The data steward role has emerged as a critical function in contexts of data management within both academia and the business world. It is a fairly new profession, and it is becoming evident that there is a growing need to share experiences and discuss both small and large issues in this field. To promote connection and knowledge exchange among data stewards, both nationally and internationally, several new networks are emerging.
Since autumn 2022, there is a growing network for Swedish data stewards. The network, called the Swedish Data Steward Network, began as a pilot project at KTH Royal Institute of Technology. One of the initiators, Kristin Halverson, Data Steward Coordinator at KTH, started the project by mapping the landscape for data stewardship both nationally and internationally. Through discussions and meetings with other Swedish universities and international partners, it became clear that there is a significant demand for dialogue and exchange of experiences in matters relating to data management.
After SND’s network meeting in Gothenburg in May 2023, where Kristin, along with Merlijn De Smit (Data Steward, Stockholm University) and Mattias Persson (analyst, Örebro University) gave a joint presentation on the emerging role of data stewards in Swedish higher education institutions, the network has continued to grow. To make it easier for their members to communicate, they created a Slack channel, which now consists of approximately 50 individuals.
A platform that meets many needs
A data steward’s responsibilities can vary across different higher education institutions and sectors in Sweden. Some HEIs have developed data steward roles with a focus on providing subject-specific support to researchers, while others have a more advisory approach. This has made it important to create an open platform for discussing the specific challenges and opportunities that data stewards face.
The Swedish Data Steward Network has so far held its meetings digitally but plans to organize in-person networking events in the future. The discussions during these meetings are informal but centred around essential topics such as education and training, professional development, and the future of the profession. The network is open to voluntary contributions and serves as a resource for sharing knowledge and expertise.
Sharing news, information, and guides
The Slack channel, which was launched in late spring 2023, helps to facilitate continuous communication among its members. It will be used to share news, information, and various guides. The idea is that it may eventually serve as a platform for addressing professional issues and collaborative initiatives among different HEIs.
“I hope the network will continue to grow and evolve as a central resource for data stewards in Sweden. This is a new profession that is emerging both in Sweden and internationally. It's important that those of us who on these issues have forums and contact points where we can come together, exchange experiences, and advocate for our concerns,” says Kristin Halverson.
New Regional Network in Skills4EOSC
At the same time as the Swedish network for data stewards is beginning to establish itself, there are several international initiatives to connect national and regional networks. Within the framework of Skills4EOSC, a Nordic network for data stewards is taking shape, with the working name Nordic Data Steward Network. The initiators, Carolin Rebernig-Hedman and Olivia Ekman, research librarians at Umeå University and Swedish representatives in Skills4EOSC, have been mapping the interest in a Nordic network.
“We can confirm that there is a very high level of interest in forming a Nordic network for data stewards, which we are happy to see. It is evidence that there is a need for this type of initiative on multiple levels,” says Carolin Rebernig-Hedman.
Skills4EOSC linked to RDA
In addition to knowledge exchange, the idea behind the Nordic network is to create a regional platform that can eventually be connected to other networks in Europe and globally. In a European context, regional networks are connected through the Skills4EOSC collaboration, which, in turn, is part of a growing global network through the Research Data Alliance (RDA).
In RDA's Interest Group Professionalising Data Stewardship, Task Group 7: Networking and knowledge exchange has recently been initiated, with a primary purpose to connect and aid emerging data steward networks in their development. The steering committee for Task Group 7 is currently being formed and is seeking members (see below on how to get involved). The new group is planned to launch at the coming RDA Plenary meeting in the first half of 2024.
Do you want to get involved?
The Swedish Data Steward Network is open to anyone who works on data-related issues in both academia and the business world. The next planned meeting will be held digitally, 13 October at 13:00–14:00, and is open to anyone interested. To join the network, you can email Kristin Halverson (firstname.lastname@example.org) or apply for membership directly through Slack.
If you would like to get involved in the Nordic network or the RDA collaboration for data stewards, please contact Olivia Ekman (email@example.com) or Carolin Rebernig-Hedman (firstname.lastname@example.org).