Vision on data management

Datum: 20/11/2017

A vision is an image of the future, which you need to define objectives. One example is NWO’s vision to “promote collaboration and cohesion in order to stay in the scientific vanguard and further increase our contribution to society.”

A researcher’s goal might be to e.g. develop a cure for a certain disease or learn how this disease can be prevented. These are all visions and objectives that people want to realise in the future. Similarly, Stefan van Aalst, Product Manager at RSRCH, also thinks about the future and the role RSRCH can play in it. What is his vision on data management in the research world?

Acquiring and sharing data

“I largely base my short- and medium-term vision on data management on the needs that currently exist. When I look at the reference architecture for workspaces, it is relatively easy to determine what needs people have concerning data. One of those needs is that researchers want to collect data in their workspaces from various sources, e.g. hospital information systems, external sources and uploads. There is also a need to allow authorised individuals to work freely with this data in a workspace, albeit with a proper audit trail in place. Researchers also want to be able to push their data to catalogues, other workspaces, publication sites and archives in a controlled manner.

The RSRCH Platform gives users the complete freedom to use different tools to process their data. Everything they do with the data is properly audited. This, in turn, creates new needs concerning how data can be uploaded in a workspace. We are working hard on the other side of that process, the data outflow. Users can already push data to a different workspace or download it locally – provided that they have permission from their workspace administrator(s). As I mentioned before, we are still hard at work to properly archive all this, including the workspace’s complete audit log and the ability to publish directly to a catalogue from the workspace.

I can say that the RSRCH Platform makes it a lot easier and faster to process data than many alternative solutions – all while maintaining excellent security and auditability. Nevertheless, our users regularly come up with new wishes. This demonstrates the level of involvement of our users and the fact that the research community is continuously pushing its boundaries. As Product Manager of the RSRCH Platform, I am thrilled about this.”

The power of blockchains

“When it comes to our long-term vision, I look at all kinds of developments. For instance, I believe that the world wide web with its federated access to and management of data is a good example of how data can be made available in the future; i.e. not via large centralised data warehouses, but rather via a democratic, open and yet federatively controllable process. Blockchains can help prove who modified which piece of data, whether it was acquired legitimately and what its source is. The latter can have a particularly significant impact on publication and ensure that the people who carefully develop and maintain wonderful datasets receive due credit. It also affords extensive control when it comes to the use of data. It can alleviate concerns about providing access to data, because its owner can easily retract their permission and put an end to its use. Although this seems undesirable for the research community, it might in fact be desirable or even necessary when you really think about it.

One thing is for certain: changes are coming that we cannot even imagine right now. Agile thinking and making sure the RSRCH Platform can accommodate these changes are important aspects of my work as Product Manager.”

Get to know our people

Stefan van Aalst joined the RSRCH team as Product Manager in June of 2017. He is responsible for the features of the RSRCH Platform, the requirements it has to meet and the developments that are yet to come. Stefan was already familiar with the RSRCH Platform before joining our team, as he was part of the development team of the Digital Research Environment for the Radboudumc and co-creator of the DRE solution. In short, he knows all the ins and outs of the platform.