We all know data should be FAIR—findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable. This has become a rallying cry of our community. It is not a new concept, but the catchy phrasing has given it new visibility and urgency. Nonetheless, most research still has antiquated approaches to data sharing. That is changing in the Earth and space sciences at least.
Dozens of repositories, publishers, and communities have signed up to the Enabling FAIR Data Commitment Statement in the Earth, Space, and Environmental Sciences for depositing and sharing data. This is one result of an 18-month project led by the American Geophysical Union that was catalyzed by RDA and others that put many RDA Recommendations and Supporting Outputs into practice.
As described in a Nature commentary this week, the project has been a huge success and may mark a watershed moment in data FAIRness. The project has led to a commitment from publishers to require consistent citation of data deposited in formal repositories. It highlights the critical role of persistent identifiers and repository certification. It emphasizes recognition for data providers, the need for researcher education and support, and the overall need for a shift in data sharing culture. It would have been impossible without the work and community of RDA.
The project was able to leverage the mature conversations of the RDA community and deploy many RDA outputs including dynamic data citation, Scholix, Core Trust Seal, legal interoperability, cost models for repositories, data publishing workflows, data management training, and many others.
RDA is not, and should not, be the center of attention in this achievement. It is an achievement of the research community. But RDA members should be proud. Without your tireless, volunteer efforts that grapple with the social and technical details of data sharing we could not make this progress. Further, in the spirit of RDA’s “neutral place”, the project brought together many critical people and international partners including the Earth Science Information Partners, the Center for Open Science, and the Coalition for Publishing Data in the Earth and Space Sciences. We always benefit by working collaboratively.
As Margaret Mead said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Well done citizens! The journey continues.