The International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM) has chosen 2020 as the year of research data, meaning that throughout the year they are organising events to discuss different perspectives/challenges/opinions about sharing research data.
In this webinar, STM put together a very interesting programme where different stakeholders such as funders, universities, publishers and archives brought their perspectives, challenges and recommendations about FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable) Data.
We had the pleasure to represent the Task Force Open Science Research Data Management (RDM) workgroup by presenting the main results of our 2019 white paper: 'Advancing Research Data Management in Universities of Science and Technology’. We briefly presented the main challenges that universities of Science and Technology (S&T) face when providing RDM services, especially when focusing on technical and engineering disciplines. This included actions that institutions could take to move forward on implementing FAIR data, as well as suggestions about collaborative efforts (within our association or with other international initiatives) that would be important to establish.
From the funder's perspective, Carlos Casorran represented the Directorate General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD) of the European Commission (EC). He summarised the progress of the requirements regarding open access and FAIR data that the EC has implemented over the years, which are expected to be more strict in the next framework programme for research and innovation, Horizon Europe. The need to make research data FAIR and openly available has been made more evident with the COVID-19 emergency, reinforcing the EC's commitment. Besides the great focus on the progress of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC), the EC has also established a COVID-19 emergency response. This response includes funding opportunities for researchers working on COVID-19 topics, subscribing to the Statement on Data Sharing in Public Health Emergency to allow early publication of research data linked to the emergency.
Next in line were the publishers, represented by Kiera McNeice (Cambridge University Press) and Matthew Cannon (Taylor and Francis) who presented details about the STM 2020 Research Data Year, and examples of how publishers offer support services regarding RDM and publication. This included references to the successful SCHOLIX framework and the Joint Declaration of Data Citation Principles.
The last presenter was Ingrid Dillo from Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS) in the Netherlands. Ingrid took the audience on a journey through the FAIR data principles, including the origin, the challenges of interpreting them in different disciplines and the challenges to make them a reality. She introduced the objectives and planned outcomes of the FAIRsFAIR project, which aims to provide solutions to advance FAIR data in Europe for policy, training (culture) and infrastructure. Furthermore, she presented the goals of the TRUST Principles for Trustworthy Data Repositories, which complement the FAIR data principles.
Due to time constraints, there was no time to answer questions from the audience or to go deeper into discussions. The moderator placed a final question for the panelists - what should we be working on urgently? - and the following lines are partly the reflections shared by the panelists and our thoughts after the event.
First of all, all the panelists agreed that there is a need to work collaboratively between funders, universities, publishers and infrastructure providers.
Following Ingrid Dillo's presentation, there were some reflections about providing trusted services for researchers in which they feel comfortable depositing, archiving and publishing their data. That would allow accessibility to research data for reproducibility and re-use purposes.
We agree that making FAIR data a reality is not the job of only one stakeholder. But, we should not forget a very relevant stakeholder - the research communities. All policies and infrastructure can be in place, but without the motivation and the involvement of research communities the desired publication of FAIR data will not happen.
FAIR involves a cultural change in academia, and cultural changes are made by people and not only by making infrastructure available. Service providers have to be in permanent conversation with researchers to learn about their particular needs and challenges in order to develop relevant and useful services. But, there is an urgent need for universities, funders and journals to work together towards a system of incentives (other than impact factor only), recognition and rewards for those researchers that are investing or want to invest the time in making their data FAIR.