2020 – Year in Review
As 2020 comes to a close, Portage wishes to share highlights of our work over the past year in support of Canadian research, national data management, and effective data stewardship.
On January 1, the DataCite Canada Consortium officially launched, ensuring that Canadian institutions that integrated DataCite as part of their infrastructure will be sustainably supported. Portage provides community engagement and outreach in this initiative, as well as best practices guidance, and technical support.
The National Data Services Framework Summit took place February 5-6 in Kanata, Ontario. Hosted by Research Data Canada (RDC), the summit brought the Canadian research data management community together to update the Kanata Declaration and assess priorities. Portage was represented by Jeff Moon, Portage Director; Erin Clary, Curation Coordinator; Beth Knazook, Preservation Coordinator; and Kelly Stathis, Discovery and Metadata Coordinator.
The final report from the Canadian Data Curation Forum, Conceptualizing a National Approach to Data Curation Services in Canada, was published in June. The report summarizes the outcomes of the Forum, a national, three-day event held in October 2019 to identify perceived barriers and challenges to curation work and articulate how a national approach to data curation in Canada could address these challenges.
The New Digital Research Infrastructure Organization (NDRIO) and the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) signed an agreement in June for $2.86 million in support of the Portage Network’s continued contributions to national data stewardship and management through a variety of platforms, services, tools, outreach, and training. This agreement came into effect on April 1, 2020, building on work accomplished to date funded through CANARIE and CARL Libraries. Portage is scheduled to be fully integrated into NDRIO as of April 1, 2021.
CARL and Portage endorsed the TRUST Principles for digital repositories. Digital repositories are foundational to effective data stewardship, discovery, and access, and both CARL and Portage are dedicated to ensuring that this foundation is solid and enduring.
Portage joined the ORCID-CA Consortium as its 38th member. By becoming a member of ORCID-CA, Portage joins a growing number of Canadian institutions that support ORCID’s unique identification and reliable connectivity of researchers and their work.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need for effective data management and stewardship. In March, Portage initiated a COVID-19 Working Group with members from across Canada to create guidance for Canadian researchers generating or working with COVID-19 related data, as well as for librarians and other professionals supporting them. The outputs include guidance on de-identification, recommended repositories, rapid-response data sharing, and more. The Group also collaborated with the broader data management community to gather Canadian COVID-19 related resources for inclusion in the international OpenAIRE COVID-19 Gateway.
National RDM Infrastructure
The Federated Research Data Repository (FRDR) team has spent a busy year moving towards full production launch, planned for early 2021. Major development efforts, migration to new production hardware, and a French translation of the Globus File Transfer web app have been completed in preparation for the full service launch. New video tutorials were released, providing guidance for configuring Globus File Transfer as well as uploading and downloading data in FRDR.
The FRDR Discovery Service now indexes metadata from over 70 Canadian research data repositories for data discoverability and reuse. Over the past year, the FRDR team has extended the metadata harvester to support several new platforms and standards—including the Dataverse and OpenDataSoft APIs—and improve our metadata crosswalks. This development work has enabled over 25 new additions to the FRDR Discovery Service, including DataStream, the City of Vancouver Open Data Portal, and new Scholars Portal Dataverses. The FRDR team is also working to make all harvested metadata available via an OAI-PMH feed, which will be usable by metadata aggregators including the Data Citation Index and OpenAIRE Explore.
Geodisy, an open-source spatial discovery platform for Canadian open research data, was launched on FRDR, allowing users to search for data using a map-based interface. The back-end integration of the FRDR and Geodisy harvesters is nearing completion, with the planning phase for a front-end redesign to integrate both platforms well underway.
FRDR now hosts 148 open access datasets totalling over 18 TB and has expanded curation services in anticipation of launch. The FRDR curation team is available to assist researchers throughout the deposit process, and curators review all datasets before publication in an effort to increase the findability, accessibility and reusability of the datasets published in FRDR. To support curation of large deposits, FRDR installed a number of tools that run as soon as a dataset is submitted, such as Siegfried file format identification tool.
Simon Fraser University began an initiative to add optional zero knowledge encryption to FRDR datasets, with the eventual goal of being able to support sensitive data such as human subjects research without risk of a data breach.
A pilot project was completed in 2020 to outline the work necessary to connect FRDR to a robust, long-term digital preservation environment, envisioned as a regionally distributed network of Preservation Service Providers (PSPs) as described in the 2019-2020 Preservation Expert Group Workplan and Portage’s Research Data Preservation in Canada: A White Paper. FRDR developers worked with the Portage Preservation Coordinator, in consultation with the Preservation Expert Group and two initial preservation storage partners, SciNet and the University of Toronto Libraries, to develop a model that will support distributed digital preservation in practice. It is expected that the workflows and processes developed by this pilot could be generalized to act as a guide for other access repositories to connect to an emerging network of Canadian PSPs. Work is already underway to bring a second PSP online in 2021.
