"Managing Digital Objects in an Expanding Science Ecosystem"


Wednesday, November 15th, 2017
9:00 am - 5:00 pm EST
Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications
U.S. National Library of Medicine
8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20894

Co-sponsored by CENDI, National Federation of Advanced Information Services (NFAIS), Research Data Alliance/US (RDA/US), and the National Academies Board on Research Data and Information


Digital Research Objects (DROs) are digital representations of data, publications, software, authors, etc.  DROs need to be characterized in order for them to be discovered and used.  And, in a dynamic digital ecosystem where DROs interact and are modified, value is added with interactions (e.g., such as the processing of a dataset with a particular analytic pipeline) and modifications (e.g., such as new data added to an exisiting dataset) are tracked and document, and the provenance of the DRO is captured.

Characterizing DROs is paramount to a useful and sustainable digital ecoystem.  DROs can be characterized by assignment o metadata.  Broadly defined, metadata could include textual descriptors, unique identifiers, and information about the lifecycle of the DRO (and its provenance). Assigning comprehensive metadata in a consistent and compatible way for the large number of diverse DROs populating the ecosystem is a significant challenge, particularly as the substance (e.g., such as the understanding of a particular scientific area) and infrastructure (e.g., such as standards drift) of the ecosystem evolve.  As the number and diversity of DROs grow, and as they and their integrity increasingly figure into the fabric of science and scholarship increases, traditional approaches for characterizing and tracking DROs is unsustainable.

This symposium will present how the challenges of characterizing DROs at scale (in volume and over time) are being or might be met.  These might include semantic approaches to assign and map metadata to DROs, as well as characterizing DROs on the basis of their associations with other DROs (e.g., how a given dataset relates to particular publications, authors, software, journals, repositories, etc.) to provide a "fingerprint" for the DRO and an inferable (rather than assigned) and automatically updated set of "metadata".

Attendees will learn about:

  • The minimal set of common components upon whith domain-specific workflows may be built
  • Emerging standards for a shared identifier system, including how it facilitates text mining for related content, resource tracking and reproducibility, attribution and dataset indexing among and across different yet connected objects
  • Case studies on connecting users with DROs
  • The challenges and gaps that remain


Registration fees are $125 for CENDI, NFAIS, ICSTI, RDA/USA or NAS members and $150 for non-members.
Government agencies may contact Elinda Deans ([email protected]) regarding use of your FT account for this conference.




9:05 - 9:15 am

Welcome and Opening Remarks
Michael Huerta, Associate Director of the US National Library of Medicine and NLM Coordinator of Data and Open Science Initiatives, NIH  

9:15 - 10:00 am

Digital Objects – The Core of Our Complex Data Market

Introduction: George Strawn, Director, Board on Research Data and Information, The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine

A detailed overview of a number of open questions still being debated within communities, such as granularity, versioning, mutability, lifecycle aspects, etc. and argument for concrete steps to develop a concept and a core model to make it the basis of software developments that will construct the global data market. The data community has experience from over 20 years with PID and metadata systems enabling us to build the open data market.

  • Peter Wittenburg, RDA Director Europe, Max Planck Computing and Data Facility [Slides]

10:00 - 11:00 am

Developing Frameworks

Moderator:George Strawn, Director, Board on Research Data and Information, The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine

This session will address both technical and institutional frameworks. The RDA Data Fabric Group was formed to bridge across research data management from many different perspectives and identify the minimal set of common components upon which domain-specific workflows may be built. The Digital Object model has been adopted by the group and the scientific data management frameworks that are emerging from this work share a common set of components: identifiers; an identifier resolution system, specifically the handle system; fine-grained data types; a federated set of data type registries; digital object repositories; and digital object metadata registries. In addition to the technical challenges and opportunities, successful leveraging of DRO’s will require new social infrastructure. This social fabric may include new policies, organizational arrangements, practices, and communication channels. This session will present complementary approaches to both technical and social frameworks. 

