“For the IASSIST community, the conference has always been a sort of anchor point where connections get made and are reinforced on a regular basis.”
San Cannon, President of IASSIST for the past three years, is very happy that the organization, in cooperation with SND, can finally hold this global event. It was originally planned for 2020, but the pandemic got in the way.
Some 200 people are present in Gothenburg and as many participate online in this hybrid IASSIST conference when San Cannon opens the conference on Wednesday morning. During three intense days participants will discuss a number of topics, such as research data management, archiving, training, ethics, and FAIR under the conference theme “Data by design”.
“It’s important that we share”
“Right now, there is a whole lot of data organisations that exist. I used to joke that you could go to a data-oriented conference every workday of the entire year, you would never be in the office. But none of them have the same kind of focus as this, so I think what we can do is to take our collective wisdom and help to share that more broadly outside the social science zone”, says San Cannon.
Cannon gives some examples of other research disciplines, such as life sciences and digital humanities, where research data management is a fairly new subject and people struggle to meet the requirements from funders and decision-makers.
“How can IASSIST contribute to that, how can we spread the knowledge, the networking conversations that we had over the years within the social science discipline to continue that forward?”
One of the key players that San Cannon mentions as central to international collaboration and knowledge exchange is CESSDA. CESSDA has been a main contributor to making the IASSIST conference happen, in terms of both practical efforts as well as conference content, especially in the program committee. CESSDA Director Bonnie Wolff-Boenisch highlights the mutual exchange of knowledge and how important it is with projects that go beyond the national perspective, as well as across scientific disciplines.
“We need to be more strategic, the resources are limited. We all need to learn from other disciplines, and we need to share tools and services to enrich the field of research data management”, says Bonnie Wolff-Boenisch.
“We need to be present where the researchers are”
Key note speaker on Wednesday morning is Niklas Blomberg, Director of ELIXIR, a European research infrastructure for the life sciences. Niklas Blomberg mentions the similarities between CESSDA and ELIXIR and speaks of the collaboration between the two organizations in the EU project BY-COVID to create a European COVID-19 data portal. Niklas Blomberg also emphasizes the value of working collectively across disciplines to make it possible to share and reuse research data in new contexts.
“We need to be present where the researchers are, we need to support our researchers in meeting the funders’ requirements for research data management and open science. But the main reason to manage and share data in a good way isn’t the requirements. We do it really because it’s the right thing to do”, says Niklas Blomberg.
To illustrate, Niklas Blomberg uses two examples. One is Charles Darwin’s fantastic database of data on barnacles that he created and worked with systematically all his life, to be able to share the data with other researchers. The other example is the PDB archive, a protein data bank that was established in 1971 and is one of the top life science archives. The Protein Data Bank’s amounts of open data have sparked two new, large research fields and fundamentally changed how experiments are made. Because there are existing data that can be reused, many manually challenging experiments can be avoided.
“Data have limited value when used in isolation. The highest value is created when we link and combine datasets from different databases. So it’s essential that we acknowledge the importance of this landscape of databases and think about how we can strengthen every part of these chains”, says Niklas Blomberg.