Outreach and the importance of collaborating with the research community in focus during the SND network meeting

Published: 2022-10-25

How do we reach out to researchers during the transition to open access to research data? This was the theme for the SND network meeting at Karolinska Institutet on 20 October. Keynote speaker was Alessandra Soro, Community Manager at 4TU.ResearchData in the Netherlands, who stressed the importance of community building and collaboration as key factors in achieving a long-term cultural change in attitudes to open data and open science.

The last in-person network meeting of 2022 saw some 90 participants from 30 higher education institutions. The day opened with a brief update of current projects at Karolinska Institutet, where they have, for instance, instated an Open Science Working Group (OSWG), which will create an action plan for an open science system by 2026. This introductory update was followed by a variety of interesting presentations of good examples of outreach activities in Sweden and in an international context.

Technical tools and community building – two important pieces of the puzzle

Malin Sandström, Community Engagement Officer at INCF (International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility), was first among the invited speakers. She described the emergence of an international arena for sharing data in neuroscientific research, where new technologies in neuroimaging data have pushed the development of common metadata standards from a grassroot level. She emphasized how important software developers are as enablers of collaborations in the process of incorporating the FAIR principles.

“In order to be FAIR, we must have a working system to establish metadata standards and best practices. Developers of open software play a strategically important role in this as a link between metadata standards and their intended users. It’s the developers who make the standards usable,” says Malin Sandström.

Alessandra Soro from 4TU.Research data on the importance of having all the pieces in place to create change.
Alessandra Soro från 4TU.ResearchData on the importance of collaboration and community building in order to achieve a cultural change in the attitudes to open science.

Keynote speaker Alessandra Soro, who was present by video link, stated how valuable the technical tools are, but she also wanted to adress how important it is with community building. In her capacity as Community Manager at 4TU.ResearchData, Alessandra has collaborated with a team to create a platform for developing new tools, trainings, and common guidelines. Together, they create synergies in the transition to open access to research data.

“Without community building you can’t create a sustainable infrastructure. In order to success with a cultural change in how we view open data and open science, we need to work together with all parts. That’s how we turn the FAIR principles into action”, says Alessandra Rosso.

Many ways of working with outreach

Several DAU staff gave examples of active outreach efforts to involve researchers in the work with open data in a Swedish context. Birgitta Edenius and Malin Ekstrand at the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, GIH, spoke about how they’ve lessened the administrative burden for researchers by creating a combined form for a data management plan and GDPR registration. This, in turn, has led to a good collaboration between the GIH DAU and data protection group.

Therese Dunberg shared her experiences from establishing new guidelines for research data management at Blekinge Institute of Technology, BTH. Their work had a steep climb to begin with, but over time it has created more understanding and acceptance between researchers and the DAU. Hanna Östholm presented the outreach activities at SLU, where researchers who have recently been granted funding are invited to a “data date” to talk about data, and how they have successfully marketed various training efforts for researchers.


Talk about data at SLU
Hanna Östlund on SLU’s efforts to reach researchers by booking data dates to talk about data.

Rosa Lönneborg presented some of the latest pilot projects at KTH, for example the work to develop machine-readable data management plans, which has drastically diminished the workload for both researchers and her colleagues in the Research data team.

Choosing the right channels for outreach

Helena Eckerbom at the Karolinska Institutet University Library closed the day with a presentation on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected attitudes to open data and how social media are becoming more important in communicating to researchers, but also in the research community.

“During the pandemic we noticed that researchers have a more active use of social media in their communication, and as a tool to keep track on what’s going on. If we want to reach out to researchers, we have to be present on the communication channels that they’re actually using. It has a much better impact if the researchers communicate and discuss open science”, says Helena Eckerbom.

Here you can see the full program and all of the presentations from the network meeting (most presentations are in Swedish).