Jon Johnson, Co-Chair of EDDI21, the 13th Annual European DDI User Conference, provided the following summary of the virtual conference held 30 November-1 December 2021.
Planning started as ever in January, in the peak of the second coronavirus wave. The Program Committee made an early decision that a face-to-face conference was not possible. Any fears we may have had about attendance were put at rest with over 175 participants register, from 32 countries and nearly 90 different organisations.
Traditionally, Archives and Official Statistics agencies have dominated the attendance at EDDI, but this year for the first time, over 50 percent were researchers or from research organisations. In a ‘normal’ year, about 20% of presentations are from organisations or individuals newly presenting; this year that was a little down, but that was a reflection of a flurry of presentations from established organisations.
One might have thought that the pressure of delivering data to researchers during the pandemic might have stifled innovation, but the opposite seems to have been the case with the community rising to this challenge with new ways of using the standards and products of the Alliance.
The presentations fell neatly into four main categories: Discovery, Enhancing Metadata, Interoperability, Workflows and infrastructure, and a session on User Needs.
Discovery presentations reflected both finding new ways of managing and presenting data in DDI-Codebook and managing the complexity of DDI-Lifecycle in ways that are comprehensible to researchers brought up in the age of Google.
Sessions on enhancing metadata explored better ways of using existing resources such as Controlled Vocabularies and XKOS, transitioning from Codebook to Lifecycle, automation to uplift metadata through new technologies, and the use of synthetic data. The large reserves of DDI in Archives were the focus for sessions on interoperability, infrastructure and workflows, centring around supporting the CESSDA infrastructure.
The recently upgraded functionality of the DDI Registry was also spotlighted and it will be interesting to see how quickly the ability to resolve persistent identifiers at an item level is picked up by the community in forthcoming EDDIs.
DDI-CDI also got a showing with work on how it is being used to connect with the growing European NGSI-LD infrastructure. The DDI Training group also presented on what has been a highly successful collaboration since its reboot at the Train-the-Trainer event in 2018. The development of the new training library has been a huge effort and put training front and centre of the DDI Alliance’s activities.
Prior to the conference, DDI Alliance standards and work products and tools were showcased in a day-long training fair, co-sponsored by CODATA.
There is a huge amount of behind the scenes work that goes into organising EDDI. We are grateful to Sciences Po for organising the online support for the conference, and a special mention to Knut Wenzig for managing to get the presentations up onto Zenodo, sometimes within an hour.
We are sad to be losing Uwe Jensen who has been the powerhouse behind keeping the EDDI Program Committees and Local Organisation Committees on track for the majority of the 2010s. We wish him a happy retirement from GESIS and from EDDI. But he leaves behind the EDDI Manual to which we will be completely reliant upon for 2022 and beyond.
We are also losing Achim Wackerow (also retiring from GESIS), who was responsible for EDDI being established and who chaired the conferences from 2009-2018. EDDI is not just an annual conference, it has been a cornerstone of the DDI community in Europe, travelling around European cities evangelising good and forward-thinking data management one country at a time. It is barely conceivable that this would have happened had it not been for Achim’s vision and determination. So it was fitting that we were able to have a celebration of his achievement led by Mary Vardigan (formerly DDI Alliance’s Executive Director) and Peter Granda, also from ICPSR, at the close of the conference.
Presentations and posters are available from https://zenodo.org/communities/eddi21/. Recordings of the sessions are available on the DDI Alliance You Tube channel at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLii5T1O4gQHk6xDePurzc6uMgOv4gzNHX. Sciences Po have generously agreed to host EDDI (again) in 2022. We look forward to seeing you in Paris, dates to be confirmed!