Friday, March 28, 2014

RDA 3rd Plenary Meeting - Day 1

The 3rd Plenary Meeting of the Research Data Alliance (RDA) took place between 26-28/3/2014 in Dublin Ireland. It would be my 2nd participation in a row to an RDA plenary meeting and I managed to organize my trip (even at the last moment) and be there. It was not an easy trip, as I had to travel to Dublin from Athens on a Greek national holiday/celebration but still I did that. The trip itself was nice, reaching Dublin through Copenhagen (with SAS) and then reaching Athens through Frankfurt with Lufthansa; it was my first time in Dublin but due to the packed schedule of the meeting and the moody weather I did not get to see anything outside my 20 min walk from the hotel to the meeting place (at lovely Croke Park) and back.


Statistics about the 3rd RDA plenary
477 participants registered and attended the meeting. The overall RDA membership is 1,585 from 71 countries (64% from academia; 49% EU, 37%US; 2% policy makers).

About the venue
The meeting was hosted at the Croke Park, which is a nice combination of a football stadium and an exhibition center - a fully equipped one I have to admit; the plenary sessions took place at a large hall which fitted the almost 500 RDA meeting participants nicely while coffee and lunch breaks took place right outside the hall. I wouldn't want to know more about the logistics (taking care of such a big number of participants for catering etc. must be a hard task) but the organizers did a great work. There were some issues with the wifi connection but the technicians were working on them as well as lack of power outlets in the big hall (which left a high percentage of the laptops used by the participants for tweeting etc. off after the first couple of hours!) but in the end everything was fine.



Agro-Know was there, with folders including interesting brochures and company profile 1-pagers. In addition, the agINFRA project was disseminated through discussions and the brochures; I also managed to arrange having the 3 small agINFRA project posters to be placed in the poster session just a couple of hours before the poster session, When there's a will there's a way, as they say ;-)



Day 1 Plenary Session
The plenary session started with keynote speeches and greetings; I personally enjoyed more the Keynote Address by Prof. Ian Chubb AC, Australia's Chief Scientist. Some of his key-points, as extracted by various tweets were the following:

  • We need national, international and inter-disciplinary collaboration in research and innovation;
  • We need research and data to be able to feed 9 billion people, producing carbohydrates and fiber while climate moves;

You can also watch his presentation recording here.

Additional presentations/speeches took place afterwards, mostly highlighting the fact that data exist and it is up to the users to find a meaningful way to use them and that infrastructure is already here, waiting for useful applications. The highlight was a cartoon presented by Dr Ross Wilkinson, Executive Director, Australian National Data Service, showing a donkey, a cart and a carrot; an image really familiar to many of us. This led to nice and funny discussions as well as an explosion of related tweets!

Day 1 WG/IG sessions

I opted to attend the "BoF Education and skills development on Data Intensive Science" organized by Yuri Demchenko and Wouter Los, which aimed to identify opportunities for the new field of data scientists. My colleague Miguel-Angel Sicilia from the University of Alcala was also there, proposing his approach on the subject and discussing the possibility of an interest group, a proposal of which has already been submitted. Discussions were interesting and focused on the existing curricula all over the world.

Next was the meeting of the Agricultural Data Interoperability IG, which was chaired by agINFRA colleagues Johannes Keizer (FAO) and Devika Madalli (Indian Statistical Institute, Bangalore). There I made a presentation titled "Global RDF Descriptors for Germplasm Data", describing the work done in the context of the agINFRA project and the RDA WG towards the exposure and publication of germplasm data as linked data (always based on the work already done by other experts in this field).



It was followed by another presentation by Esther Dzale from INRA, about the Wheat Data Interoperability Working Group and then there was a discussion on various topics affecting the group.

Reception sponsored by Irish Research Council gave us some time to get to meet new people and have interesting discussions; I managed to meet

  • Nikos Houssos from the Hellenic National Documentation Center who are working with the aggregation of metadata from various Greek repositories, among others;
  • Nuno Freire, Chief Data Officer at The European Library, with whom we discussed about the role of a CRM tool in the metadata aggregation workflow
  • Stephane Goldstein from the Research Information Network (UK), with whom we had an interesting discussion about the proposed IG on Education for Data Scientists
  • Odile Hologne, Head of Scientific Information Dept. of INRA, who has been in long communication and collaboration with AK but we never had the opportunity to meet in the past;
  • Phil Archer from W3C (the previous time was in the 2nd RDA Plenary in Washington D.C. last September), who was disappointed by people not following the existing standards for linking their data! 

In addition I got to see again old time friends like Johannes Keizer from FAO, David King from Open University (last time we met was back in May 2012 in the 2nd BioVeL workshop in Gothenburg, Sweden!), Esther Dzale from INRA and others. It's always nice to be among friends in such big events!

More info about the 3rd RDA Plenary: