The 2020 Research Data and Preservation (RDAP) Summit took place in Santa Fe, New Mexico, March 11-13. DCN project coordinator Liza Coburn and project manager for the IMLS-sponsored specialized data curation workshops Hannah Hadley were both present this year along with many other DCN project members. Unfortunately, due to the global pandemic COVID-19 and at least 40 people had to cancel their trips at the last minute, which meant some of the presentations were canceled as well. This made an already small meeting noticeably smaller, but thanks to some quick organizing by the planning committee those unable to attend in-person were able to participate in most of the conference presentations remotely and this went pretty well!

The theme of the 2020 summit was “Connecting Through Data” – how data has created connections between stakeholders of all types, how these connections have improved lives, changed careers or an entire industry (see RDAP 2020 call for proposals). Presentations took the form of keynotes, lightning talks, posters, workshops and panels. The panel topics this year included: partnerships, data visualization, consortia, data connections and data privacy (see 2020 Summit Program). 

One presentation of particular interest and relevance to the DCN was Matthew Mayernik’s portion of the first panel on partnerships where he spoke about the ICARUS project, a collaborative effort to build an open-access repository for atmospheric chamber data in the United States with funding from the NSF. Mayernik is a Project Scientist and Research Data Services Specialist at NCAR, which is helping to develop (and will eventually host) the project repository. 

Mayernik reported that at this point, 2.5 years into a 3-year grant, they have more questions than answers, which feels very familiar being almost two-thirds of the way through our own implementation grant! Some of the challenges he outlined, particularly those related to the overall coordination effort of the project, also resonated. ICARUS, like the DCN, has multiple stakeholder groups spread throughout the country. These stakeholders are in different timezones, have different backgrounds and different areas of expertise. All of which makes coordination more complicated and challenging.

Finally, Mayernik shared some thoughtful considerations on partnerships, including: the necessity of regular iteration and the need for revisiting topics as project personnel changes (a common occurrence in multi-year projects) and as other developments occur. Again, his points were well-taken and resonate with our experience in the DCN – we have a large team of diverse individuals that grows each year, and data curation is an ever-evolving field. It was interesting to hear about another project like ours and to compare their experiences to our own!

Many DCN members in attendance were also presenting their research and work through posters, lightning talks, panels, and workshops. The DCN project was represented by two posters this year: one from the University of Minnesota offering a perspective on how the DCN facilitates connections, and one from Pennsylvania State University sharing an update on the primers developed in the specialized data curation workshops.  Additionally, Wendy Kozlowski of Cornell University presented a poster discussing methods for making data more accessible through techniques involving metadata, and Jen Darragh of Duke University presented a poster that reported on a collaboration with faculty from three academic disciplines to promote data sharing.

Despite the ominous circumstances, it was a really good meeting! It’s always nice to get out and see what everyone’s up to and what’s changed in a year’s time. Santa Fe is a beautiful city with a lot of friendly people and a whole lot to see and do! Looking forward to another great meeting next year!