Mary Hirsch
November 5, 2020 · 5 min read

ISA 10 years

This year 2020 marks the 10-year anniversary of the International and Scientific Affairs (ISA) team. Ten years ago we were born with a very small team that little by little grew in size and responsibilities. Some alumni are sharing their experiences at ISA and their professional journey beyond ISA. Mary Hirsch was scientific documentalist between 2016-2018, managing the CRG publications, and she is now working at DataCite as Member Support Manager.

An Open Science journey from publications to data

I started working as the documentalist, part of the International and Scientific Affairs (ISA) team at the CRG in 2016. I was an Open Access rookie, coming from a background in commercial database platforms and NGOs. I knew little of the journey I was about to embark on, and where it would lead me. But after a couple of weeks, I had been baptised into the church of Open Science, and my journey into the depths of openness began.

The documentalist’s job is to advise researchers on all aspects of publishing and encourage, let’s not say enforce, compliance with the CRG’s Open Access policy, as well as updating the CRIS (current research information system) for reporting. Navigating the baffling landscape of scientific publishing; gold and green Open Access, pre-prints, post-prints, APCs and so on can be confusing, painstaking and leave you with a few extra wrinkles. Luckily, I had a lot of help at hand from the rest of the ISA team.

My leaving card, ISA team in their element on their yearly retreat

Over the next 2.5 years of working with ISA, I learned to approach researchers with caution, but not to be intimidated. About gender bias, citizen science, Wikimedia, research evaluation and research data management. I realized that having tax-payer funded publications behind paywalls did not make sense and that the old research system was extremely inefficient, and driven by questionable journal impact factors. It also became clear to me that there were many deep contradictions in the requirements of funders and the way the funds are dished out. I found solace in the fact that there are many people who believe in Openness, and who are trying hard to figure out this maze, so researchers can get on with their research and society can reap the benefits.

Documentalists working group

Along with Sonja Reiland (project manager at ISA) and members from 10 other research institutions in Catalonia we founded the documentalists working group. The aim was to provide a community of practice for knowledge sharing: from Open Access policies to which CRIS systems worked best. We presented this community of practice in a poster entitled “the role of research management in open science” at the BeDebate in Barcelona in 2018.

BeDebate poster 2018 

Research Data Management

Towards the end of my time as the documentalist, data sharing had come into focus. Part of reimagining of the research ecosystem means the publication is not the only important output of research. What about the datasets unpinning the publications, the software and other outputs? What about getting credit for producing and sharing those outputs? A research data management policy was in its early stages of development at the CRG and my time with publications had come to an end. I said goodbye to ISA with a heavy heart and travelled deeper into the depths of the open infrastructure supporting data sharing.

I have now been working with DataCite for 2 years. I am the support manager, which means I spend time helping librarians with metadata problems and reporting bugs, as well as organizing meetings and writing documentation. I work with the community engagement team, the data community being the backbone of our organization.

DataCite is a DOI registration agency. I didn’t know much about DOIs when I started working for them, now maybe I know too much. A DOI (Digital Object Identifier) is a type of persistent identifier (PID). They are used to uniquely identify “stuff” for example: publications (Crossref DOIs), datasets (DataCite DOIs), researchers (ORCIDs) and research institutions (RoR). We sometimes joke, in a very nerdy way, about other types of things that could have identifiers. There is already a move to have them for conferences, samples and instruments. DOIs are always accompanied by metadata. Some basic examples of metadata would be the “title”, “publisher” and “date” of the content being shared.

We work primarily with repositories (some well known generalist repositories are Zenodo and Figshare) to assign DOIs to research outputs. Assigning a DOI and the accompanying metadata means that the research outputs in these repositories can be discovered, cited and tracked. It makes data FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable). There is no doubt that data sharing and citation are an essential part of moving towards a better research ecosystem. But getting this to happen takes time and effort. It involves changing practices – like actually citing the underlying data in research articles – and much more work lies ahead. DataCite works primarily with nonprofit organizations, but partnerships with for-profits open up new possibilities. There is no good and evil in this church. We must strive for openness, trust and transparency, there is no time to waste.

Everyone should care about research and research outputs. Even if the intricacies of this system are out of reach, the end point should be that we can devise an objectively good approach to research in order to solve some of the biggest challenges facing humanity. Now more critical than ever.

I am very grateful to have had the chance to work at ISA with such a wonderful team, who do fantastic work.


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