Nov 11, 2014

4th RDA Plenary - Breakout session on engagement

Below is a summary from a breakout session on engagement that I co-chaired with Andrew Maffei at the Research Data Alliance 4th plenary in Amsterdam, the Netherlands (Monday, September 22, 2014).

Introduction / Overview

The session had about 25 people in attendance.

I provided an overview of the group and its activities. The group receives strong interest and support at plenaries, but in between the interest drops.
Activities to date include working on the model to connect technically oriented groups and domain interest groups (Domain Interest Group Form and Function model, or DIG-FF), a summer internship project, and participation in the RDA/US advisory committee.

DIG-FF Model: we need to observe inter-group interactions and support form and function of these groups as we can. It may be too early to propose a model. Rather, we can focus on small but practical things can facilitate inter-group communication (e.g., creating information-collection instruments, disseminating information, etc.).

Objectives for P4:
  • Present the summer internship project
  • Modify the case statement (create a charter)
  • Attend breakout meetings of the domain-specific groups and collect information about their work and outcomes
  • Find opportunities to work on the amplification and adoption theme promoted by the RDA/US within the group and through collaborations
RDA/US summer internship project
The project was done by the RDA/US intern Rene Patnode from the University of California San Diego under the mentorship of EIG chairs. Rene interviewed 16 chairs of the domain interest groups (DIGs) over the phone and email. The goal of the project was to understand the barriers for researchers to data sharing.
Observations and findings:
  • There is a significant representation of information systems professionals rather than researchers in RDA
  • Responses were consistent with the literature about barriers: sharing is extra work, user interfaces are poor, no fit with current research culture, no funding for data, lack of good data sources
  • To remove those barriers we might try to make data sharing enjoyable and social (e.g., more interaction between researchers, etc.).
  • Gamification (e.g., adding points, badges, etc.) is one possible approach. Citizen science is another mechanism for data collection and sharing.
  • IT solutions need to better mirror the workflow that is currently in use
  • Suggestions for RDA role: make processes of RDA engagement clear and transparent, support cross-pollination, take a political stance by lobbying, encourage better technical development
Many interesting points and questions were raised during the discussion. Below are some of them:
  • Collaborative virtual research environments are one way to improve inter-communication and incentivizing.
  • Does funders requirement for data management plans and its implementation actually improve the outcomes of data stewardship and sharing?
  • Data needs to be useful for someone else to create “an appetite” for removing burdens
  • Cultural change usually means that you have to address ALL the stakeholders. Hence the idea for RDA to take a more political role.
  • Grant budgets need to support data management plans, which need resources.
  • Knowledge Exchange ( is an organization that has interests similar to this group.
  • Fun in sharing is good, but what are the other reasons for sharing? We might want to ask the question “What would you like?” and work on that. Dig into the benefits and show scientists in various areas how sharing data can be of benefit.
  • We have talked a lot about domains. Another orthogonal axis is to look at organizations. Can you get universities, institutions, and membership organizations declare values around data sharing?
  • Cultural differences in data sharing are often ignored. For example, there are different approaches to privacy and consent.
Next steps for the group

  • Develop a form to collect stories about benefits and pains of data management / sharing 
  • Start collecting stories Identify and reach out to champions of data sharing 
  • Design an ISHARE t-shirt 
  • Long term: build practical tools for engagement, pay attention to our own data practices, share the data from RDA, advocate for better RDA website, think about focusing on organizations instead of (or in addition to) domains, collaborate with the “Digital Practices in History and Ethnography” group on studying RDA as an organization 

Engagement in RDA is very important, we need to keep going!

More about our group here: RDA Engagement Interest Group