  • Larry Lannom, Director of Information Services and Vice President at the Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI), RDA Data Fabrics Group [Slides] 
  • Brooks Hanson, Senior Vice President, Publications, American Geophysical Union [Slides]

11:00 - 11:15am 

Break and Networking Opportunity

11:15 am -   12:45 pm

Incorporating Identifiers as Part of the Scholarly Record

 Moderator: Marcie Granahan, Executive Director, The National Federation of Advanced Information Services ( NFAIS™)

The scholarly record is evolving beyond the published article.  It is now common practice to include digital identifiers for funders, researchers, and data sets, and standards are being developed to ensure consistency across content providers and aggregators.  Identifier best practices also impact how science gets done, and science can be more impactful and better utilized when databases, journals, and content, in general, can consistently reference an object to its authoritative source.  A shared identifier system facilitates text mining for related content, resource tracking and reproducibility, attribution and dataset indexing among and across different yet connected objects. In this session, we’ll discuss opportunities for the use of identifiers, challenges, emerging standards, and best practices that enable connectivity between objects in a synthesized, efficient and effective way.

  • “Potholes” in Creating and Maintaining Object Identifiers Julie McMurry,Software Project Manager, Senior Research Associate in the Library and the Department of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology, Oregon Health and Science University [Slides]
  • Standards Being Developed Todd Carpenter, Executive Director, National Information Standards Organization (NISO) [Slides]
  • Persistent Identifiers for Data Sets Patricia Cruse,Executive Director, DataCite  [Slides]

12:45 - 1:30 pm 

Lunch (to be provided)

1:30 - 2:00 pm

Research Objects: More than the Sum of the Many Parts

Moderator:  Bonnie C. Carroll, Project Manager, CENDI

The experimental methods, computational codes, data, algorithms, workflows, Standard Operating Procedures, samples and so on are the objects of research that enable reuse and reproduction of scientific experiments. They need to be examined and exchanged as research knowledge.  Think of DROs as a broadening out to embrace these assets of research. The next step is to recognize that investigations use multiple, interlinked, evolving artefacts. Multiple datasets and multiple models support a study; each model is associated with datasets for construction, validation and prediction; an analytic pipeline has multiple codes and may be made up of nested sub-pipelines, and so on.  Research Objects (http://researchobject.org/) is a framework by which the many, nested and contributed components of research can be packaged together in a systematic way, and their context, provenance and relationships richly described.  

  • Carole Goble, Professor, School of Computer Science, The University of Manchester [Slides]

2:00 - 3:30 pm 

Connecting Users with Digital Research Objects 

Moderator:  Lynn Yarmey, Community Development Director, Research Data Alliance/US 

This session aims to ensure strong DRO drivers and connections to research by highlighting the importance of maintaining a user perspective in development and management. Speakers will describe different approaches to DRO planning and implementation in service to their research community needs, and will share lessons learned from their user-focused work to date. Short presentations will be followed by a panel discussion.  

  • Lisa Kempler,Co-Chair, Use Case Working Group, EarthCube;MATLAB Community Strategist at MathWorks [Slides]
  • David Vieglais, Senior Scientist at University of Kansas; Director of Development and Operations, DataONE  [Slides]
  • Danie Kinkade,Information Systems Associate at the Biological and Chemical Data Management Office (BCO-DMO) at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution  [Slides]
  • James Myers, Co-Principal Investigator, Sustainable Environment/Actionable Data (SEAD) Project with the National Data Service; Associate Research Scientist at University of Michigan [Slides]

3:30 - 3:45 pm 

Break and Networking Opportunity

3:45 - 4:45 pm 

Filling the Gaps and Moving the Agenda Forward 

Moderator: Amanda J. Wilson, Head, National Network Coordinating Office, National Library of Medicine; Chair, CENDI 

Group discussion of the challenges, solutions, gaps, and the steps we can take to move the agenda forward. 

Commentator:  Jim Hendler, Director, Institute for Data Exploration and Applications and Tetherless World Chair of Computer, Web and Cognitive Sciences, Computer Science, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Member, Board on Research Data and Information (BRDI), The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine

4:45 - 5:00 pm

Wrap-up and Adjournment

Bonnie C. Carroll, Executive Director, CENDI


Registration fees are $125 for CENDI, NFAIS, ICSTI, RDA/USA or NAS members and $150 for non-members.
Government agencies may contact Elinda Deans ([email protected]) regarding use of your FT account for this conference.



Heather Parrish
(865) 298-1245
[email protected] 

Nancy Blair-DeLeon
(443) 221-2980
[email protected] 

Lynn Rees Yarmey
(858) 722-0127
[email protected] 

Ester Sztein
(202) 334-3049 Phone
[email protected]