DCC & RDA: acronym soup

27 March, 2018 | in DCC News
By: Sarah Jones

It’s always a good sign when events inspire you to write. Coming at the end of a 3 week travel tour round Germany, I expected the RDA and co-located events to be the final hurdle that I was steeling myself to face, but they engaged and reinvigorated me in a way I hadn’t anticipated.

The Göttingen/CODATA pre-RDA symposium on institutional RDM was a triumph. The event brought together an international mix of data librarians, curators and information professionals who shared hard-won lessons learned through a series of short talks and papers. It had the feeling of the old Jisc MRD programme meetings where you really felt the community coming together and bonding. The keynotes – all 9 of them! – were also exemplary. It’s testament to the programme committee that they managed to profile so much interesting work and provide a space that encouraged collaboration. I’d love to see this kind of event being run as a regular pre-RDA event as I think it provided exactly the kind of learning experience and forum for exploration that so many participants are looking for from plenaries. But, as Patti Brennan observed in her excellent Reflections on the Work of the Research Data Alliance, the plenaries are working meetings. We need other vehicles for taking stock of the state-of-the-art, and doing this immediately before the Plenary left participants buzzing with ideas as they boarded the trains to Berlin en-masse, ready to engage in their small, focused work groups.

It was a delight to see new Secretary General, Hilary Hanahoe, open the 11th RDA plenary in Berlin with a motivational analogy of how we are all the components of a grand orchestra that come together to produce something multi-layered and magnificent. This really is the value of global cooperation: it is hard work and politically strenuous, but the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts so it warrants ongoing investment.

DCC staff were involved in a few sessions at the RDA plenary. Jimmy Angelakos, our tech lead, presented the DMPRoadmap data model in the DMP Common Standards WG (slides 44-51), Angus Whyte ran the session on Exposing DMPs, which he assured us was “nothing salacious – all good clean fun” and I co-chaired the CODATA/RDA Data Science Schools session with Rob Quick. Kevin was pretty busy too with the Council meeting, funders forum, OAB and other RDA business. The DCC has a new role in RDA now. We’re one of the core partners of the RDA 4 Europe project. We are responsible for leading the following tasks and are contributing to many others:

  • Take-up, implementation and adoption of RDA outputs
  • Growing the European national node network
  • Supporting RDA global communications
  • Assessing impact

The role of the nodes is of particular interest to me. Adoption happens on a local level, and there’s a key facilitation role for national groups to take RDA outputs and disseminate them to relevant contacts within their communities. There is also a role for RDA global and the originating chairs to communicate these outputs better and demonstrate potential applications. I’m really pleased that the DCC will be leading the outputs adoption task in the RDA Europe project and look forward to collaborating with Anthony Juehne who holds a similar role in RDA USA.

It really feels like RDA has hit a point of maturity. Outputs are being adopted (there was a great example of this from Peter Fox in Göttingen) and the dynamic between sessions chairs shows a professionalism that bodes well. I was particularly impressed at how the trios in the DMP Common Standards WG and the Early Career and Engagement IG divided up responsibilities and supported one another to run really successful sessions.

The ECEIG (more acronyms!) is one group I was particularly keen to get involved in so I volunteered to be a mentor. Anyone can sign-up as a mentor or mentee – you just need to self-identify with either role and agree a few minimal ground rules about engaging. The ECEIG is intended to help point people in the right direction and support the new data generation to become the leaders of the future. With over 600 people in attendance and a slew of oddly-named BoFs, IGs and WGs [1] to pick from, RDA plenaries can be really hard to navigate, even for those in the know. Such big meetings are overwhelming and make it hard to discover relevant content and contacts. Once you’ve made your connections though, they can guide you to some of the best haunts in town, so it’s worth persevering. This local bar was discovered thanks to Robin Rice’s craft beer radar, and unique sense of direction…


The ‘RDA’ acronym may well already have certain meanings for you, but I’d encourage you to explore the connotations related to the Research Data Alliance and its mission “to build the social and technical bridges to enable open data sharing.” This is at the heart of so much of what we all do, and engaging with RDA will not only put your work on a global stage, but the collaborations and connections that ensure will enrich the data future for us all.


[1] BoFs are Birds of a Feather sessions meant to test fledgling ideas and see if there is scope to propose a formal group. IGs are Interest Groups which explore broad topics of mutual interest such as libraries for research data, data rescue, national data services and active data management plans. Working Groups (WGs) are time-limited, focused groups which operate for 12-18 months and have a fixed remit to deliver a specific output. BoFs may transition into IGs and IGs may spin out into multiple WGs during their lifecycle. Groups can equally form and disband depending on community engagement. An overview of the different group types is presented on the RDA website.