Mapping the territory of child development with team science

What does Research Data Management mean in everyday practice? In a series of interviews by RDM Support, researchers share their experiences on various aspects of research data management. In this interview, Prof. dr. Chantal Kemner shares her concept of team science and its importance in making progress in understanding child development. 

“The most fascinating thing about child development is that there are so many questions left. If we want to get ahead in this unknown territory, we must address our research in a very different way than we are used to. So far, we have put too much emphasis on individual excellence. But real progress will come from team science generating lots of data which are questioned from all kinds of interdisciplinary angles”, Chantal Kemner envisions with vigour.

We already have a huge and incredibly valuable dataset

Chantal Kemner in het KinderKennisCentrum
Prof. dr. Chantal Kemner at the ChildResearchCenter

Chantal is program director of the Utrecht YOUth cohort, a large-scale study that follows children from conception to early adulthood. The cohort has its roots in the Consortium on Individual Development (CID), a group of top Dutch researchers who bundle their expertise and explicitly work together to unravel how environmental, genetic and social factors influence the development of social skills and self-control.

So far, the YOUth cohort has started collecting data from 3,000 children and their parents. “We already have a huge and incredibly valuable dataset. The type of data is very diverse: think of questionnaires, videos of observations of child behaviour, results of computer tasks, electro-encephalograms, 3D echoes of babies in mother’s bellies, MRI scans and data of eye-tracking devices”, Chantal describes the data richness.

The embedded data manager service of RDM Support is a vital service


Is having a data manager a luxury or necessity? Chantal doesn’t hesitate for a moment: “The embedded data manager service of RDM Support is a vital service. More and more faculties work interdisciplinary and there is an increasing need to view datasets from different angles. The expertise of data managers is necessary in many types of research and the best way for managing data shouldn’t have to be reinvented at an individual research project level all the time. A certain uniformity in data management and in offering access to data cannot be avoided. We must keep up with international initiatives such as FAIR”, Chantal stresses the importance of professional data management.

Chantal envisions a series of ready-made-data-support-packages which clearly indicate standards for data management and recommendations on when your project would greatly benefit from hiring a data manager. “Faculties should decide to team up in professionalising their research and start using data managers on a regular basis.
I am convinced that we will only move forward if we work together, not only with researchers from different disciplines but also with experts in other areas such as data management. Team science needs someone like Ron or Danny”.

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Research theme Dynamics of Youth

If you want to tackle social problems, it would be best to start with children. The Utrecht-based research theme Dynamics of Youth invests in a resilient youth. Academics from all fields collaborate in order to learn to better understand child development. How can we help children and youngsters to grow and flourish in our rapidly changing society?​