration is being given to all aspects of developing services, tools, and standards for data sharing.

The working groups at the RDA are where the rubber meets the road. According to the website,

Working Groups conduct short-lived, 12-18 month efforts that implement specific tools, code, best practices, standards, etc. at multiple institutions.

There are currently 8 working groups listed on the website; if I’m not mistaken a few more were born this week. Working group members are expected to make a commitment to ensure the working group goals are met in the allotted time. They are essentially volunteers, who contribute their time and travel budgets to participate in the RDA. In some cases, RDA members join forces to write funding proposals to various agencies (NSF and international counterparts).

Anyone interested in the helping to meet the goals of the RDA and its working groups is invited to join. I expect that the list of members includes bureaucrats, administrators, computer scientists, librarians, and many others. The RDA website has a few bios of some of the RDA’s leaders here. If you are interested in participating, check out the RDA website on how to get involved. In next week’s post I’ll share my impressions of the RDA meeting I attended.

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