''We welcome RDA as a platform that allows us to make better use of data management..." interview with Peter Pissierssens from UNESCO /IOC

The AIMS editorial team invited Peter Pissierssens to share ideas on his institution and International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange" (IODE) network experiences on openning up access to research outputs within IODE  and he shares this with the agricultural information management community. Peter is actively involved in the Open Data movement as is seen in his explanation below.

Question 1 : Tell us briefly about yourself and your work; and also related work on open access and open data?

I am the programme manager of the International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE) programme of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission since 2000. IODE has 2 major areas: oceanographic data management and marine information management. The latter focuses on the work carried out by marine librarians. IODE's foundations rest upon the IOC Oceanographic Data Exchange Policy . Clause 1 of the policy states "Member States shall provide timely, free and unrestricted access to all data, associated metadata and products generated under the auspices of IOC programmes.".

Open access to data is therefore key to the operation of IODE. Established in 1961 the IODE programme has developed (through Member States) a network of 80 National Oceanographic Data Centres in 78 Member States. IODE has facilitated the exchange of data through the aforementioned data policy, as well as through agreement on methodology and standards. IODE has also placed a strong focus on equitable participation of developing countries in data and information management and exchange by a strong training programme (OceanTeacher) and the development of regional ocean data and information networks (ODINs), especially in Africa. 

Question 2: We are aware you have been building capacity on Data Management within your community (UNESCO IOC-IODE), What are the current challenges you face or your communities face in managing data?

The main challenge to IODE is more a geopolitical one than a technical one. The European Union has developed a strong and very well funded marine programme that includes an equally well funded data management component (SeaDataNet, EMODNET, ODIP). Most of the European marine data centres participate in these projects and are funded by these projects. As such there is less time available for cooperation in international work through IODE. At the same time the European Commission has developed its own international programme (currently focusing on USA and Australia) through projects such as ODIP and RDA. To some extent these projects have similar objectives with those of IODE but are much better funded. This creates a challenge for IODE but also for developing countries. Of course the open data policy remains an issue and we need to remain vigilant that no restrictions are imposed (these can be at the individual researcher level or country level).

Question 3:  The AIMS team has been experimenting with exposing research outputs   (documents, maps, data etc) within the framework of AGRIS repository. In your view, how can communities make their research outputs including data meaningful to them and also for others?

IT is not clear what you mean with "meaningful". Within the ocean research community we have been developing several mechanisms and tools to promote access to data and information. For data we have developed the Ocean Data Portal which aims at linking existing data systems and through this distributed network, facilitate access to the data through a common portal (or portals) or through web services and similar technologies. Ultimately the linking of data systems should be implemented across disciplines. For marine information we have developed OceanDocs (e-repository) and promoted the establishment of such repositories at the national and regional level. As you know we also host IAMSLIC's Aquatic Commons which is very similar to OceanDocs but uses E-Prints as the software platform whereas OceanDocs uses DSpaceWhen we look beyond the "expert" level we are working on the development of marine atlases where data and information can be integrated into regional or local geospatial products and services. We are doing this in Africa (African Coastal and Marine Atlas) and Caribbean region.  

Question 4. FAO has been trying to advocate for Openness , encompassing also open access to data and adoption of semantic technologies to enhance openness within the agricultural domain. As a result we have been participating in the Research Data Alliance meetings to move in this direction. In your view, what should this platform (RDA) provide for communities in data management and also research outputs in general?

IODE has also been participating in RDA. We welcome RDA as a platform that allows us make better use of data management and related information technology /expertise across disciplines, while also allowing the experts in these areas to use the marine area as a testbed for new and advanced technologies. However it is important that RDA does not remain limited to USA, Europe and Australia and it should not compete with ongoing initiatives of UN agencies and other international organizations such as FAO, UNESCO/IOC, ICSU WDS etc. Instead RDA should establish partnerships with these agencies and organizations to maximize the impact and to include developing countries. We need to close the digital divide rather than widen it even further.

Question 5: In your view how can communities in the developing countries be taken aboard this Openness drive , i.e in participating in sharing research outputs, data curation, and  dissemination?

See previous answers. Many developing countries now have expertise and capability while needing some additional support (financial, training). They need to be involved in an equitable way as partners, not just as "students". We are now embarking on the OceanTeacher Global Academy which will establish regional training centres. Training in these centres will be provided mainly by local experts and the centres will be linked by video links. Of course it should also be clear that developing countries must produce data and information which can be shared (not just use data and information from others). IODE continues its efforts in developing regional networks, connecting developing countries to the OceanDataPortal, assisting them in establishing OceanDocs national or regional nodes and also to participate in international professional associations like IAMSLIC. In this regard I add that IODE has established a Joint IODE-IAMSLIC Group of Experts on Marine Information Management.


Related interview read here