Because good research needs good data

Data Stewardship: our mission and core tasks at the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM)

Jente Houweling, Susana Cabaço, Tessa Jacobs | 14 February 2022

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Left to right: Jente Houweling, Susana Cabaço, Tessa Jacobs 

How to ensure that our organisation and the research outputs of the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM is the Dutch acronym) are as FAIR as possible? How to make the Open Science principles more widely known and implemented?

The data stewards at RIVM set out to find answers to these questions and reflect on the best strategies to establish a sustainable path to Open Science and FAIR. These reflections are the result of almost two years of experience of the data stewards at RIVM. The data stewards are frontrunners in advancing these goals across the institute.

One of the initiatives that was seen as a priority was the implementation of data management plans (DMP) and training sessions targeted at both researchers and data managers. Using the RIVM DMP template in DMPonline, the RIVM researchers have access to specific guidance on all items and, if desired, can browse other public DMPs to have a more concrete idea of how other researchers are managing their research data. The data stewards offer two training courses about DMPs: ‘Writing a DMP’ and ‘Reviewing and Supporting the Writing of DMPs’ (targeted at data managers).

Establishing an Open Science community

One of our core tasks as RIVM is to conduct scientific research and collect, clarify and share the available scientific knowledge. Open science is one of the initiatives that supports our core task and guides towards the strategic goal for 2025: “Equip our scientific knowledge base optimally for the societal issues we are asked to address.” Open Science will help the practice of science in such a way that others can collaborate and contribute our research and its underlying data and methods, thereby making us more equipped.

For Open science, this year we will focus on creating awareness by organising lectures, testing solutions with our open science advisory group and establishing an Open Science community. We will reach out to other Open Science initiatives outside our organisation to obtain best practices on establishing an Open Science community.

RIVM aims to make its data as public as possible in its role as a scientific knowledge institute but also as a government agency. Data sharing with the public must comply with, among others, the privacy rights of individuals. Hence, this increasing demand for open data also increases the importance of privacy protection methods. 

Furthermore, at RIVM we seek to transform the data so that the data can be published without revealing the confidential information, while at the same time limit information loss due to the anonymisation of the data. Recently, a Statistical Disclosure Control (SDC) workgroup has been initiated to advise RIVM researchers with questions on this topic.

We would like to say thanks to Jente Houweling, Susana Cabaço, Tessa Jacobs  for sharing with us this blog post for DMPonline knowledge exchange series!

As always, we are keen to hear from you about how you use the tool, how RDM works at your institution and fits within your workflows and also how we can improve it, so please feel free to contact us at the details below: 

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