Monthly Archives: October 2015

RDA Plenary 6: ‘Allez les filles’!

EGriffin-244x237 (1)This post is by Elizabeth Griffin, chair of the CODATA Data at Risk Task Group, and co-chair of the related RDA Interest Group on Data Rescue.

rda6_IMG_0461_(c)cap_digitalRDA Plenary 6 took place in balmy late September in the centre of Paris, within the confines of CNAM (Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers) and just down the road from the République. Inaugurated in 1794, CNAM took over a deserted Priory and formally opened in 1802.

As well as housing a museum of innovations relevant to science and industry, it also (and primarily) serves as an adult educational centre, with emphases on practical training in science and engineering on the one hand and management and social sciences on the other. Whether it rose adequately to the challenge of a sudden influx of nearly 600 RDA delegates is more subjective.rda6_IMG_0605_(c)cap_digital

A marquee in the central court provided what should have been a good meeting point for meal-time discussions, but the wooden floor and harsh surrounds offered abysmal acoustics, encouraging many to retreat outside and perch on the stone window-sills (sunshine permitting). Whether delegates succeeded in locating and reaching the right meeting-rooms (either conventional classrooms or formal tiered theatres) allocated to their sessions depended on perseverance as well as physical fitness, offering a learning curve as steep as the flights of stairs. But none of that affected the characteristic-RDA zest of the meeting, which included the (now regular) admix of numerous IG, WG, BoF and formal plenary sessions.

800px-A_la_Gloire_de_la_République_FrançaiseWhat signs of the Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, suggested by such proximity to the République? My French dictionary (1988 edition) offers no equivalent to `sorority’ or `sisterhood’, and a hard-hitting talk by Dame Wendy Hall to a Women-in-RDA breakfast meeting hinted that the emergence of women in both science and practical society is still Work in Progress. Women are climbing the scientific career-ladders, but not as quickly as some of the pointers anticipate. Where, then, is France?

Yet evidence of Progress abounded, even at the opening session: an impressive Keynote presentation by Barbara Ryan (Earth Observations, Geneva), “Unleashing the Power of Earth Observations – Together”, encouraged collaboration not competition, while the Minister of State for Digital Technology in the French Ministry of Economy, Industry and Digital Technology, who made a flying visit to give a welcome address, proved – much to our surprise – to be a young working mother. Allez les filles !

rda6plenary_axelle_lemaire_(c)_capdigital_550pxWomen carry quite a load between them at plenaries, this one being no exception. It would be instructive to see a gender disaggregation of Chairs, and to look for any bias between (for instance) those addressing social and educational matters on the one hand, and science, engineering and data management on the other.

Do women have the Liberté to select their chosen and fulfilling careers, or is true Egalité still a dream for a future that must coin a new word to represent the “togetherness” of our scientific efforts? Add does it matter? Yes, in some ways the matter is crucial.

800px-Place_de_la_République_-_ÉgalitéOrganizations, whether for research or for data management, share a common structure that is inevitably somewhat vertical, and in which actual power lies with those who are designers and builders. We don’t intentionally spend resources duplicating what is already extant; life is too short, and we accept and apply what is provided, be it a computer system, a hierarchy of data management, an educational set-up or a scheme for raising funds.

Even apart from some recognized differences in thought processes between “male” and “female” mind-types, other biologically-related forces simply cannot be ignored, like body language (oh for uniform attire!) or a reputed capacity for multi-tasking. And if there is one place that needs to embrace multi-tasking it is surely the RDA. Greater aggregation, or clustering, of the over-many topics that are now registered as Interest Groups would enhance the complementary aspects of a number of rather similar-looking sessions, while more plenaries would result in greater emphasis on the broader picture and thence on the raison d’être of the RDA.

Global Data Activities for the Study of Solar Terrestrial Variability

Alena_rybkina_300pxThis post is by Alena Rybkina, a member of the CODATA Executive Committee, of the CODATA Early Career Data Professionals Group, and a participant in the Task Group on Earth and Space Science Data Interoperability.

“On 28-30 September 2015, the joint workshop of the Scientific Committee on Solar-Terrestrial Physics (SCOSTEP) and the ICSU World Data System (ICSU-WDS) ‘Global Data Activities for the Study of Solar-Terrestrial Variability’ was held in the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), in Tokyo, Japan.

The workshop mainly focused on data issues and data analysis. More than 60 participants shared their experience in data activities in the field of Earth-Space interoperability. From 49 presentations 21 were related to event data analysis, 4 to data science and 9 to data systems.


