Many precious first time experiences, thanks to RDA Europe Early Career Programme

Yasemin Turkyilmaz-van der Velden and Marta Teperek had the opportunity to represent TU Delft at the International Data Week 2018 in Gaborone, Botswana. Yasemin has been awarded the RDA Europe Early Career grant to attend the conference and wrote a blog post about her experiences which was originally published on RDA’s website and can be found below.


I am a Data Steward at the TU Delft Faculties of Applied Sciences, and Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering. At the same time, I am a PhD candidate of Erasmus MC Rotterdam and I am writing my thesis which is about UV-induced DNA damage repair in mammalian cells. I work as a Data Steward since March 2018 and it has been a very enjoyable experience to join TU Delft as well as the Open Science and FAIR data community during the last 8 months.

This was my first RDA plenary and SciDataCon conference, and my first time in Africa. To be honest, I did not know much about either Botswana or RDA and SciDataCon, and I can tell that it has been a very pleasant experience to observe the beautiful nature and culture of Botswana and join RDA and SciDataCon. To comment a bit more on the former, although I could not visit the Okavango Delta which I earlier watched in such amazement in Planet Earth II, it was such a nice experience to visit the Mokolodi Nature Reserve and Gaborone Game Reserve and get the chance to see giraffes, zebras, rhinos, warthogs and others which I can normally only see in zoos or documentaries (and Lion King of course). I was also impressed with the friendliness of the local people which included taxi drivers turning into local guides.

The rhino mother and the baby, and the curious giraffe

To comment on the latter, I was really impressed with the RDA, WDS and CODATA communities and how everyone was so knowledgeable and at the same time so friendly and willing to help and collaborate. Being one of the 8 TU Delft Data Stewards and a member of TU Delft Research Data Management (RDM) team which is around 15 people (not even mentioning the relatively high number of RDM experts within the Netherlands), I should be probably one of the last persons to complain about not having enough people around me to discuss RDM. Yet, it was so nice to be in an environment with so many RDM experts (or early career as me) coming from all over the world, joining to Interest Group (IG) and Working Group (WG) meetings with them, having interactive discussions during the sessions and continuing with the fruitful discussions during the coffee breaks, lunches, dinners or drinks by the pool. It was also a very nice opportunity to meet colleagues from Botswana and other African countries and hear about their experiences.

The local hosts thought of many nice details to give the IDW 2018 a Botswanian touch. It was clear that IDW 2018 was taken seriously in Gaborone. The opening ceremony included the National Anthem and the speech of the President of the Republic of Botswana. Entertainment was not left out, the participants could enjoy shows of the Traditional troupe and the Marimba Band.

The President of the Republic of Botswana and the cheerful Marimba Band

Being an RDA Europe grant winner, I was assigned to take part in the Joint Meetings of WG FAIRSharing Registry and Data Policy Standardisation and Implementation IG and IG Health Data, IG Ethics and Social Aspects of Data, WG Blockchain Applications in Health. My tasks included note taking and helping organizers with their activities during the meetings. I was assigned to groups where my interests lie and I think that it was a great opportunity to get actively engaged in the activities of these IGs and WGs. I would like to thank the meeting organizers for being so friendly and welcoming.

Additionally, I was encouraged to present a poster during the poster session which I always see as a great way to engage informally and interactively with participants during meetings and conferences. I have presented the poster titled as “Data Stewardship at Delft University of Technology” which I prepared together with my TU Delft Data Steward colleague Yan Wang reusing the materials generated by other TU Delft Data Steward colleagues. The poster can be found in zenodo and is available for reuse with a CC BY 4.0 license.

I also gave an oral presentation during the SciDataCon session “Motivations and recognition for good data stewardship”. My presentation was based on the abstract written together with my colleagues Maria Cruz and Marta Teperek and this abstract got us invited to submit a related paper to the Data Science Journal Special Collection for SciDataCon 2018. The presentation can be also found in zenodo with a CC BY 4.0 license.

To give a bit more insight into this session, it was proposed and chaired by Marta Teperek, and it was about different efforts and approaches taken in different institutes to engage with researchers and achieve cultural change. The session started with the presentation of Rosie Higman from Manchester University titled as “Stewards, Champions or Advisors? An overview of institutional Research Data Management support structures” which showcased her impressive work comparing different approaches taken in different institutions. I see her work as an invaluable resource especially for all those who are still not sure where to start and which approach to follow. Then I continued with my presentation “Data Stewardship at Delft University of Technology” and it was followed by the talk of James Savage “Establishing, developing, and sustaining a community of Data Champions”. James Savage is a researcher and a Data Champion at the University of Cambridge. Although both I and Rosie already talked about Data Champions, having a real Data Champion in the room convinced the audience that Data Champions are not some imaginary characters that the research data supporters propose, but they are really willing to become advocates for good RDM practices in their research groups and departments to achieve the desired cultural change. After James, Raman Ganguly from the University of Vienna gave a presentation titled as “Building sustainable networks for data management” and talked about their approach where they did not have any Data Stewards or Champions.

Finally, I was also encouraged by the RDA Europe Early Career Programme to join the IG Early Career and Engagement session. The aim of this IG is to give the opportunity to early career researchers and professionals network among themselves and receive mentorship from senior RDA members. In the current RDM landscape, there are so many things changing and new things are being regularly introduced. Considering my role as a research supporter, I can only be helpful to the researchers if I can keep myself updated with all these changes. Again, I have been lucky from the beginning to join to the TU Delft RDM team and especially to have such an experienced person as Marta Teperek (who is a mentor for this IG), who was always there for all my questions. But I can imagine that not everyone is as lucky as me and therefore I see great benefit in this IG for many early career researchers and professionals.  

I would like to end my post with the monkeys enjoying the coffee table on the last day of the conference and I would like to present my sincere thanks to RDA Europe Early Career Programme for giving me the opportunity to join IDW 2018. I would also like to thank Marta Teperek, the Data Stewardship Coordinator and André Groenhof and Marja van den Bergh, the executive faculty secretaries of Mechanical, Maritime & Materials Engineering, and Applied Sciences for being ever so supporting and encouraging.