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A Focus on International Engagement: DRI, RDA, and Data Sharing #DRI10

The Digital Repository of Ireland (DRI) was formed ten years ago in September 2011.  It was originally funded through a PRTLI (Programme for Research in Third-Level Institutions) Cycle 5 funding grant. In this phase (2011-2015), DRI was built by a research consortium of six academic partners. It was officially launched in June 2015 and continues to be managed by three core academic institutions – Royal Irish Academy, Trinity College Dublin, and Maynooth University. To mark our ten-year anniversary, DRI staff members are writing a blog a week focusing on different DRI milestones achieved over the past ten years. This is the second blog in the #DRI10 celebratory blog series. 


In late 2012, the first planning meeting for what became the Research Data Alliance (RDA) was held in Washington, D.C., and by early 2013 the first plenary meeting was held in Gothenburg, Sweden, attracting over 250 participants from 45 countries. It was clear that this new initiative held great promise for advancing global data sharing, and this piqued the interest of the Digital Repository of Ireland (DRI). RDA was supported by major funding agencies from Europe, the US, and Australia. The first plenary was held in Europe, the second in the US, so the third plenary was Australia’s turn. However, sensing that the distance may be a hard sell for a very new organisation, the Australians looked for a partner to co-organise with, and DRI answered the call. Together, DRI, INSIGHT at National University of Ireland, Galway, and the Australian National Data Service (ANDS) co-hosted the 3rd RDA Plenary at Croke Park in Dublin, 26-28 March 2014. Attendance was double that of the first plenary, and the new relationships built through this significant undertaking launched a long-standing partnership between the DRI and the RDA.

Image: RDA Third Plenary Poster, March 2014

For many in attendance, the Irish dancers that suddenly appeared on the dinner tables in a flurry of sound and movement (see video below) at the conference dinner lives on in memory, but the real work was done through the various working groups and interest groups. At the time of the plenary, RDA had fewer than 400 individual members, and around 50 groups; today those numbers are over 12,000 members and over 130 groups. You can read more about the first years of the RDA in ‘The Research Data Alliance: Benefits and Challenges of Building a Community Organisation’ by Francine Berman and Merce Crosas, published in Harvard Data Science Review (2020). 


Video Clip: 'Trad on the Prom' Performing at the Third RDA Plenary, Croke Park, Dublin, March 2014

The theme of the Dublin plenary was ‘The Data Sharing Community: Playing YOUR Part’ and sessions included problems ranging from how to address scientific community needs of utilising big volumes of data, to issues related to data importance for the development of global agriculture, to the development of a common global framework for the management of marine data. In addition to prominent keynote speakers such as Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Tony Hey, the plenary focused on meetings of existing working groups, as well as spontaneous breakout sessions on topics of interest. Social media engagement played a big role, with a Twitter wall at one end of the massive plenary room, lots of network analysis, and prizes for best Tweet!

Image: Network Visualisation of Tweets from the Third RDA Plenary, March 2014 

This plenary was a significant milestone for DRI as it initiated the now long-standing relationship between DRI and RDA and opened up new opportunities for international engagement and collaboration. RDA has a grassroots, inclusive approach to data sharing and is dedicated to developing the tools, infrastructure, services, standards, and practices that the research community requires to share and exchange data. 

Since its launch in 2013, RDA has been supported in Europe and globally by its plug-in series of projects called RDA Europe. The DRI actively contributed to the third phase of RDA Europe (RDA Europe 3.0: 2015-2018) as a funded partner under the Coordinating Support Activity (CSA) grant and was one of the implementers of RDA Europe 4.0 (2018-2020). The work under the two projects focused on engagement and support for EU participation in RDA. Under the umbrella of the RDA Europe 4.0 project, DRI has supported the set up and activities of the RDA Irish national node. RDA Ireland aimed to bring together researchers working with research data in Ireland, and enable them to connect with broader RDA activities through the RDA Working and Interest Groups and the testing and adopting of RDA outputs and recommendations. 

In November 2020, the RDA, the DRI, and the Digital Curation Centre (DCC) joined forces on a new project, RDA4EOSC (Nov 2020-May 2021), aiming to support the internationalisation and implementation of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC). This project was funded through an open call by the EOSC Secretariat. The RDA4EOSC work was organised around a set of pillars of activities. DRI coordinated and delivered the work under pillar 1: Identify and prepare new scientific and research communities to engage with EOSC, and pillar 5: Institutional, policymaker and global stakeholder engagement. Learn more about DRI’s collaborations with RDA on our dedicated webpage

DRI continues to actively expand collaborations with other institutions, broaden our networks, and develop partnerships. From joining international networks, participating in committees, and working with other organisations to develop training and professional development opportunities, the DRI team has been working to build connections with the wider research data community, and to link this into Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (AHSS) data, cultural heritage, and digital preservation. This outreach work is part of our commitment to providing membership services for Irish institutions looking to benefit from a community network for the exchange of ideas, approaches, and best practices in digital preservation and data sharing. Learn more about our collaborations and networks

By Natalie Harrower, DRI Director, and Áine Madden, DRI Communications and Engagement Coordinator