Creating or Joining a Community of Practice

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03 March 2021 12292 reads

In an effort to build discipline or domain specific communities, the RDA introduced Communities of Practice (CoP) to its membership in December 2020. CoPs investigate, discuss and provide knowledge and skills within a specific discipline and/or research domain. Composed of experts from that area, CoPs are committed to directly or indirectly enabling data sharing, exchange and/or interoperability by serving as THE coordination focal point for RDA in those specific disciplines/research domains.

Bello Bertin, Patricia R., Genova, Francoise, Hanahoe, Hilary, Kethers, Stefanie, Koureas, Dimitris, Meleco, Yolanda, Parr, Cynthia, Stotzka, Rainer, Subirats Coll, Imma, & Walker, Bridget. (2020). A Framework for the Creation and Management of RDA Communities of Practice (CoPs) (0.2).

Through the operation of discipline-specific Interest Groups (IG), CoPs have been represented in RDA for some time, as they've served as windows of RDA to their respective communities and provided interconnections and links with other RDA groups. Those IGs have been operating on a slightly different basis than the groups that look into the specifics of data-sharing challenges (e.g. socio-technical aspects). The concept of a CoP within RDA is based upon the notion that a specific discipline or domain area requires a forum and knowledge exchange platform, where both specific and generic data challenges can be discussed and resolved by experts from the community itself.


Value of CoPs

An RDA CoP offers an open forum for discussion, development and maintenance of solutions to data challenges faced by a specific discipline or domain. Members within a CoP learn about trends in those areas, learn from individuals’ experiences in overcoming specific challenges and collaborate on implementing solutions to existing ones, including how best to apply RDA’s Outputs and Recommendations. They also gain the added experience of networking with individuals within their own disciplinary area, whereas within many Interest and Working Groups (IG and WGs), members are often representative of various areas. Through direct interaction and coordination within a CoP, members gain added expertise while expanding their professional networks.

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Creating a CoP

To create a CoP, an Agreement must be submitted to the Secretariat (via or through the "Initiate a New Group" link on the RDA website) from at least one existing RDA IG or WG that have produced RDA-endorsed Recommendations and/or Supporting Outputs. The Agreement will then undergo a six-week community review by RDA’s Technical Advisory Board, Organisational Advisory Board, Regional Advisory Board, and member community.  At that point, RDA RDA Council will review and if it has met all requirements, the group will be approved and established as an official RDA CoP.

At a high level, the CoP Agreement must identify the proposed discipline/research domain and include the following:

  • Outcomes the CoP intends to deliver
  • Strategy to increase membership and engagement within the CoP
  • Plan to ensure the right people are involved to drive and implement the strategy
  • Level of community support

As with all RDA groups, members within a CoP must agree to RDA’s Code of Conduct and Guiding Principles.

Learn more about the components of a CoP Agreement and its Review Process.

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CoP Leadership

It is recommended that at least three Co-Chairs from at least three different continents lead a CoP.  These individuals will be the points of contact and responsible for communication within the RDA and more broadly.  Specific responsibilities of the Chairs include ensuring the following:

  • Quality, scope, timeliness and usefulness of the work in progress
  • An effective organizational structure is in place for the CoP
  • Progress within the CoP evidenced by increasing membership, infrastructure and tool development, development and editing of policy and written documents, and other tangible outcomes.

For more information on group Co-Chairs roles and responsibilities, please visit the RDA Group Chairs Primer.

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CoP Membership

CoPs are open to participation from all RDA members who have an interest in that specific domain/discipline. New individual, organisational, and regional members are also welcome, including those from low and medium-income countries.  

It is recommended that CoPs have representatives from at least 10 countries across at least 3 continents, including from the Global South.

As referenced in the Creating a CoP section, each CoP requires at least one associated IG or WG, although it is not a requirement for CoP members to be a member of any existing RDA group.

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Expectations for CoPs

  • Raising awareness about the importance of opening up access to data by research organisations and private stakeholders.
  • Focusing attention on implementing good data management policies and RDA recommendations within institutions.
  • Highlighting the need for tools and existing standards to facilitate FAIR data management and identifying existing RDA recommendations and outputs to be implemented or set up RDA WGs to develop new solutions.
  • Linking existing communities and initiatives and advocating good data management practices across the board.
  • Offering insight into discipline/domain data challenges and solutions.
  • Building discipline and research domain specific as well as domain agnostic social and technical bridges, with and across communities.
  • Sharing domain and discipline specific practices with broader data practitioner communities.
  • Fostering understanding of and access to RDA for new members from discipline and domain specific communities.
  • Collaborating and partnering with industry, associations, organisations and media.
  • Pursuing discipline/domain-specific funding opportunities.

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Duration of CoPs and Reporting Process 

Similar to IGs and unlike WGs, there is no fixed duration for a CoP.  However, every 18 months, an established CoP will be evaluated and reviewed by Council.

CoPs are also expected to produce public reports to the RDA community which include:

  • Progress on goals CoP’s development within the overall discipline/domain landscape
  • Engagement and outreach activities and related metrics
  • Membership growth
  • Increase in stakeholder organisation support
  • Significant interactions with key stakeholders

Once a CoP submits its public report, TAB will review and provide feedback to the Secretariat, who will then forward to Council. Within two weeks, Council will review the report and may request clarification or revisions. Once approved by Council, the report will be published on the RDA website.

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Ending CoPs

CoPs are disbanded in one of the following cases:

  • On request from a majority of the co-chairs, and with evidence that two-thirds majority of the responding members agree.
  • If Council considers the CoP to be violating its CoP agreement, the RDA Code of Conduct or the RDA Guiding Principles.
  • If the periodic review executed by RDA Council indicates the CoP should not continue.
  • If the CoP is considered inactive.

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Additional Resources

Fore the complete framework overview and context please see:

Bello Bertin, Patricia R., Genova, Francoise, Hanahoe, Hilary, Kethers, Stefanie, Koureas, Dimitris, Meleco, Yolanda, Parr, Cynthia, Stotzka, Rainer, Subirats Coll, Imma, & Walker, Bridget. (2020). A Framework for the Creation and Management of RDA Communities of Practice (CoPs) (0.2).

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