Scholars Portal Dataverse, with support from Portage, added over 275 TB of storage to provide Canadian libraries with increased storage capacity for research data. This support advances progress towards a national Dataverse service, which will create opportunities for researchers across Canada to collaborate and enhance knowledge creation and innovation.
The DMP Assistant team has spent the year steadily preparing for the launch of the DMP Assistant 2.0. After two rounds of beta testing, integration of feedback is now underway before final migration. Version 2.0 will include the ability to ‘clone’ DMPs for reuse in similar projects, more flexible DMP templates, and new usage statistics dashboards for institutional administrators. The launch of the DMP Assistant 2.0 is targeted for January 2021, allowing time for final improvements, a thorough review of the French language interface, updating of the Institutional Customization Guide, as well as planning for administrator and end-user training. The newly formed DMP Assistant Steering Committee will meet for the first time in January to provide essential guidance, support and direction of the platform moving forward.
Expert Group Accomplishments
The Data Management Planning Expert Group initiated a new Data Management Plans Exemplars Review & Development Working Group, and published a total of nine DMP Exemplars, in English and French. The Group also worked with members of the Portage Secretariat to commission discipline-specific DMP Templates; over 10 such templates will be published in the Portage Zenodo site and incorporated into the DMP Assistant.
The Research Intelligence Expert Group published an Executive Summary and Data Dictionary of their Institutional Research Data Management Services Capacity Survey. They also published the first in a series of Insights Reports based on the survey: RDM Support within Organizations: Budget, Structure, and Strategies.
The Sensitive Data Expert Group published three new tools, in English and French, for researchers managing sensitive data: Glossary of Terms for Sensitive Data used for Research Purposes; Human Participant Research Data Risk Matrix; Research Data Management Language for Informed Consent.
New versions of the Institutional RDM Strategy Template and Guidance were published, to help institutions develop their own strategies in response to the emerging Tri-Agency RDM Policy.
The Portage Council of Chairs met virtually this year, in June and November, to share accomplishments, identify new working relationships and synergies, and set priorities.
New Staff in 2020!
Portage welcomed several new staff members to the Secretariat to support and enhance our capacity to advance research data management in Canada:
- Jennifer Abel – Training Coordinator (formerly Project Officer)
- Karine Burger – Project Officer
- Lucia Costanzo – Research, Intelligence, and Assessment Coordinator
- Nichole DeMichelis – Curation Officer
- Robyn Nicholson – Data Management Planning Coordinator
- Yvette Rancourt – Curation Officer
- Subhanya Sivajothy – Curation Officer
- Victoria Smith – Policy, Privacy, and Sensitive Data Coordinator
- Kelly Stathis – Discovery and Metadata Coordinator
We look forward to advancing our work with the knowledge and expertise of our expanded team!
Due to the pandemic, we shifted our focus to online events and virtual opportunities to engage with the community.
In March, we started a webinar series for researchers, librarians, and data professionals across Canada to connect virtually and share best practices, guidance, and resources for research data management. We collaborated on these webinars with Research Data Canada, Research Data Alliance, Global Water Futures, members of the data management community, and our Network of Experts, and we are excited to continue this initiative in the new year.
We also began a series of informal “watercooler” discussions with our Network of Experts to connect with each other, share ideas, and offer support during these challenging and unpredictable times. We expanded these into French language cafés virtuels, and also began a series of community calls, to discuss specific RDM topics with the broader community in an informal setting.
Virtual Conferences and Events
The Portage Secretariat participated in virtual conferences, webinars, workshops, and hackathons, including:
- Research Data Management: The Foundation of Open Research Culture, University of Manitoba, December 3-4
- re3data Service Model Workshop – November 26
- DLI National Training – November 23 – 27
- TRUST Principles in the Canadian Context – November 17
- RDA 16th Plenary Meeting – November 11
- A Practical Introduction to Research Data Management, Emily Carr University of Art and Design – November 10
- Access 2020 – October 27
- CRKN Virtual Conference – October 27
- CAUL-CBUA Atlantic Canada Research Data Management (RDM) Day – October 21
- BCNET Cybersecurity and Innovation Summit – September 24
- Ocean Data Management Initiatives and Infrastructure Series, MERIDIAN – June 16, September 15, and September 22
- Research Data Management for Humanities and Social Sciences, ACENET – July 14
- FAIRsFAIR workshop on common metadata interfaces for repositories – May 6
- Open Preservation Foundation Spring Hackathon 2020 – April 27
- National Data Services Framework Summit – February 5-6 (one of our final in-person events!)
Though it has been a challenging year for all, we are grateful to be part of such a dedicated and inspiring research data management community. We wish to thank the members of our Network of Experts and all those involved in advancing best practices in research data management!