The Research Data Alliance (RDA) was recently formed with the goal of accelerating international data-driven innovation and discovery. It aims to get there by facilitating the sharing and exchange of research data, its use and re-use, standards harmonization, and discoverability.

Funded by The Australian Commonwealth Government through the Australian National Data Service, the European Commission through the iCordi project under the 7th Framework Program, and the U.S. through the RDA/US activity supported by the National Science Foundation, it began its work last August when it established an international steering group with these funds. In March, it held its first plenary meeting and had its official launch.

Dr. Francine Berman, Professor of Computer Science, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, is Chair of the Research Data Alliance/U.S. The Semantic Web Blog recently conducted a  Q&A with her to learn more about RDA plans:

Semantic Web Blog: You have written that RDA is focused on accelerating data-driven innovation through the development and adoption of policy, good practice, concrete pieces of infrastructure, and other “deliverables” that enable data sharing an exchange. What do you see has been the lag around this that’s driving the RDA’s creation?

Berman:  The RDA is being organized to strengthen and expand the coordinated global infrastructure needed to support the data sharing and exchange that drives new discovery and innovation. Current roadblocks vary from inadequate tools to promote data discoverability and interoperability, to inadequate foundations for identifying data, to lack of community practice and policy that enable data sharing.

Like the Industrial Revolution, the Information Age has transformed virtually all aspects of the world as we know it. In the research community, digital data and information technologies are driving unprecedented solutions to complex problems.  There is a pressing need for adequate and coordinated infrastructure to support the research community.  The Research Data Alliance has come together to address this need in a practical way by creating, adopting and coordinating key parts of the global infrastructure required for innovation.

RDA Working Groups will work as “Tiger Teams” encompassing researchers, developers and adopters to create and adopt specific infrastructure that facilitates data-driven research and innovation. 

Semantic Web Blog: Are there specific research sectors that the RDA is focused on, and if so which and why?

Berman: RDA is focused on the broad open-access research community spanning the public, private and academic sectors. RDA Working Groups and Interest Groups are focusing on open access digital data generated by researchers and/or used for research.  Each sector is a stakeholder and contributes to this community and even at this early stage, RDA is forming as a neutral meeting place to focus on research data.

Semantic Web Blog:What if any role do you see semantic technologies possibly having around some of the goals the RDA has stated on its web site — about deliverables including new data standards or harmonization of existing standards, greater data usability and re-usability, greater discoverability of research sets, and so on?

Berman: Semantic issues and technologies are already part of the discussion on the RDA Forum.  Research communities need to adopt and deploy technologies that help them get the most from their data, understand context, and infer meaning.  The semantic web community has much to contribute to an enabling global infrastructure and it would be great to see greater involvement in the RDA. 

Semantic Web Blog: When will working groups around these and other issues formally kick off?

Berman: We are delighted to say that RDA already has two recognized Working Groups – one on Persistent Identifier Information Types and one on Data Type Registries.  A number of other Working Groups have applied for recognition and there are more than a dozen Interest Groups on the RDA website.  The response from the community has been terrific and we are looking forward to the development and adoption of infrastructure with real impact from the RDA community.