As a writer, researcher, trainer and consultant, Sarah Jones has left her mark on the fields of data management, data policy, FAIR data, Open Science and the European Open Science Cloud. CONNECT spoke with Sarah in her new role as EOSC Engagement Manager at GÉANT.
Words: Interview by Laura Durnford, GÉANT
Tell us about your background and what initially inspired your involvement in data management, FAIR data and Open Science?
During my undergraduate degree in German and Economic and Social history, we did a project using archival material and I really loved exploring the collections. I continued this interest by doing a traineeship and then qualifying as an archivist. I specialised in digital preservation because I saw that as a skills gap and thought it would be best chance job-wise. It led to work on various EC-funded projects, then at the Digital Curation Centre focusing on data management, FAIR and Open Science. One thing has led to another and I’ve just gone with the flow!
How does all this experience equip you for this new EOSC role at GÉANT?
A lot of my previous roles have involved training, consultancy and community building. It seems that will be a really good fit for this GÉANT role as Open Science is a new area of activity for many NRENs. I will help them explore opportunities and decide what is best for their specific context. I also know lots of people across Europe and internationally from the digital curation, RDM and Open Science fields. I hope to use this network to broker new contacts and collaborations for NRENs. I’m very much a people person and am most at ease running events or chatting with colleagues rather than doing research
What is the purpose of the new role?
Although my job title is EOSC Engagement Manager, I don’t want to focus solely on EOSC. I want to work broadly in the field of Open Science. The federated approach of EOSC means that national and domain infrastructure is critical, and this is where GÉANT and the NRENs play a big role. They’re trusted service providers in the national context, and I think the GÉANT community at large is really well placed to help coordinate Open Science programmes across Europe. I’d like to foster a partnership between the GÉANT community and the Research Data Alliance, which is where all the data community hang out.
How will this role help the work of EOSC to unfold?
I see EOSC as a follow-on step from national investment in Open Science. Many NRENs are already engaged in the Governance Board or plan to be a member of the EOSC Association and that’s great to see, but I believe it’s critical that they’re well connected and engaged on a national level too, in order to feed into EOSC effectively.
Research communities also look for support close to hand – in their institutions or from their peer networks. This is another reason why local support services really matter. Users need assistance from people who speak their language and understand the cultural context in which they’re working. With 39 members across Europe, the GÉANT community is uniquely well placed to serve here.
What initial goals and challenges are you tackling and how?
The first challenge for me is understanding GÉANT and the NREN community. I’m not from this field so am learning lots of new acronyms and hearing lots about cables! I’ve taken the first couple of months to brainstorm a plan of action and identify potential opportunities or areas of work in the data space. I’ve started soliciting feedback on this to shape the plan further and am at the stage of talking to NRENs. Speaking at SIG-MSP at the end of September was really exciting but also a little daunting. I hope NRENs are interested in expanding their service portfolios and engaging in Open Science, or I may need to get quite creative about what I do on a day-to-day basis!
I’m also working with the GÉANT partner relations team to develop a series of InfoShares on Open Science. I’m introducing the concepts in October, and then we’ll work with others on sessions covering Open Access, FAIR data and Research Data Management. I’ve also just taught in a free online course about Delivering RDM Services. This may be of interest to NRENs, to learn about the challenges universities face. And I’m planning a workshop on this topic co-located with the Research Data Alliance plenary in November too.
Good luck with all of that. Perhaps to end with, one fun fact about yourself?
I’ve always enjoyed being outdoors, either gardening on the allotment, hiking or crafting. A few years ago, I actually qualified as a drystone wall builder, so if work in the data field dries up (or my brain gets fried from too many Zoom meetings), I am likely to retreat to the country and keep old skills alive. I fell in love with Tasmania when I holidayed there this Spring right before COVID lockdown, so that may be my retirement plan…