Data sans frontieres

Author: Rob Baxter
Posted: 21 Mar 2013 | 16:32

Monday 18th March, a chilly day in Gothenburg, Sweden, and the formal launch of the Research Data Alliance. With keynotes from EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes, Australian Ambassador to the EU Duncan Lewis and NSF Director of Computer and Information Science and Engineering Farnam Jahanian this was a significant event, and indication of the importance that policy makers and funders are now attaching to the management of, and access to, research data worldwide.

The "data tsunami" (my favourite term) is either just around the corner or here right now, depending on who you talk to.  It's certainly true that researchers are battling today with fast-growing data collections and are inventing tools and methods to cope almost as fast as the data are created.  But while a seismologist focuses on managing seismology data, and an ocean scientist focuses on managing ocean data, there's a real risk that no-one's checking that the management methods they're building - the "data infrastructures" - are compatible.  What if we want to cross-combine seismic and ocean data to understand wider impacts on marine life?

Interoperability is the watchword, and RDA the key.  The RDA aims to bring together scientists and technologists from all disciplines to ensure this vision of sharing data without barriers isn't lost in the scramble to keep up with the rising tide.  From the buzz of the Gothenburg meeting it's clear that there's a real sense amongst this new breed of "data scientist" that the time is now.  Through the iCORDI project, EPCC is delighted and excited to be involved right from the start.

Sweden may have been chilly, but the welcome from our hosts the City and University of Gothenburg and Chalmers University was warm indeed. And if you ever find yourself in the Gothia Towers Hotel, treat yourself to a King Size prawn sandwich - you'll be glad you did!


Rob Baxter, EPCC

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