SCOSTEP is an ICSU Interdisciplinary Body tasked with the responsibility to organize long-term scientific programs in solar terrestrial physics. Variability of the Sun and Its Terrestrial Impact (VarSITI) is that program for the period 2014–2018. The VarSITI program will strive for international collaboration in data analysis, modeling, and theory to understand how the solar variability affects Earth.

VarSITI (will have four scientific elements that address solar terrestrial problems keeping the current low solar activity as the common thread: SEE (Solar evolution and Extrema), MiniMax24/ISEST (International Study of Earth-affecting Solar Transients), SPeCIMEN (Specification and Prediction of the Coupled Inner-Magnetospheric Environment), and ROSMIC (Role Of the Sun and the Middle atmosphere/thermosphere/ionosphere In Climate) (SCOSTEP-VarSITI Brochure 2013).

The Global Data Activities for the Study of Solar Terrestrial Variability workshop was launched with the panel discussion related to the VarSITI’s Data Challenges.

The discussions raised important topics:

1. Data needs: what other databases should be used or built to encourage Sun-Earth interdisciplinary research?
2. Data access: what efforts are required to make VarSITI generated/needed data open?
3. Data quality: what efforts are required to make VarSITI generated data reusable? Unify data and metadata formats?
4. Data legacy: where will VarSITI data be preserved? How WDS should treat VarSITI project observation data satisfying/not satisfying the WDS criteria?

The cross cutting point of the discussion was data accessibility and understandability for the community and researchers from the neighboring scientific fields. Involvement of CODATA to VarSITI project play important role and it was mentioned by the members of the Panel since adaption of high level principles is essential when it comes to the data management.

It was finalized with the signing procedure of the Memorandum of understanding between SCOSTEP, ICSU and WDS. SCOSTEP became the member of WDS.


As a member of the CODATA Executive Committee and the Task Group on Earth and Space Science Data Interoperability, I represented CODATA at this workshop. I gave an invited talk about CODATA activities during plenary session of the workshop and followed seminar in the National Institute of Polar Research (NIPR). Special attention was paid to the activities of CODATA TG “Earth and Space science data interoperability” as it is strongly related to the subject of the workshop. Another topic of interest among participants was Data Citation. Japan was one of the first countries that used DOIs (Digital Object Identifiers) to persistently identify observational data. That activity is among the top priorities of the data community and their experience play important role for future investigations. I will play a role therefore in connecting SCOSTEP and VarSITI with international activities to promote data citation.”

Read more:

SCOSTEP website

‘Cranking it out’: CODATA and RDA Plenary 6

The Sixth Plenary Meeting of the Research Data Alliance was held last week (23-25 September 2015) at CNAM, the Conservatoire national des arts et métiers.  This was the largest RDA plenary so far with roughly 700 participants.

rda6plenary_axelle_lemaire_(c)_capdigital_550pxA highlight for me was Barbara Ryan’s keynote and the impromptu and well-informed talk given by the French Minister of State for Digital Affaires, Axelle Lemaire.

This was a somewhat different Plenary for me than previous ones.  RDA Plenaries have a chaotic, ‘unconference’ feel, with a lot of ‘Birds of a Feather’ sessions to collect together interested parties and Interest Groups working out their activities, as well as Working Groups reporting on their progress.  It is an exciting model, with huge potential, but it also requires perseverance and patience; for people both to stand up for their ideas and to be willing to collaborate and compromise.  These are good things, of course.  Watching them evolve is fulfilling, fascinating and frustrating in equal measure, as it must be.

rda6plenary_intdataweek2016_zoom_(c)_capdigitalThis year was different because I am heavily involved in three very active and productive Groups and I had to focus on these and other meetings, at the expense of engaging with BOFs and other TGs or WGs.  I’m sure the cycle will swing round again, but this was a Plenary to be more focused and productive.

The CODATA community was very actively involved and there are a number of joint Working Groups and Interest Groups.  Here are the key activities:

RDA-WDS Interest Group on Cost Recovery for Data Repositories

RDA_Logotype_CMYKAlong with Ingrid Dillo of DANS and the WDS Scientific Committee, and Anita de Waard of Elsevier Research, I am one of the co-chairs of this co-branded RDA-WDS Interest Group.  The focus of the activity is to analyse current income streams for data repositories, to understand how they are changing and what new sources of income may be available if the repository needs to evolve its business model to ensure sustainability.  In depth interviews were conducted with some 25 data repositories and the findings of those interviews have now been written up into a draft report.

In a shared session with the RDA Interest Group on Domain Repositories, we presented the key findings of the report which include a landscape analysis of the types of income streams and a typology of the overall business models encountered.  Participants of the session then conducted a SWOT analysis of these business models.  The results of this will be published soon.

