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Well on our way with the FAIRification process

Andreas Jaunsen (Nordforsk), EOSC-Nordic WP4 Lead

It is June 2020, and the first nine months of the EOSC-Nordic project is behind us, marking the passing of the first quarter of the 36-month project. As a whole, the project ramped up activities early on, as commended by the International Advisory Committee (IAC) in May, and has already met several milestones and submitted deliverables. As many of us now prepare to begin the summer holidays and possibly vacations – it is time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Sure, it has been an unusual spring with travel restrictions, back-to-back video meetings, and home offices – but it has also been a productive time for the WP4 FAIR data team.

FAIR is about enabling transparency, reproducibility, and trust in science by providing shared access to heterogeneous data in a way that makes the data findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable by humans and machines. This is why FAIR is so highly regarded as the guideline for sharing data. The EOSC-Nordic project has pledged to implement FAIR in the Nordic and Baltic region; this will be achieved by addressing the broad scientific community and encouraging them to consider adopting the FAIR principles. However, communities understand and weigh the principles differently, and it can be challenging to address such a diverse community in the same way.

On April 22, 2020, we conducted the first community online workshop (webinar) with 80-90 participants and a lively Q&A session. The goal of the event was to present the project and work package to the potential stakeholders, in particular the community of digital repositories that stand to gain from our support and advice. The webinar was recorded and is available on our YouTube channel. In preparation for the event, a preliminary FAIR Maturity evaluation of about 100 repositories was conducted, using a fully automated harvester that extracts machine-actionable metadata from the hosting data and metadata provider. The requirement of machine-actionable metadata is core to the FAIR principles (Wilkinson et al. 2016), and an evaluation-based recommendation on how to FAIRify a specific data repository was also provided to the participants. The first epoch evaluations are now complete and will be published with the first deliverable report in August 2020.

The hope and the challenge are to convince communities to share their data via specific online data repositories, to make their FAIRification efforts more efficient by coordinating them with the EOSC-Nordic initiative and following the recommendations provided. By the end of the year, we expect to have executed a FAIRification hackathon with the first group of communities addressing a line of actions to improve the FAIRness of those services. By the end of the project, we hope we have completed a handful of such events and hopefully successfully contributed to the FAIRification of a majority of the selected data repositories.

The interaction and engagement of the community is key to the success of the project and to the uptake of FAIR in research and among digital data repositories. An example of such a community is the European Energy Research Alliance (EERA), a non-profit association with its FAIRification initiative (EERAdata), which is an EC-funded project. The EOSC-Nordic was invited to present its work and future activities

on FAIR data during their first online workshop 2-4 June 2020, introducing the survey of repositories, the FAIR Maturity evaluations, and FAIRification events scheduled for the latter half of 2020. Collaborations like this are efficient in reaching out to a broader community and advancing the FAIR uptake. Although this is a somewhat unique, large collaborator that we will continue to support and coordinate with, individual repositories are the more typical clients.

As the project progresses, we will execute regular evaluations of the sample of repositories. This will provide us with an instrument to monitor the evolution of the FAIR uptake among the 100 repositories and to document a hopefully positive development of FAIR data. In the works for the autumn and winter of 2020 is the selection of potential repositories for FAIR certification, combining core Trust Seal (CTS) with certain FAIR elements. The team has several highly skilled and experienced certification specialists that will assist repositories that are considering to certify their service. A kick-off event for this second principal task of WP4 is scheduled for September 3, 2020. With this, we believe we are well on the way in realising the plan of the EOSC-Nordic and the realisation of the EOSC vision to connect research data and infrastructures throughout Europe and globally.