A few take-away messages from RDA’s 13th Plenary Meeting

A few take-away messages from RDA’s 13th Plenary Meeting in Philadelphia, US, written by our colleague Matthew Viljoen


Opening Plenary

Julia Stoyanovich welcomed everyone as the main speaker and introduced the common theme of the conference – Responsible Data – focusing on the reality of statistical bias in data-processing algorithms & its societal impact.

The speaker’s proposal to tackle this issue was by enforcing the following aspects:

  • Algorithmic transparency (not just releasing source code, which can be unnecessary and often insufficient)
  • Algorithmic transparency requires data transparency,
  • Data transparency is not synonymous with making all data public but should release it whenever possible, inc. releasing data selection, collection, pre-processing methodologies, provenance, quality info. known sources of bias, privacy preservation statistical summaries of the data.
  • Data transparency – helps prevent discrimination and enables establishment of trust.
  • Technology alone is not enough. We also need regulation and civic engagement, something we should drive through engagement with the public, both technical and non-technical.

Working Group FAIR Data Maturity Model

  • The meeting gathered around 60 attendees from all over the world. The discussion went around the scope and methodology to create a common set of core assessment criteria for FAIRness via a bottom up approach: definition, development, testing and delivery.
  • We continued to discuss whether this assessment should be automatic (done by machines/algorithms) or manual, using examples of the volume of data & practicality considerations. We agreed that the scope should be cross-disciplinary rather than domain specific.

Joint Meeting: From observational data to information

  • Two Information Groups were introduced and included aspects of bringing raw data to usable information for research, and VREs, Science Gateways or Virtual Labs. These were followed by a number of different talks including one that raised much interest about a method for Annotating Data (implemented using a MongoDB separate from the data) and tools for measuring quality of preserved data.
  • I gave a presentation introducing the SKA/AENEAS project and the plans for a Science Gateway and agreed with the Chairs of the groups to continue engagement until the end of the project.

Meeting: Assessing FAIR Data Policy Implementation in Health Research

  • The meeting introduced the new FAIR4Health project and the landscape analysis it will conduct to assess FAIR implementation in health research.
  • I mentioned the importance of engaging with existing eInfrastructures to help most important outputs, workable implementations, e.g. ELIXIR and AAI aspects

Find out more about the RDA event, programme and media.