Image: Fabien Barral via Unsplash
Tour of CESSDA – DANS – Data Archiving and Networked Services
Tue 11 Oct 2022

The following series of articles highlight each of the CESSDA national service providers one at a time. This time we take a trip to the Netherlands to meet with colleagues working at DANS, the Dutch national centre of expertise and repository for research data.

  • Who are you and what role do you play in CESSDA? 

My name is Ricarda Braukmann and I am Data Station Manager Social Sciences at DANS. Our Data Station is a trustworthy digital repository for the social sciences and humanities domain that allows researchers to deposit their data. Data is curated and archived for the long-term and can be made available for others to reuse.

In my role as Data Station Manager, I coordinate the social science activities at DANS including our contributions to CESSDA. I represent DANS at the CESSDA Service Provider Forum and I am myself involved in CESSDA’s training activities. Recently my colleague and I, for instance, organised a train-the-trainer event in which we presented ways to train researchers on using the Dataverse repository software to find and archive data. I am also a member of the CESSDA trust working group, providing guidance around CoreTrustSeal certification.

  • When did your country become a member?

The Netherlands has been involved in CESSDA since its establishment in 1976 and DANS played a role in CESSDA and its establishment as an ERIC in 2017.

  • What does your organisation bring to CESSDA? 

DANS is involved in CESSDA in many ways. We have been part of the trust working group since its establishment. DANS has played a large role in promoting trust activities and was a key member in developing the CoreTrustSeal (CTS) certification. CTS helps users to evaluate whether a given archive is sustainable and trustworthy.

DANS is also actively involved in the training working group. We organise training events for researchers and archive staff. These events deliver a lot of training materials that can be reused by the community. We have been leading the initial work on the Data Management Expert Guide (DMEG) and – more recently – contributed to the Data Archiving Guide (DAG).

DANS is also part of the Technical Committee which oversees and evaluates the technical development of the services within CESSDA ensuring that the developments are carried out as planned.
DANS datasets can be found in the CESSDA Data Catalogue (CDC) and we are working to improve the metadata and archiving services within the CESSDA community. Many of the CESSDA archives, including DANS, use Dataverse – an open-source repository software. DANS is actively involved in the development of the software to improve its functionalities. Together with other partners, DANS for instance, developed controlled vocabulary functionalities in the SSHOC project. Thanks to this feature, CESSDA archives can now use domain-specific controlled vocabularies to describe the metadata (e.g. ELSST).

  • What tangible benefits does your organisation get out of being a CESSDA member?

CESSDA allows us to collaborate with other European social science data archives. Through CESSDA, we can share knowledge and exchange expertise. This is of great importance for the common infrastructure we need within Europe and benefits our research community in the Netherlands.

Through CESSDA, we have been able to combine knowledge in data management training and create the Data Management Expert Guide (DMEG), which is widely used by various institutes in the Netherlands and abroad.

The standards that CESSDA has contributed to (e.g. the CESSDA metadata model and controlled vocabularies) are used to guide our work on national infrastructures including ODISSEI – the Dutch Open Data Infrastructure for Social Science and Economic Innovations.

CESSDA also allows us to be part of European projects as a linked third party. The most prominent recent project was the Social Sciences and Humanities Open Cloud (SSHOC) project which worked on the development of the Social Sciences and Humanities part of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC).

Many of the tools and services CESSDA has developed are being used by our archive. The CESSDA Data Catalogue makes our data findable across national borders.

I think the biggest advantage of the CESSDA Data Catalogue is that it collects metadata from all data providers in Europe. If the metadata is described in a similar manner across archives, for instance by using the same controlled vocabulary terms, this allows researchers to find similar datasets for different countries which can be very interesting for cross-country research.

The CDC offers ways of aggregating data available at local institutes which can feed into new thematic catalogues. An example of this is the BY-COVID project where CESSDA is helping to provide COVID-related metadata available across the different CESSDA archives.

We are currently in the process of implementing the ELSST Thesaurus managed by CESSDA in our social science data archive. Other vocabularies hosted in the CESSDA Vocabulary Service have been translated by DANS and ODISSEI to be used in multilingual search interfaces in the future.

The training materials CESSDA develops, in particular the DMEG, are being used and promoted by DANS to the Dutch research community.

  • How does the CESSDA Data Management Expert Guide help researchers to make their research data FAIR?

The DMEG is a great tool for researchers and trainers because it gives a basic overview of the steps needed in data management and its design is very accessible and the look and feel is well designed. DANS has been using the DMEG for national training, for instance within ODISSEI, and the DMEG is used and recommended by several data stewards in Dutch institutes.

  • How is CESSDA helping you to make your data compliant with the FAIR Data principles?

CESSDA helps to develop standards across the social science data community. Standards are an important aspect of FAIR. DANS is in the process of implementing the controlled vocabularies that CESSDA manages (e.g. the ELSST and DDI vocabularies) to improve the interoperability and findability of the metadata and descriptions in our SSH Data Station.

The training activities of CESSDA are also helpful to improve the FAIRness of data. DANS has used the DMEG in different training activities for researchers and support staff. A lot of information for new archive staff on how to support FAIR data is included in the Data Archiving Guide (DAG), released this summer.

  • Which CESSDA training events or resources do staff in your organisation recommend and why?

We in particular promote the DMEG as it is such a useful resource for early career researchers and for the trainers and data stewards who support local researchers. The Data Archiving Guide (DAG) is also an important training resource that we look forward to continue improving and updating.

A training event will take place on 13 October 2022 called “Discover the Data Archiving Guide (DAG) – a training event for new(ish) staff members”. This is an event that I would highly recommend to new employees in data archives and people generally interested in data archiving.

  • How do you see CESSDA supporting you in the coming period? 

I think we need to continue the collaboration across Europe to further develop and improve the services we offer to our communities. Keeping key training materials like the DMEG up to date is an important aspect of this. In addition, I would like to see the CESSDA Dataverse community become an even stronger alliance. I would love to see us develop the software further together based on the needs of the European social science archive community. 

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