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07 Jun 2017

FAIR in Practice

This blog is written by Bas Cordewener

Welcome to my first blog for Jisc. You may know me (Bas Cordewener) in the role of Coordinator of the Knowledge Exchange initiative but this time I write about a Jisc project  As responsible project manager I’d like to introduce a piece of work Jisc is currently undertaking on FAIR data under the title FAIR in practice.

FAIR principles

To introduce what the FAIR principles are, let me quote the abstract of the article provided by Nature on their website ‘The FAIR Guiding Principles for scientific data management and stewardship’

There is an urgent need to improve the infrastructure supporting the reuse of scholarly data. A diverse set of stakeholders—representing academia, industry, funding agencies, and scholarly publishers—have come together to design and jointly endorse a concise and measureable set of principles that we refer to as the FAIR Data Principles. The intent is that these may act as a guideline for those wishing to enhance the reusability of their data holdings. Distinct from peer initiatives that focus on the human scholar, the FAIR Principles put specific emphasis on enhancing the ability of machines to automatically find and use the data, in addition to supporting its reuse by individuals.

Where does Jisc fit in?

Jisc supports the research and higher education sector to realise the optimal infrastructure and policy framework. The challenges to be met are efficiency, effectiveness and transparency when using and reusing research data.  One of the programmes to work on this is Research at Risk, enabling UK universities and their researchers to create, manage and share research data effectively. Within the shared services and infrastructure part of this programme, work is being done on Research Data Discovery, preservation, and storage services, as well as implementation of ORCID.

In order to make these services interoperable and ensure smooth data use and reuse, policies need to be in place to support Open Research and Open Data, and the reference to the FAIR principles that aim to guarantee Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability and Re-use/reproducibility of research data can be a big step forward. This can only be realised if the meaning and effect of the principles are fully understood. That is where the work on FAIR in Practice comes in.

FAIR in practice

Jisc wishes to establish a thorough insight in how FAIR principles are used within the research community in the UK and understand how FAIR can contribute optimally to the quality of research. That means knowing in what disciplines FAIR is a known concept that is acted upon in practice and/or acknowledged in policies; establishing a notion of what the perceived or experienced benefits and challenges are, as well as getting an idea of differences in awareness, adherence or applicability between various disciplines. At the same time we wish to explore what experts, researchers and research managers think about the future development and potential benefit of FAIR in the UK and internationally.

Jisc is not alone in its interest in FAIR. Its importance and potential is recognised by many other organisations. Examples are DANS in the Netherlands, exploring an approach to assess the FAIRness of datasets in Trustworthy Digital Repositories (presented at the iDCC conference by Peter Doorn and Ingrid Dillo), and the GoFAIR initiative, led by Barend Mons, former chair of the European High Level Expert Group for the European Open Science Cloud. The RDA (Research Data Alliance) also addresses aspects of FAIR within the Data Discovery Paradigm Interest Group.

Jisc FAIR in practice approach

We’ve invited a small group of Jisc experts, working in the field of research data and several external experts with various perspectives to provide their experience and views on FAIR as it is now, and can be in the future. We’ve also hired a consultant, Hapsis Innovation Ltd to interview these experts, as well as researchers and policy makers in different disciplines.  They will bring representatives of these groups together in a dialogue to jointly explore and identify the value, hoped for development, and possible recommendations. Outcomes will inform the research community how to deal with and benefit from the FAIR principles. Around summer Jisc will issue a report with findings, expectations and considerations for joint interventions.

Your contributions are welcome

If you have questions or wish to contribute in whatever way to the FAIR in practice work, do not hesitate and get in touch with me. My email address can be found on the Jisc website, you may comment below, or you can send me a tweet @bascordewener

Thanks for your attention, happy to hear from you!

Bas Cordewener

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