Open Data will change science radically – experts gather to Otaniemi to discuss common guidelines and best practices

The Plenary Meeting of the Research Data Alliance is one of the most important regular international events in the area of Open Data, says Professor Pekka Orponen.
Aalto-yliopiston Dipoli-rakennus ja käpyveistos
The RDA Plenary meeting will be held at Aalto University's premises, in Dipoli and Otakaari 1. Photo: Markus Sommers

Data has an enormous potential to change the way we work and make decisions, but will Open Data fulfil all the expectations that have been set to it? This is one of the themes at the three-day plenary meeting of the Research Data Alliance (RDA) that will be held in Otaniemi this week. The RDA Plenary is organised twice a year in different cities around the world, and it arrives in Finland for the first time.

The previous plenary held in Philadelphia, United States, focused on the responsibilities intrinsic to data. The upcoming event will continue discussions about this topic and concentrate on how we can utilise research data to make better decisions, tackle societal challenges and engage citizens in the creation of knowledge and the betterment of society.

According to Hilary Hanahoe, RDA Secretary General, in this particular meeting there is a big focus on how RDA can support the European Open Science Cloud initiative and other global open science proposals. Another goal is to work across RDA groups to understand how RDA activities and outputs can provide concrete support to addressing societal challenges, such as climate and health.

The event in Espoo is organised jointly by the CSC – IT Center for Science Ltd, Aalto University, the University of Helsinki, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies, and the RDA Europe 4.0 project. The organisers on the Aalto University side are Professor Pekka Orponen from the Department of Computer Science; Ella Bingham, the Head of Research Services; and Anne Sunikka, the Head of Open Science and ACRIS, together with their support teams.

“Open science, and open data in particular, will radically alter the way we do science and conduct research in the upcoming years. Finland and Aalto want to be at the forefront of this transformation, and the biannual plenaries organised by the RDA community are among the most important international events of the field,” says Professor Orponen.

The number of participants exceeded expectations

The RDA plenary brings together distinctive groups of experts from around the globe to share and learn how to use data to make a better world.

“Each participant has a different expectation and a different learning goal. There are a huge range of research data management and open science challenges being discussed by the global community in RDA. Participants can meet experts from across the globe with insights and knowledge to share but also hoping to learn from others, pool collective intellect to solve these challenges," says Hanahoe.

Open science, and open data in particular, will radically alter the way we do science and conduct research in the upcoming years.

Pekka Orponen

According to Orponen, the conference improves the visibility of Finland and Aalto in the area of open data development. Moreover, it is a great opportunity for the Finnish research community to participate in the planning of common international guidelines for research data management and to network with the leading experts of the field.

Orponen expects intense discussions, interesting presentations, and concrete initiatives from the event. At the outset, the organisers expected about 500 participants to the plenary, but this target was already exceeded when nearly 600 persons preregistered. “I expect that when we add the onsite registrations to this, the total number of participants will be well over 600.”

Hanahoe tells that the RDA community has produced over 30 concrete outputs that support many facets of open science and research data management of extreme importance to universities and research organisations across the globe.

“I encourage interested parties to see what is on offer, and if there are areas that are not addressing your concerns or challenges, then the answer is to work with global colleagues in an Interest or Working Group to develop the solutions or have the discussions to start working together.”

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