Our vision is a network of data stewards to promote and support the transition to a FAIR and open research data landscape.

In 2022 the Higher Education Authority funded key initiatives in Ireland’s transition towards Open Research identified by Ireland’s National Open Research Forum. The 2022 Open Research Fund call was designed to implement six priority actions in Ireland’s National Action Plan for Open Research 2022-2030. The establishment of a national data stewardship network was one of the priority actions, Sonraí Irish Data Stewardship Network is the outcome of that call.

Sonraí aims to enable the development of data stewardship skills across the national research landscape through raising the profile data stewards, greater recognition of the need for data stewardship, professionalisation of the role of data steward and skills, and knowledge development throughout the emerging community. By developing these skills nationally we can ensure the curation, preservation and dissemination of our national data assets, and the continued growth and development of our FAIR data landscape.

What is a FAIR Data Landscape?

FAIR stands for findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable. These principles are intended as guidelines for best practice in the management and stewardship of research data as open as possible but as closed as necessary. A FAIR data landscape recognises, facilitates, and rewards sharing and reusing valuable research data and various types of outputs.

What does a Data Steward do?

While there is no universally agreed definition of data stewardship, there is a variety of tasks and skills that are widely recognised as central to the role. These can include: research data management planning; metadata creation and application; database management; data curation and preservation; supporting Open Data and the FAIR principles; data infrastructure development and management; teaching and skills development for researchers; advocacy; and policy development.

So a data steward is responsible for all the tasks associated with the research outputs of a project throughout its lifecycle from planning and active research to post-project preservation and data sharing.

Meet the Project Team

“In 2018 I was appointed as Research Data Coordinator UCC Library with only vague understanding of what that role entailed. Since then, I have spent my time exploring the remit and scope of my role, developing a service in UCC, and forging links with a growing number of data coordinators, stewards, managers, and librarians nationally and internationally. It has also become clear that data stewards and data stewardship needs to be recognised as a skillset and role critical to the transition to an Open Research environment and it is for this reason.”  https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5008-3711

My role centres on providing data management and statistical supports to academic-led clinical trials. Our approach is to ensure that the researchers we support can avail of a unified approach to data capture, access, storage and reporting. To that end, I advise researchers at grant application stage on data management, at study initiation on database construction and at study close where, at the SDAU, we employ reproducible analytical workflows ensuring that the principles of open research can be applied throughout the lifetime of a project. https://crf.ucc.ie/services/fair-data-management-and-stewardship/

As an early career researcher, I found myself involved mostly in only parts of a research project lifecycle: collecting, processing, and analysing datavery little on ex-ante data planning and ex-post data publishing. We actually reused others’ data to help build our initial model and decided to sustain our process data in the most transparent way we could. This data publishing process was very reflective and made me start to consider joining the emerging career pathway of a data steward!  https://orcid.org/my-orcid?orcid=0000-0003-3347-3982 

Whilst Roberto is not a data steward, he is the convenor of RESIN, the national forum for Research Services and Infrastructure which comprises data stewards. In this role he facilitates discussions between stakeholders in research support, including data stewards. https://www.heanet.ie/services/research-engagement

Open and transparent research practices are an important component of research integrity, and there has been an exponential increase in the diversity, size and speed of data being collected, and other research materials being generated across a broad range of disciplines. However, this growth has not been matched by a corresponding increase in the support available to researchers. Data stewards provide a critical role, ensuring that these various elements of the research process are produced to a high standard, and shared effectively and ethically. https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4049-993X

 Based in UCD Library I provide high level supports for researchers in UCD, I prepare guidance on RDM related UCD policies, procedures & resources, review Data Management Plans and provide specific advice on metadata and archiving or publishing of research data. I work closely with colleagues in UCD Research, Research IT, UCD Data Protection, UCD Office of Research Ethics and NovaUCD in relation to intellectual property. I spend a good chunk of my time selling the idea of Open Research and FAIR data to researchers who are already overburdened with an excessive workload. Libraries have been organising and providing access to the world’s information for millennia so I feel we are ideally placed to apply these skills to the world of research data. https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1644-1236

