The Netherlands is currently blessed with a number of groups working on research data

Next week (27th March), I’m involved in a brainstorming to see where National Coordination Point for Research Data (LCRDM in Dutch) can go next.

The LCRDM started with great enthusiasm and a lot of energy, and has produced many useful outputs (see the wiki, in Dutch). Now the question is how to keep this momentum moving, and build on these early successes.

Much discussion about common topics of research data – legal and ownership issues, credit and rewards, repository and archive infrastructure – is still needed, particularly in identifying technical or or areas of advice where researchers still need support.

But it seems to me it also involves discussion over what the LCRDM wants to be. What kind of collaboration is it? (I think this is also true for the National Platform for Open Science)

One of the most helpful guides in thinking about how such groups can work together is the brilliantly titled OCLC report  Beyond the Silos of the LAMs

The document is a wide ranging work but it’s the section on The Collaboration Continuum that I find particularly useful. Here it defines the five different ways that institutions can work together, in increasingly levels of ambition and complexity. Paraphrasing the report:

  • Contact – “groups meet to discuss common needs, but without identifying joint efforts or projects. The ‘get to know you’ phase”
  • Cooperation – “work informally on an activity that offers small tangible benefit”
  • Coordination – “organised work that addresses common issues”
  • Collaboration – “shared, sustained services, that create something that is new and much more than information exchange”
  • Convergence  – “when collaboration becomes so extensive that it is recognised as a shared infrastructure”
  • The LCRDM could make a good case that it has done as its name has said it would do – Coordinate action on research data.

So what is the next step? To Collaboration? (“much more ambitious than coordination and much harder to develop and sustain”) Or staying at Coordination? Or retreating to Cooperation?

Collaboration would seem like the next natural step to the outsider, but I think we need to consider the matter with much more precision. LCRDM has created a wealth of products, and also a strong network.

Which products  do we want to collaborate on and sustain via LCRDM? Which ones can be passed over to other institutions and groups to sustain? Do we want to just keep the network going and let others develop the products? And what issues has LCRDM not had the time to address (but should be considering)?

There is also the funding matter to take into account. LCRDM has national funding until, I believe, 2019. Maybe it will get a second tranche of funding after that, but it’s unlikely to become a recurrent thing. Therefore it shouldn’t be the goal of LCRDM to run converged services – the business model is not correct.

Therefore, for me,  the key thing for LCRDM to do is to continue the coordination work, but with a focus on working out which of its outputs need to be sustained in the long term. And also where other outputs, whether tools, advice, training or services, still need to be created.

And then it needs to consider how these outputs will be sustained. Working with other partners (eg those mentioned in the list at the top of this post, but also individual institutions) will be key to this, so that they take responsibility for the long-term health of these outputs.  

So if I had to describe what I want LCRDM to do it would be “Coordinating sustainability”