Learning from Past Infrastructure to Embrace Friction and Create the Research Data Alliance

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 11:50 AM
Mark A Parsons, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY, United States
In creating international organizations, we are often seeking to create new scientific infrastructure. Yet infrastructure is never truly planned or designed up front. It evolves through a staged process that can involve complex dynamics, unanticipated consequences, and significant friction between individuals, organizations, and systems. Collaborators may agree on general directions or principles, but they do not necessarily have common goals. Coalition style politics emerge that can both ameliorate and exacerbate the friction, but it is through this multifaceted perspective that we achieve greater understanding.

The Research Data Alliance embraces this complex dynamic. It has no overarching plan or architecture, but it provides core principles and a “neutral place” that provide enough alignment to move forward while still recognizing the value of friction. The focus is on building and implementing bridges or gateways that connect disparate systems, organizations, and processes in order to create more interconnection and increase data sharing.

This presentation will describe this approach adopted by RDA and the initial products created--both technical and social. More importantly, it will illustrate how these products have been adopted at multiple scales and suggest ways forward toward a rapid evolution of a data-sharing infrastructure.