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Research Data Alliance’s Virtual Plenary 17 – Why attend?


Registration is now open for the RDA’S 17th Plenary meeting on 20-23 April 2021. This event is hosted by the Digital Curation Centre in collaboration with Jisc and UKRI. As you’d expect, considering the current situation, this plenary has moved to being a fully virtual event. Despite the disappointment of not being able to meet up in Edinburgh, we are working hard to ensure that this plenary will be the “not to be missed” research event of 2021.

If we have learned anything from 2020, it’s that solving global challenges requires international collaboration, open and transparent research, and speed to discover solutions that literally save lives. With the world still in the grip of a global pandemic, perhaps it’s not surprising that Plenary 17 will focus on the themes of global challenges, global mechanisms for data reuse, sustainable solutions with benefits for all, and global cooperation to realise these ends.

The benefits of the RDA were highlighted last year when the RDA COVID-19 working group convened and produced its Recommendations and Guidelines for Data Sharing, all in an open process, publicly available for comment.

The benefits of attending Plenary 17 include:

  • Engaging with the international community
  • Finding your peers so you can collaborate with like-minded individuals on work of shared interest
  • Highlighting your work, sharing updates and learning from others facing similar challenges
  • Meeting online with colleagues from across the global research data community and sharing ideas, whatever stage of your career you are at
  • Attending an event without leaving your home – which makes it easier for balancing domestic responsibilities, reducing carbon footprint and minimising your time and travel costs
  • Cheaper to attend and easier to balance with other work commitments
  • RDA Plenaries are inclusive and welcoming to newcomers – there’s a specific session aimed at helping newcomers make the most of the event.

What should I expect?

There are exciting speakers opening and closing the event. Dr Jeni Tennison (Vice President and Chief Strategy Adviser at the Open Data Institute) will give the opening plenary on “Research data in the wider data ecosystem”. Prof Richard Gold (James McGill Professor – the founding Director and current director of the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy) will give the closing keynote on “Open Science and Drug Discovery: Removing Barriers to Accelerate Research”.

The panel session on 21 April is on “Facilitating Greater Data Reuse: Lessons and Examples from Practice”. The panel includes Amy Pienta (ICPSR), Malarvizhi Veerappan (World Bank), Vundli Ramokolo (South African Medical Research Council), and other panellists soon to be announced.

To get an idea of the different sessions (working/interest group meetings, BoFs, panel sessions, etc) that make up the plenary, check out the programme. It’s one that is likely to include something relevant to your work and/or interests. If you’re not in a GMT-friendly time zone then some of the sessions will be repeated on the 22 and 23 April to accommodate international time zones.

Every plenary has an RDA for newcomers session early on in the programme, but this time there will be two free sessions, prior to the event on 8 and 13 April. If you’re new to RDA, or are unsure this is the event for you, then go to one of these sessions and find out about the RDA and the benefits of attending the plenary.

The plenary includes the co-located event – the 16th International Digital Curation Conference on 19 April. It will focus on data quality and its impact on research output, and include keynote lectures, papers and lightning talks. There will also be a joint RDA and IDCC Unconference on 20 April.

What is the RDA?

The Research Data Alliance (RDA) is an international member organisation with over 11,000 members from 145 countries. Its vision is for researchers and innovators to openly share and re-use data across technologies, disciplines, and countries to address the grand challenges of society. Through focused Working Groups and more exploratory Interest Groups, the RDA develops and implements concrete recommendations and supporting outputs that provide the social and technical connections necessary for a functional data infrastructure that bridges across countries, disciplines, scales, and technologies.

As described on their website, “RDA has a grassroots, inclusive approach covering all data lifecycle stages, engaging data producers, users and stewards, addressing data exchange, processing, and storage. It has succeeded in creating the neutral social platform where international research data experts meet to exchange views and to agree on topics including social hurdles on data sharing, education and training challenges, data management plans and certification of data repositories, disciplinary and interdisciplinary interoperability, as well as technological aspects.”

How does Jisc support the RDA?

Jisc has worked with the RDA since its inception and provided funding to support its sustainability. Jisc worked with UKRI-STFC in running the RDA UK node, supporting existing UK members and increasing membership to over 950. The UK was one of the nine pioneer nodes that grew to 22 through the course of the EU funded project. In terms of membership numbers, the UK has the highest membership in Europe and is only second globally to the USA.

Jisc has a strong interest in open research, research data, standards, open access, persistent identifiers and many areas that are relevant to our members nationally and internationally. It is important to be engaged in the RDA, not just through the working and interest groups, but as a community.

RDA in the UK

Plenaries attract delegates from all over the world. However, we would really like to see the UK well represented at Plenary 17 because:

  • This is the first RDA plenary in the UK
  • The UK has the second largest membership in the RDA (over 950 out of over 11,000 members)
  • We have an active and engaged community
  • Research is international and this event draws a global audience
  • We’re the host nation and it’s in Europe so we’d like to continue being well represented
  • We have an active membership in many groups

What do I do now?

If you’re still wondering if Plenary 17 is the event for you, there are recordings of two webinars to help you decide:

We look forward to seeing you in April!

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By Christopher Brown

Product Manager (Research) at Jisc.

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