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Fostering FAIR Data Practices in Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FAIRsFAIR (Fostering FAIR Data Practices in Europe)

Reporting period: 2019-03-01 to 2020-08-31

FAIRsFAIR (Fostering Fair Data Practices in Europe) aims to supply practical solutions for the use of the FAIR data principles throughout the research data life cycle with an emphasis on fostering FAIR data culture and the uptake of good practices in making data FAIR, in particular in the context of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC). FAIRsFAIR delivers and supports recommendations on data policy and practice, provides solutions and support for semantic interoperability, supports certification of trustworthy data repositories and data assessment, as well as develops a FAIR enabling competence centre and framework for higher education.

Our overall objective is to accelerate the realization of the goals of the EOSC by opening up and sharing knowledge, expertise, guidelines, implementations, new trajectories, courses and education on FAIR matters. FAIRsFAIR seeks to establish a level playing field for European member states (and beyond) when it comes to contributing data to scientific and scholarly communities and re-using data from elsewhere. In this way it contributes to the culture change required for the wide adoption of FAIR practices. We employ the help of many stakeholders to accomplish this. The project consortium is composed in such a way that the implementation of the common scheme, to ensure data development, wide uptake of and compliance with FAIR data principles and practices can be realized by national and European (and beyond) research data providers, and repositories through the EOSC. The partners in the consortium already have direct connections with many stakeholders, and also work in related projects to implement the EOSC. These direct links facilitate the flow of information between stakeholders and domains working on aspects of FAIR and the FAIRsFAIR project.

FAIRsFAIR does not have any discipline-specific preferences. Rather it adopts the concept of a discipline-agnostic basis for all scientific domains and adds discipline-specificity where required. Key to the success of FAIR are trust and sustainability. Researchers must be able to trust the parties on which they increasingly depend for high-quality services, where they create, share, store, retrieve and/or (re)use their data and other research outputs, during and after their projects. This trust often needs to span substantial periods of time. Trustworthy repositories must be able to guarantee the persistence of their data after ten or more years, and need to protect the data entrusted to them against intrusion or corruption. Not only the rights of the researchers need to be clear, also the privacy of research subjects needs to be guaranteed. The authenticity, reliability and quality of data must be made apparent to potential reusers in order to get maximum benefit from a data sharing economy. Sustainable access to research resources implies sustainable software and other environments crucial to the meaning of data, and it implies scalability of procedures, processes and costs to keep and share. These elements are being kept in sight during the FAIRsFAIR project.
During our first 18 months FAIRsFAIR has completed 22 deliverables, and achieved 35 project milestones. Landscaping activities have been a core activity during the initial stages of the project and have required close cooperation between colleagues in WP3 carrying out the FAIR data policy and practice analyses; WP2 on assessing FAIR requirements for interoperability and persistence; WP6 on providing an overview of research communities’ needs for competence centres; and WP7 on mapping RDM policies and support as well as FAIR education offerings in European HEIs. As part of these cross-package landscaping activities a series of surveys were fielded.

Other forms of consultation included two workshops co-located with the RDA Plenary 14 in Helsinki, Finland. One tackling aspects of FAIR semantics, and the other FAIR and interoperable repositories. Focus groups have also been held by WP7, including at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (October 2019), and another at the University of Amsterdam (November 2019).

The development of the programme for the pilot Data Steward strand also got underway as part of the CODATA/RDA Data School (Trieste, August 2019). Related to work implementing and enabling FAIR in repositories two Open Calls were run from July to August 2019. Out of the 73 applications received, 22 Data Repositories were selected to engage in the work. The results of these consultation, pilot, and community engagement activities were used to inform the development of the first sets of reports and recommendations delivered by the project.

On 25 November 2019, in conjunction with the EOSC Symposium, the FAIRsFAIR Synchronisation Force, held the first of three planned workshops in Budapest, Hungary. The second workshop was restructured as a series of eight online sessions running from 29th of April until 11th of June 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A key activity of the Synchronisation Force is to bring together the various projects and actors working in the EOSC and FAIR ecosystems, such as the Working Groups of the EOSC Executive Board, the INFRAEOSC-05 projects, the ESFRI cluster projects, and the FAIRsFAIR European Group of FAIR Champions, in order to share information on the progress of their FAIR-oriented activities and to discuss commonalities and priorities. Furthermore, the workshops are used by the Synchronisation Force to measure the progress towards implementing the recommendations outlined in the Turning FAIR into Reality report (2018). The workshops have scaled from 25 delegates attending the first workshop, to more than 60 representatives attending the online sessions which collectively formed the second workshop.

Furthermore, project members have also submitted successful papers and presentations and sessions at many conferences and symposia e.g. Open Science FAIR 2019, Garr conference 2019, iPRES2019, eScience Symposium 2019, EOSC-hub Week, and Open Repositories 2020.
Although the FAIR concept and principles are gaining attention in many different domains, by design they do not prescribe any concrete implementation. A number of stakeholders in various domains have already started to bridge the implementation gap, initiating the operationalisation of the principles into standards, technologies, metrics and guidelines. Nevertheless, in the vast majority of disciplines much work still has to be done to understand application of the FAIR principles, as has been learned from workshops and other international meetings. In the initial 18 months of the project FAIRsFAIR has created an impact beyond the boundaries of the project through its important role as an ambassador for the FAIR principles both inside and outside of the EOSC ecosystem. The FAIRsFAIR team actively seeks out and amplifies the best existing practices and policies for FAIR, in doing so performing an important awareness raising function throughout the lifetime of the project. A good example is the involvement of project partners as part of the global FAIR community in the rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic. FAIRsFAIR initial deliverables were usefully utilized and fed into the open an inclusive international effort under the umbrella of the RDA which led to the development of recommendations and guidelines for (FAIR) data sharing in the special context of the sanitary crisis.
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