On the 4th of March the G8 + O5 Data Working Group came together for the third time after its launch in May 2011 and was hosted at Cosener’s House in Abingdon (near the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory). Previous meetings were held in Cape Town (Nov. 2011) and Hamburg (April 2012). The WG was commissioned by the Group of Senior Officials (GSO) on Global Research Infrastructures at a meeting in Brussels 24 March 2011 and is led by the European Commission, namely by Dr. Thierry van Der Pyl, Director Excellence in Science, DG CONNECT, supported by Carlos Morais-Pires, very familiar as Project Officer of the European OpenAIRE Project. I had been invited by the EC to join the WG.
The Oxford meeting focussed on two recommendations of the GSO Report and the relationship of the G8 O5 group with the newly formed Research Data Alliance, RDA (Alicia Lopez-Medina reports on the Inaugural Meeting of the RDA in Gothenburg from the 18-20 March in this newsletter).
The two recommendations addressing Data e-Infrastructures read as follows:
Recommendation 9 – e-infrastructure
Global research infrastructure initiatives should recognize the utility of the integrated use of advanced e-infrastructures, services for accessing and processing, and curating data, as well as remote participation (interaction) and access to scientific experiments.
Recommendation 10 – data exchange
Global scientific data infrastructure providers and users should recognise the utility of data exchange and interoperability of data across disciplines and national boundaries as a means to broadening the scientific reach of individual data sets.
In the discussion many topics were raised, incl., the following (picked up randomly):
- Are publically funded data a public good?
- How do we ensure preservation and access?
- How do we make data discoverable and exchangeable?
- How do we protect privacy? How do we protect IP?
- How do we ensure appropriate Recognition?
- How do we cover costs?
- How do we involve research institutions/universities?
- How do we address governance on a regional/global level?
- How do we ensure data quality (Good scientific practice, Research Integrity)
- How do we ensure that data in Continents like Africa is included?
- Multiplication of activities , Top-Down, bottom-up, we lose opportunities,
- Public-private partnership (US, benefit from practice)
- Translation of data, semantics, language (China)
- Data management for business is missing (Japan)
- In the last ten years we had digital divide, now we could have „data divide“ and some large companies taking over (China)
The WG felt that a white paper would be valuable, describing 5 relevant topics for global data infrastructures, such as:
- Traceability, Persistent identifier
- Standards how to acknowledge the re-use of data
- Who is going to provide infrastructures?
- Quality assurance, reproducibility
- Recognition system
Interoperability was highlighted as one of the central topics which gave me the opportunity to point to the „COAR Briefing paper on Interoperability“ and the crucial messages described in this ressource.
As for the Research Data Alliance there was broad consensus among the participants that the RDA will be very useful in the research data area. Funders should provide policy advice to the more technical and operational working RDA groups. As the geographic scope of RDA stakeholders is currently focussed on the EU, U.S. and Australia I pointed to the successful model of COAR as truly globally acting organisation and its potential to reach out in particular to research institutions, universities and organisations. COAR members are mainly infrastructure institutions, providing necessary expertise and sustainability for global infrastructures, going beyond research data and addressing potentially all types of relevant research and learning material.
Among the participants there was a split view on the potential role of research libraries, some of them doubting that they will be able to become relevant actors in the field, others strongly requesting their input and support. I pointed to LIBER, the European Research Libraries Organisations that has included research infrastructures as one of their main objectives in the Strategy Plan 2013-2015.
As a conclusion I think it is utterly important for infrastructure institutions to find and claim their role in the emerging global activities. COAR is the hitherto only truly international community to enable these global research and information infrastructures and we should partner with other communities such as RDA or on regional level with RedClara (Latin-America), DRF (Japan), Institutional Repository Grid (China) or LIBER (Europe) to move forward.
Norbert Lossau, 14 April 2013