First of all, I’m not a data steward. I’m an epidemiologist and a statistician. In these roles I deal with lots of data. I spend most of my time either designing the studies that create it, or analysing it once created – but I also spend lots of time manipulating, organizing, describing, storing, and sharing data. Perhaps I’m a data steward after all.  https://twitter.com/statsepi/status/1627619698891231232 

Leading a university library involves working with a lot of data in terms of day-to-day activities, decision-making and strategic activities.  This can touch on everything from data governance, quality and compliance within the library as well as relating to the scholarly and information resources the library makes available to our stakeholders. Collaboration, integrity and the broader institutional context you are working in are critical for understanding your data and using it to make the best decisions. For the library we also think about Data Stewardship in terms of skills in Data Literacy, Information Literacy and Digital Literacy which form a key part of the training, instruction and supports provided by our team to our community of learners and education providers. 

https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3147-4992

Dr Orla Murphy is a board member of the Digital Repository of Ireland. She co-chairs the Arts and Culture in Education Research Repository ACERR representing RPOs and CHIs, including Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, Poetry Ireland, and the Education initiatives of the National Museum of IrelandShe is also Irish national representative on the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures strategic working group for social and cultural innovation, SCI.  She also represents Ireland as vice chair of the Scientific Committee of the CoST Association and  is Chair of the CoST SC’s new working group on Open AccessAs Head of the Department of Digital Humanities she has expertise in the heterogeneous datasets generated in Arts and Humanities practice and researchShe has worked with generations of researchers seeking  to create sustainably, openly accessible work. She has experienced the challenges of open research stewardship across the breadth of Arts and Humanities data.  http://publish.ucc.ie/researchprofiles/A014/omurphy

Proud to Work With

Ask yourself

Am I a data steward?

Regardless of your formal job title, if you answer yes to one or many of the following questions, you are doing the work of a Data Steward and engaged in data stewardship.

  1. Do you often find yourself minding the data*? 
  2. Are you the ‘data person’ in your research group, team, department or service? 
  3. Are you the person who develops/implements data processes, databases and workflows within your unit? 
  4. Do you spend a significant portion of your time on data, metadata handling/wrangling, alignment, quality, cleaning and mining? 
  5. Do you administer or provide support for data infrastructure or service? 
  6. Have you reviewed, written or implemented a data management plan?  
  7. Do you provide research data management support, training or implementation as a central service or to a research group or team? 
  8. Are you tasked with data curation, preservation or FAIRification?  
  9. Are you working on Research Data Management policy development or implementation?  

*Data can take many formats spreadsheets, databases, text, images, audio, video are just a few examples. In the context of research or  a research project data can be defined as the evidence underlying a primary finding or publication.  

Dawning Realisation – ‘I am a Data Steward’

Want to get involved?

Sonraí is an emerging network. We need members!
If you are interested learning more and getting involved even if you are not quite sure your are a data steward please get in contact.

Learn more about data stewardship
Now that you know you are a data steward or engaged in data stewardship maybe you would like to know more. Sonraí aims to provide coordination and networking for data stewards and related roles across all stakeholder groups.
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We need more data stewards
Data Stewardship is a critical enabler of an Open Research landscape. Sonraí aims to promote the need for data stewards and stewardship skills as a core enabler of open research, and high-quality data outputs across stakeholder groups.
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Data stewards need help too
As an emerging career pathway in the research landscape recognition and professionalisation are key to sustainable career pathways. Sonraí is working towards the recognition and professionalisation of data steward as defined role within the national landscape. As well as roadmapiping sustainable skills development and training for professional data stewards.
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To build an open research landscape
To embed Open Research in our national research landscape expert advocacy in relation to the development of FAIR and Open data supporting infrastructures and services is a key. Sonraí aims to engage in advocacy and lobbying in relation to relevant national and international policy development and changes.
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