The CODATA-RDA Research Data Science Schools offer foundational and advanced data skills to the new generation of researchers and data curators. Equipped with world-class data skills, these young researchers, will be the future employees who will become the data scientists that industry and research desperately need.
Contemporary research – particularly when addressing the most significant, transdisciplinary research challenges – cannot effectively be done without a range of skills relating to data. Researchers in all domains now need competencies that range from data analytics to data management, from visualisation to databases. It is predicted that there will be a need for large numbers of researchers with data science skills to make human development sustainable.
This need is particularly acute for researchers from Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs). As research data and governmental data becomes increasingly open and shared, LMIC researchers have a remarkable opportunity. Foundational and expert data skills are required not only to advance research and to benefit society but also to collaborate with international partners. The vision of ‘A World that Counts’, a world that uses data to understand and to address its challenges and to promote enterprise, is one that will be achieved by data literate researchers and data scientists. As noted in a recent Economist report, Africa is a place of 1.2 billion opportunities, where the promotion of skills and innovation will be key.
To help meet the need for appropriate skills, two global organisations, CODATA (an organisation established by the International Council of Science to promote open research data, and to advance data science and data skills) and the Research Data Alliance (an organisation composed of almost four thousand leaders in Research Data) have come together with a vision to provide a series of Summer Schools which will provide world class training in Research Data Science. The schools are designed to allow for progress from foundational to advanced skills. The first of these schools was run at the Abdus Salam International Centre of Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy from August 1-12, 2016 in collaboration with The World Academy of Sciences, GEO, The Association of Commonwealth Universities, Software Carpentry, Data Carpentry and the Digital Curation Centre. Instructors came from The UK, Belgium, Italy, South Africa and the United States. The event was an outstanding success and it was then decided to expand the number of regional schools and hence get to an increasing body of students. The Summer School in Pretoria (2020) will be the third School held in Africa. We are anticipating that it will become an annual event upon which further, more advanced skills development could take place.
The training content is world class and endorsed by CODATA and RDA. The curriculum is equally applicable to researchers from High Income Countries. Where available knowledgeable, local experts are used to convey the content under the guidance of experienced trainers. When local experts are not available trainers are recruited from the international pool of trainers. The intent is to continuously build the pool of expert trainers.
An essential feature of the vision is to work with students before and after the course, so that they will be well-equipped to use the skills to train the next intake of students. It is in this way that the schools can achieve maximum impact and grow the network of peers. The ambition is to scale to a worldwide initiative whereby an expanding network of instructors, open and online materials will make it easy for the schools to be run simultaneously in many locations and for students to do effective preparation and reinforcement.