Thandokazi Maceba

Thandokazi Maceba

Last updated on 19 May 2021

Thandokazi Maceba is the Data Curator at Digital Library Services, University of Cape Town. She attended IDCC 2021 and the RDA 17th Virtual Plenary with support from the DPC’s Career Development Fund, which is funded by DPC Supporters.

In August 2020 I joined the University of Cape Town (UCT) as a Data Curator at the Digital Library Services department in the Libraries. In this role, my responsibilities center around supporting and enhancing digital scholarship and digital preservation activities at UCT. I collaborate across departments in the Libraries, and with the eResearch Centre to develop and maintain workflows and tools that facilitate faculty and staff use of various digital data publishing and preservation platforms.

UCT Libraries joined the DPC in October 2020, and our affiliation has already afforded me the opportunity to participate in a number of online courses and events, including the IDCC 21, RDA VP17 and the IDCC/RDA Unconference (19-22 April 2021), enabled through the DPC Career Development Fund. Without this Fund, I would not have been able to attend these conference proceedings and I would like to express my gratitude to the DPC for providing me with this valuable learning opportunity. In this blog, I will share some of the things I have learned from the conferences.

The theme for IDCC21 was: ‘Data quality and data limitations: working towards equality through data curation.’ The theme for the RDA VP17 was ‘Opening Data for Global Changes.’ Attending these conferences was of paramount importance for me, as I have not yet had many opportunities for skills development in the data curation and digital preservation field. I wanted to develop my knowledge about data curation, open science and digital preservation.


Enhancing access to research data during crises: Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic workshop session.

The aim of the workshop was to explore lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic with regards to making data FAIR and open and what this might mean for future policy development work. Furthermore, to share what initiatives have been taken on a national and international level to address these challenges. The event included case study presentations from different fields of research as well as moderated panel discussions with representatives of research agencies, funders and international organisations.

The session kicked off with an introduction by Carthage Smith from the OECD Global Science Forum and Natalie Harrower, who is the Director of the Digital Repository of Ireland, Royal Irish Academy.

Carthage’s presentation set the scene for frameworks which are intergovernmental (such as the OECD) and bottom-up initiatives from the RDA, where bodies are working together around COVID-19 data. The idea is to understand the experiences of the people working with COVID data. How are the frameworks helping them and what more might be done to be more effective.
Carthage explored the workshop’s background and aims which speak to the challenges encountered, the potential solutions and the modern policy implications. Carthage outlined seven policy areas suggested by the OECD in January this year as recommendations on access to research data from public funding. The scope for research data was expanded to encompass research data, metadata, algorithms, workflows, models, and software, including code.

The policy areas include:

  • Data governance for trust

  • Technical standards and practices

  • Incentives and rewards

  • Responsibility, ownership and stewardship

  • Sustainable infrastructures

  • Human Capital

  • International co-operation for access to research data

These recommendations seek to assist governments, research support and funding organisations, research institutions, and researchers in dealing with the barriers to and challenges in improving the international sharing of research-relevant digital objects. This is essential to help advance science, technology and innovation and help tackle societal challenges (see: OECD Legal Instruments).

Up next was Natalie Harrower, Director, Digital Repository of Ireland, Royal Irish Academy whose presentation was titled: RDA Recommendations and Guidelines for data sharing and COVID-19. Her presentation gave a brief overview of the RDA, and the work done on data sharing guidelines for COVID-19 research data. The RDA COVID-19 Working Group was established upon request by the European Commission when the pandemic hit Europe, to offer recommendations and guidelines on sharing COVID-19 research data.

The working group has 7 co-chairs, 8 subgroups, 160+ active contributors and 600 members. During the period of April- June 2020 there were 7 different releases. The working group would publish a document, get community feedback and update it to incorporate community feedback. The document had 143 pages and had +26 500 views at the time of the workshop and can be accessed here: RDA COVID-19 Recommendations and Guidelines on Data Sharing

Natalie shared the hurdles that COVID-19 data sharing faced such as:

  • Critical need for rapid data sharing

  • No universally adopted system or standard for data collecting, documenting and disseminating COVID-19 research outputs

  • Lack of harmonised universal standards and context

  • Trade off between timeliness and precision

 The objectives of the working group were to:

  • create detailed data sharing guidelines for researchers

  • act as a blueprint for future emergencies

  • maximise the efficiency of their work.

The work was a collaborative cross-disciplinary effort that included Clinical, Omics (genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, metagenomics and transcriptomics), Epidemiology, Social Sciences. Additionally, there are cross cutting groups that touch on areas such as community, research software, indigenous data guidelines, legal and ethical considerations.

Natalie concluded her presentation with the Joint Statements which included The Value of the RDA for COVID-19 which is a web page that encompasses all COVID-19 Working Group related outputs from the subgroups. See:


Reflections on the conference

I found the conference experience overwhelming (so many concepts, jargon and principles to digest) and eye-opening to the principles of data curation and digital preservation. It was a relief to learn that the data curation and digital preservation challenges I encounter are universal. I have certainly learnt a lot from the conferences which has given me wind to my data curation and digital preservation sails. Thanks yet again to the DPC for providing this massive opportunity, what a time to be alive!

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