Action 5: National Data Stewardship Network

Lead investigator: Dr Aoife Coffey, Research Services, Boole Library, University College Cork,  

Funding Call: 2022 Open Research Fund — Priority Actions

Project Website:  

X: @Sonrai_IDSN


Targeted action:

Action 5.1.1: Establish a national data stewardship network across research performing organisations, funders, and related research support services and infrastructures to build national capacity and develop a collective voice and pool of expertise.


The National Data Stewardship Network project is a two-year project funded under the National Open Research Forum 2022 Open Research Fund. Data stewardship is a new and evolving skill set that is critical for the successful transition to an Open Research landscape. Data stewards are a key enablers of FAIR and Open Data helping to ensure data are high quality and its potential value is maximised. Data stewards can come from a range of backgrounds such as IT, research or librarianship, and can work on specific aspects of data curation and preservation or across the whole research lifecycle. This project aims to enable the development of data stewardship skills across the national research landscape by improving recognition across the research landscape for the need for data stewardship, professionalisation of the role of data steward and skills, and knowledge development throughout the emerging community. By developing these skills nationally we can ensure the curation, preservation and dissemination of our national data assets, and the continued growth and development of our Open Research landscape.

Mid-term Report Summary: 

By 2030 the National Open Research Action Plan aims that we will have a “mature ecosystem of infrastructure” to support responsible management and FAIR sharing of research data and other outputs. A vital step in establishing a FAIR and Open Data ecosystem is the sustained and widespread availability of data stewards and data stewardship skills. We learn from the NORF Landscape Report that the adoption of FAIR and Open Data practices is in its infancy across the research and innovation sector, and that significant investment is required.

Our project Sonraí Irish Data Stewardship Network takes a holistic approach to create a cohesive, sustainable network that promotes the need for data stewardship, and continually highlights the benefits of creating a central network to advocate and coordinate support for data stewardship. We are engaging with and learning from examples of best practice nationally and internationally and endeavour to replicate those examples that fit best within our current national context. We aim to provide support and advice to members and institutions working towards a FAIR and Open Data landscape without being prescriptive in recognition of local or disciplinary differences. We aim to act as a coordinator and guide within the national landscape, bringing together all stakeholders in a journey to FAIR Open Data ecosystem while recognising that routes may differ. Sonraí studies and supports the recognition and professionalisation of data stewardship, identifies and facilitates development of national training opportunities, and communicates the growing need for resources, both human and infrastructure, to reach the goals outlined by the NORF National Action Plan. 

  • The methods and approaches used, the work performed since the beginning of the project, and the main results achieved so far;

Sonraí has developed its unique visual identity and logo with a professional design company Babelfís. Our website has been live since July 2023 (see with introduction of the role of data stewards and links to accessible learning resources and data sharing tools.  We also have a growing social media presence on Linkedin and Twitter (@Sonrai_IDSN) to promote the network as well as other relevant events and resources.  Sonraí has attracted increasing attention across Open Research landscape, initiatives and communities through various engagements and continues to actively engage and seek links with the existing and potential research data professionals across the research landscape. A series of roadshows are taking place to consolidate recognising and supporting data stewards nationally and prompt the formation of local FAIR and research data management initiatives.  Up to the end of Nov 2023, Sonraí has hosted five roadshows across the six Irish research performing institutions (UCD, ATU, NCI, UCC, UL), one workshop at NORFest 2023, and confirmed the dates or approximate week of another nine roadshows to take place in early 2024.

  • The expected final results and their potential impact and use;  

Sonraí aims at a long-term and sustainable network for Irish data stewards beyond this project two years lifecycle, with a strategy of membership subscription, active interaction and sharing information and resources via the network. This network will maintain the established website, conduct regular meetings and workshops involving committee members, steering group members, green shoot nodes and FAIR data champions across Irish research performing institutions and wider research landscape. There will be network governance framework generated in middle 2024 to guide how Sonraí can sustain its value and capacity for Irish Open Research landscape effectively and economically in the long term.

The potential impact of Sonraí includes:

  1. Improve working conditions for Irish data stewards through recognition, professionalisation, training and skills development. 
  2. Increased awareness of the necessity for data stewardship to enable the transition to an open research environment across the research and innovation sector. 
  3. Increased availability of data stewardship skills nationally.  
  4. Improve the quality, accessibility, and potential for reuse of Irish research data. 
  5. Ensuring we can maximise the potential of our national data assets, prevent the waste on duplication work, and capitalise on greater availability of reusable data internationally. 
  6. Support and enable key policy agendas nationally and internationally such as Impact 2030 and the UNs Sustainable Development Goals.  
  7.  All outputs from this project will be made available as Open Access publications or as FAIR and Open Data under CC BY licenses.  
Three logos from the National Open Research Forum, the Higher Education Authority and the Government of Ireland

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