Scientists and science bodies using NCI are able to see how their datasets are being used thanks to a new service, the Research Data Switchboard (RD-Switchboard). Based on data collections funded by the Research Data Service, RD-Switchboard is an open and collaborative software solution initiated by the Data Description Registry Interoperability (DDRI) working group of the Research Data Alliance (RDA). RD-Switchboard analyses the metadata from research datasets, institutions, publications and scientists within NCI's collections, and visually maps the relationships between them through a graph database. Dr Jingbo Wang from NCI recently presented about the progress of the RD-Switchboard at the 1st International Workshop on Reproducible Open Science in Hannover, Germany.
For funding bodies and science organisations, being able to track the publications and collaborations to come from particular grants is very helpful. It gives them the knowledge they need to make effective decisions about performant research projects and disciplines. It also makes it possible for them to see other benefits to have come from their funding, such as new relationships between institutions and researchers.
From a data collection management point-of-view, the RD-Switchboard allows NCI to spot gaps or errors in the metadata entries. The system works best when the entire database is accurate, so a typo or empty metadata field affects how well the graph database makes connections between datasets. Making sure the catalogue is as accurate as possible is a critical part of hosting NCI's over 10 petabytes of nationally significant research data.
From the research community point-of-view, it can be helpful to spot connections through this service. For example, researchers may find relevant datasets in this way. This is a more accurate and efficient search method than ad hoc searches across the catalogue system. In addition, when NCI's metadata repository is aggregated with external repositories, it makes it possible to find external connections as well. This will be implemented within the new global "Research Graph" project, in which NCI is one of the major partners supporting and maintaining a distributed research graph database.
As Data Collections Manager at NCI, Dr Wang says, "The RD-Switchboard connects researchers, datasets and publication within NCI's metadata database. Research Graph makes more connections again, by aggregating external distributed repositories globally. Conventional communication among researchers is through literature searches online and personal communication at conferences or workshops. However, the potential connections offered by the aggregated graph database open a completely new way to review research work. It is a revolution in that RD-Switchboard and Research Graph let the computer recognise and automatically make connections, with little effort required by the researchers themselves."
NCI hopes that the ability to look at the connections surrounding research publications will enable scientists to form new collaborations. Producing the RD-Switchboard system has itself been an international collaboration of major research bodies, including CERN, ORCID and Elsevier. Dr Wang says, "We have been working on this technology for a long time, and are among the first in the world to bring it to light. Here at NCI we have the expertise and the large data collections that makes it the perfect place to use RD-Switchboard."