CODATA-RDA Interest Group on Legal Interoperability

rda6plenary_mark_parsons_(c)_capdigital_zoom2As Mark Parsons said in his introductory talk, the CODATA-RDA Interest Group has been cranking out the work!  At the Fifth Plenary in San Diego, we presented a definition and a set of high level ‘Legal Interoperability Principles for Research Data’.  Legal interoperability is an attribute which is important for the reuse of research data.

Legal interoperability occurs among multiple datasets when:

  • use conditions are clearly and readily determinable for each of the datasets,
  • the legal use conditions imposed on each dataset allow creation and use of combined or derivative products, and
  • users may legally access and use each dataset without seeking authorization from data rights holders on a case-by-case basis, assuming that the accumulated conditions of use for each and all of the datasets are met.

The principles identify the primary issues to be addressed to achieve such legal interoperability.  Over the last six months, the group has been developing a set of practical implementation guidelines for these principles.  The crank has been turned by many hands through a regular series of online calls.  The session discussed the draft document and laid out our schedule to deliver a completed set of Implementation Guidelines for the Principles on the Legal Interoperability of Research Data

CODATA-RDA Working Group on Data Science Summer Schools

This activity starts from the premise that contemporary research – particularly when addressing the most significant, transdisciplinary research challenges – cannot be done effectively without a range of skills relating to data. This includes the principles and practice of Open Science and research data management and curation, the use of a range of data platforms and infrastructures, large scale analysis, statistics, visualisation and modelling techniques, software development and annotation and more. We define ‘Research Data Science’ as the ensemble of these skills.

The CODATA-RDA Working Group on Data Science Summer Schools aims to address this recognised need for a means to develop additional skills through a scalable and consistent series of short courses or ‘Summer Schools’.  The model builds on existing CODATA activities, and brings together partners and with expertise and reusable materials to create a coherent whole that is more than the sum of its parts.  The partners include Software Carpentry, Data Carpentry and the Digital Curation Centre.

IMG_5511The first introductory Research Data Science Summer School will be hosted by the International Centre of Theoretical Physics, in Trieste, Italy, 1-12 August 2016.  The ICTP is generously providing accommodation and board for up to 120 participants.  Travel funding for 30-40 students has been secured from ICTP, TWAS and CODATA and discussions are ongoing with other sponsors and funders.

The session discussed the approach and included a call for further collaborators and funding.

In addition to these three Groups, with which I am directly involved as co-chair or facilitator, there were three other activities with connections to CODATA Task Groups.


The CODATA DAR TG-RDA Data Rescue IG held a joint session, entitled ‘The Data Corridor: You, The Past, and The Future’.

From the session description:

data_rescue_image_ruined_archives_IEDO_lowdefThe RDA/CODATA Data Rescue Group plans to publish a book on “Data Rescue”.  It will set the scene, describe and expand the rationale, define the benchmarks, and present selected Case Studies.  Which Case Studies to include can be a topic for open discussion at this session.  An added intention is that a (possibly annual) Newsletter (online) will be issued to update the Case Studies and report new ones.

The RDA/CODATA Data Rescue Group has also been charged with presenting “Guidelines” for rescuing data.  Activities involved in the recovery, digitizing, preserving of originals, plus the dissemination and archiving of the digitial versions, all need to be included in those Guidelines.  The Group will hold a Workshop on Data Rescue in Boulder in the Fall of 2016, where topics for the Guidelines will also be addressed.  However, the Workshop will probably appeal more to data producers while the RDA community tends to include more data managers.  This session will therefore seek input from aspects of data management regarding contributions to those Guidelines.

CODATA TG on Science and the Management of Physical Objects in the Digital Era

The CODATA TG on Science and the Management of Physical Objects in the Digital Era held a ‘Birds of a Feather Session’ on ‘Persistently Linking Physical Samples with Data and Publications: A Matter of Reproducible Research’ with a view to establishing an RDA Interest Group.  The objectives of the BOF were:

  1. To identify as many systems, both domain specific and cross domain, that are being developed to manage physical objects and data and publications derived from them.
  2. To facilitate international cooperation to develop harmonized approaches and best practices for physical object identification and digital curation.
  3. To build linkages between object repositories and museums, digital data repositories, scientific publications, and science communities.
  4. To enable the facilitation of object and sample identification infrastructure both at the national and international levels.

CODATA-RDA Interest Group on Materials Data, Infrastructure & Interoperability

Last but not least, the CODATA-RDA Materials Data, Infrastructure and Interoperability Interest Group, held a session to establish a Working Group on the International Materials Resource Registry (IMMR).