Last February, our Account Manager Niels Deriemaecker was elected as a member of the Technical Advisory Board of the Research Data Alliance (RDA). Founded in 2013 by volunteers, this international community initiative now has as many as 14,000 members, including a large majority of researchers. The RDA aims to build the social and technical infrastructure necessary to share and reuse research data. For Niels, it is mainly a good way to reach out to researchers and get to know their open science needs better. We asked him a few questions about the start of this adventure.
Can you explain what your role within the RDA entails?
In February, I was elected as a member of the Technical Advisory Board (TAB) within RDA for a period of 3 years. This board manages the various working and reflection groups into which all RDA members are divided. It is in these working groups that knowledge and experience exchange takes place on topics such as open science, open data, data management plans, etc. My role in this council is threefold.
In the first place, we look at whether the new groups and subgroups being set up within the RDA are unnecessary. The aim, of course, is to ensure that the created group can meet new needs or subdomains of existing needs of researchers.
In addition, my job is to create bridges between the various working groups and the RDA itself. So I act as an intermediary and facilitator between the different groups. I also act as a point of contact for the group. Currently, I deal with 5 groups.
Finally, members can come to me whenever there is a topic or a brainstorming session should be scheduled at a future event. I will then make sure this is scheduled.
What are the profiles of the members of the Technical Advisory Board?
I am the only Account Manager on the Technical Advisory Board, and also the only one who comes from an NREN (national research and education network). The board consists mainly of technical profiles such as professors, researchers and scientists. A list of all members is available on the RDA website.
How have you experienced this new role since your appointment in February?
In the beginning, I didn't know what to expect. But now that I have seen how it works to act as a bridge-builder and facilitator, it is definitely a function in which I can contribute a lot.
It is important for me to be in touch with the researchers to know what they need. That gives a lot of satisfaction. For example, researchers need a data management plan (DMP) to get funding for their research. And the way to do that in Belgium is to use DMPonline.be. I knew this service was important for the research community, but did not realise how essential it was until I participated in the plenary meeting in Gothenburg (Sweden) last March.
How did this first event go for you?
It is a larger event that takes place twice a year. The March edition (an anniversary edition) took place in Gothenburg over four days. It was an opportunity for think tanks to come together and discuss ideas on data sharing. New groups were formed and new synergies created, especially through brainstorming sessions. Some researchers were also able to join groups randomly, which helped build bridges between the different groups.