Forging connections at the 2017 Dataverse Community Meeting

Photo of attendees filling the garden for a group photo at Dataverse Community Meeting 2017. Photo by Dwayne Liburd.
Attendees fill the garden for a group photo at Dataverse Community Meeting 2017. Photo by Dwayne Liburd


Last week, more than 200 participants from around the world gathered to learn about, discuss, and improve Harvard’s own open-source research data repository software, Dataverse. Dataverse is developed at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science (IQSS) and used by researchers and journals at Harvard University and beyond to archive, share and receive credit for data. At the 2017 Dataverse Community Meeting, attendees and speakers from over 60 universities and other research organizations convened to discuss and address subjects such as data sharing, reproducibility of research, the data lifecycle, and integrating Dataverse with visualization tools, computational resources, and expanded data storage options.

“Why do we organize an annual Dataverse Community Meeting? The community is key to any open-source project such as Dataverse,” said Mercè Crosas, Chief Data Science and Technology Officer at IQSS. “For a true open-source project to be successful, the community must feel ownership of the project, and thus be empowered to actively contribute and drive changes. We share a common vision and motivation: to make data sharing a regular practice to enable reuse and reproducibility. It's about working together to build the tools, incentives, and standards that will make that possible for years to come.”

From June 14 through 16, Dataverse’s broad, worldwide community came together to hold presentations, hands-on workshops, panels, and a hackathon where Dataverse’s software development team collaborated with attendees to make direct fixes and additions to the software’s code.

Collaborative coding at the 2017 Dataverse Community Meeting Hackathon. Photo by Dwayne Liburd
Collaborative coding at the 2017 Dataverse Community Meeting Hackathon. Photo by Dwayne Liburd


“For me, the Dataverse Community Meeting is about two things - content and community - and it did not disappoint on either,” said James Doiron, Research Data Management Services Coordinator at the University of Alberta Libraries. “I have pages of notes, as well as the presentation slides to refer to in terms of content, and the networking and community engagement opportunities were fantastic.”

The Community Meeting allowed the Dataverse Team to connect with partners from various collaborative projects. Richard Fulss and Jesús Herrera de la Cruz from CIMMYT, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, gave a presentation about a recent  contribution they made to Dataverse’s code, adding valuable functionality to the software. Herrera de la Cruz had this to say about the experience: “We were very impressed by the warm welcome that our contribution has received. Having Handle support back in Dataverse is a great achievement for us, and we are convinced that this is going to be helpful for many institutions in developing countries as well, as they can benefit from cost savings in subscriptions to persistent identifier resolution services.”

Another partner in attendance was Jonathan Crabtree, Assistant Director of Cyberinfrastructure at the Odum Institute for Research in Social Science at UNC Chapel Hill. “I feel the rapid growth of the Dataverse Community is a testament to the vast potential for the Dataverse platform and the community it supports,” he said after the Meeting. “In particular, Dataverse has made great contributions for data sharing and archiving but it also has additional potential to support big data as well as reproducible science. Dataverse has already become a critical part of the scholarly research infrastructure that needs to be supported.” 

Gary King, PI of the Dataverse Project, Director of IQSS, and Weatherhead University Professor, shared his thoughts on the event: "We were thrilled to engage at the Dataverse Community Meeting with so many visiting researchers, archivists, and administrators. We are even more pleased to see the creative contributions to our collective enterprise -- including ideas and software -- coming from an impressively diverse group of people, representing such a large number of educational institutions, and serving researchers all over the world."

If you would like to learn more about Dataverse, please visit the Dataverse Project website to read about what it can do, or visit the Harvard Dataverse to see the software in action. To get involved in the discussion, check out the Google Group. Dataverse is an open source project, and those who are interested in contributing code can participate on the GitHub Repository.