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ENVironmental Research Infrastructures building Fair services Accessible for society, Innovation and Research

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ENVRI-FAIR (ENVironmental Research Infrastructures building Fair services Accessible for society, Innovation and Research)

Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2020-06-30

European Environmental Research Infrastructures on the ESFRI level provide data, research products and services from key areas of the Earth system. These research infrastructures form the ENVRI cluster and include the principal producers and providers of environmental research data and research services in Europe from the four segments of the Earth system - Atmosphere, Marine, Solid Earth, and Biodiversity/Terrestrial Ecosystems. Within the ENVRI cluster, the research infrastructures are organised as subdomains along the segments of the Earth system, they are active in. The data, products and services provided by the ENVRI cluster are crucial European contributions to the integrated global observation system monitoring the state of the Earth system and climate. The ENVRI cluster represents the core component of the European environmental research infrastructure landscape with the ENVRI community as their common forum for collaboration and co-creation (see Image 1).
ENVRI-FAIR is the cluster project of the ENVRI community to provide services according to FAIR principles to a wide variety of user communities. The overarching goal of ENVRI-FAIR is to advance the findability, accessibility, interoperability and reusability (FAIRness) of digital assets, in particular research data and research services, provided by the ENVRI cluster, and to connect them to the emerging service ecosystem of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC).
ENVRI-FAIR will deliver an open access platform for interdisciplinary environmental research data utilizing the EOSC, called the ENVRI-hub. The hub forms the interface to the EOSC and will be realized as the services across ENVRIs and even between environmental subdomains become progressively more integrated.
ENVRI-FAIR objectives cover the further development of common standards, protocols and policies for the data life cycle, their alignment with more extensive European policies and the implementation of necessary tools for adopting an open approach for sharing data and software. A strong focus is put on the improvement of skills of research infrastructure personnel to develop and sustain knowledge on Research Data Management and FAIRness by an extensive training programme. Cohesion with the global research infrastructure landscape, including clusters and regional/international initiatives in the environmental sector is ensured by dedicated work packages.
The ENVRI-FAIR workflow addresses three levels of implementation and development. The research infrastructure level is the main level of service implementation, taking into account the different maturity and individual constraints of participating research infrastructures when implementing FAIR compliant services. The subdomain level is currently recognized as the most-effective science-driven user level. Finally, the domain or cluster level is most effective for addressing standardization with EOSC and e-infra-structures or with international organisations.
The start-up phase of ENVRI-FAIR focused on assessing the actual state of the participating RIs with respect to all aspects of FAIRness, and the subsequent development of FAIRness implementation plans for the subdomains considering the different levels of FAIR maturity amongst the research infrastructures. From the individual subdomain implementation plans a cluster-level FAIR implementation plan was developed and for each subdomain, reference material was collected for both data licence and data policy used by the contributing research infrastructures.
We established six task forces, serving as tools to coordinate and harmonize the necessary solutions among the subdomains and research infrastructures to improve the FAIRness status at all levels and for all involved ENVRIs. These task forces tackle the ENVRI Catalogue of Services, ENVRI AAI Implementation, PIDs, Identification, Types and Registries, Triple Stores and Data Storage Certification, Licenses, Citation and Usage Tracking, and the ENVRI-hub architecture. The establishment of task forces will ensure the coherent evolution of the four subdomains.
The FAIR training activities are among the areas producing high visibility for ENVRI-FAIR. The results and methodology of the gap analysis of FAIR training materials has been received with interest, not the least by training specialists of the other ESFRI cluster projects. Training materials are produced and made available at the training portal at https://training.envri.eu/.
In the first phase of the project, the research infrastructures of the four subdomains of the Earth system assessed the FAIRness of their implemented data management and curation systems and performed a gap analysis for each research infrastructure individually and for the ENVRI cluster. The gap analysis and resulting implementation plans form a robust basis for the further conduction of the project. The developed FAIRness assessment methodology was also considered in FAIRness assessment methodology work at RDA and other FAIR activities.
Another critical step in the direction of common policies and standards was the establishment of the FAIR Policy Working Group which guides the development of current understanding and adoption of the FAIR principles and provides recommendations for their implementation at the research infrastructure, subdomain, cluster and ENVRI community levels.
The improvement of personnel skills to develop and maintain the FAIR infrastructures is handled through extensive FAIRness training activities. The methodology developed during the inventory and gap analysis of FAIR Training Materials is another key product of our project and will have an impact far beyond our project since FAIR training is one of the most active areas in FAIRification. This capacity building effort targets also non-ENVRI community researchers and other end-users.
Stimulated by EOSC activities, and in particular by the participation of the coordinators of the five ESFRI cluster projects in the EOSC-hub Strategy Board, a close and highly efficient collaboration among the five ESFRI clusters developed which can be considered an unforeseen but highly important contribution towards cohesion and alignment of work between the ESFRI clusters. Driven by these activities their role in EOSC is growing continuously in relevance.
Concluding, ENVRI-FAIR succeeded in its first 18 month of conduction to prepare solid ground for the development and implementation of tools and methods required to enhance FAIRness of digital assets at research infrastructure- as well as at subdomain and cluster level. ENVRI-FAIR has also assumed a relevant role at the EOSC level, concerning the further development of the EOSC portal design and content.
Despite the strong impact of COVID-19 restrictions on the ENVRI-FAIR workflow in the last six months of the project, the progress is considered on time and in some aspects even beyond expectation. This is a result of the good cooperation practices developed in the early stage of the project. We would not be able to deliver such progress without a successful interaction and face to face meetings in the first 15 months of the project.