Turning FAIR into reality
Final Report and Action Plan from the European Commission Expert Group on FAIR Data
Foreword by Commissioner Carlos Moedas
One year ago, the European Commission published a declaration, inviting national governments, industry and the scientific community to participate in establishing the European Open Science Cloud – a trusted environment for sharing and analysing data from all publicly funded research.
The response to the declaration has been strong and positive, enabling good progress on the complex tasks facing us. We have just launched the first version of the Cloud’s portal, the governance structure is in place and we are well on track to having the Cloud operational by 2020.
In all this work, we have benefitted extensively from the advice of high-level experts groups. I am therefore pleased to receive the recommendations laid out in this report and in the report “Prompting an EOSC in practice”. They will help guide us when developing a Cloud that is open to all researchers, and which will function as a user-friendly, collaborative tool for data sharing and re-use.
The authors of the two reports touch upon a number of key issues for the Cloud. They discuss the definition of what constitutes a minimum viable research data ecosystem in Europe, its main rules of participation, governance framework, and possible financing models. They also look at how the Cloud can effectively interlink people, data, services and trainings, publications, projects and organisations. In addition, they present an action plan to make research data findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (FAIR): attributes which are essential to extract the full scientific value from data resources and to unleash the potential for large-scale, machine-driven analysis.
Europe’s decision to develop the European Open Science Cloud reflects the willingness to embrace change, but also to empower 1.7 million European researchers and 70 million professionals in science and technology. The ultimate goal is to achieve a fundamental transformation of the whole research lifecycle and to make it more credible with increased integrity, more efficient, collaborative and more responsive to societal challenges.
I am convinced that the Cloud will allow a new generation of scholars to find, combine and analyse data and discoveries in a way that supersedes anything we have ever seen before. It will accelerate the transition to Open Science and Open Innovation and bring science and research closer to societal needs.
Preface by Simon Hodson, Chair of the EC Expert Group on FAIR data
To take advantage of the digital revolution, to accelerate research and to engage the power of machine analysis at scale while ensuring transparency, reproducibility and societal utility, data and other digital objects created by and used for research need to be findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (FAIR). Helping to achieve this by advancing the global Open Science movement and the development of the European Open Science Cloud is the unambiguous objective for this report.
This document is both a Report and an Action Plan for turning FAIR data into reality. It offers a survey and analysis of what is needed to implement FAIR in a broad sense FAIR is an acronym composed from Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable and therefore might be expected to be used as an adjective. However, as this report argues, the FAIR principles do not just apply to data but to other digital objects including outputs of research. Additionally, making digital objects FAIR requires a change in practices and the implementation of technologies and infrastructures. For brevity and to avoid the excessive repetition of ‘FAIR data’ or ‘FAIR practices’ which might be taken to imply a more narrow application, we have felt it justified on occasion to use FAIR as a noun. To make FAIR a reality in this broad sense means addressing all those issues laid out in the Report and Action Plan. and it provides a set of concrete recommendations and actions for stakeholders in Europe and beyond. FAIR requires key changes in the practice and culture of research and the implementation and normalisation of certain technologies and practices.
The conclusions and priority recommendations may be summarised as follows:
- Central to the realisation of FAIR are FAIR Digital Objects, which may represent data, software or other research resources. These digital objects must be accompanied by persistent identifiers, metadata and contextual documentation to enable discovery, citation and reuse. Data should also be accompanied by the code used to process and analyse the data.
- FAIR Digital Objects can only exist in a FAIR ecosystem, comprising key data services that are needed to support FAIR. These include services that provide persistent identifiers, metadata specifications, stewardship and repositories, actionable policies and Data Management Plans. Registries are needed to catalogue the different services.
- Interoperability frameworks that define community practices for data sharing, data formats, metadata standards, tools and infrastructure play a fundamental role. These recognise the objectives and cultures of different research communities. Such frameworks need to support FAIR across traditional discipline boundaries and in the context of high priority interdisciplinary research areas.
- FAIR must work for humans and for machines: unlocking the potential of analysis and data integration at scale and across a distributed, federated infrastructure is one of the key benefits of making FAIR a reality.
- None of this will work without considerable and wide-reaching enhancement of skills for data science and data stewardship. Moreover, the services in which FAIR Digital Objects are managed should be certified, and should preferably have a commitment to long-term stewardship and sustainable funding.
- Metrics and indicators for research contributions need to be reconsidered and enriched to ensure they act as compelling incentives for Open Science and FAIR. Effective recognition and rewards are vital for culture change.
- Funding for FAIR brings strong return on investment, but needs to be targeted and strategic, while taking into account means of moderating and sharing costs.
The FAIR Data Expert Group has put considerable effort into this report. It has conducted its work by means of face-to-face and virtual meetings and a lot of asynchronous, collaborative writing and rewriting. All members of the group have contributed substantively and substantially to the text. We hope that we have harnessed the strength and collective wisdom of the Expert Group, while minimising the flaws of group authorship. The group has been chaired by Simon Hodson with Sarah Jones as rapporteur but in effect the two have acted as co-chairs.
We are very grateful to the European Commission and in particular colleagues at RTD Jean-Claude Burgelman and Athanasios Karalopoulos who have been fellow travellers throughout the journey this document has taken.
The Report and Action Plan are the products of considerable consultation. Early in the activity, webinars and an online consultation were held to get input to the proposed structure and topics. The interim report and action plan were then made available for an extended period of online feedback. Over 380 comments were received on the Action Plan and over 150 comments on the Report. Feedback came from a wide range of stakeholders and representative bodies internationally, including funders, publishers, research infrastructures, institutions and community groups. The Expert Group considered this input systematically, which has influenced and improved the report significantly. In particular, we believe that the final version is a tighter, clearer and more concise document. The consultation obliged us to clarify our presentation of a number of key issues and we hope that we have achieved this.
What next? We hope that the consultation has resulted in a document that will inform all stakeholders in the European and global research enterprise. The Action Plan provides a framework of recommendations and actions that can be taken forward by Member States, the European Commission, and by research communities and institutions globally. Above all, it is hoped that the Report and Action Plan will provide a template that will assist stakeholders in making FAIR a reality at the heart of the European research space and in the creation of the European Open Science Cloud.
Directorate-General for Research and Innovation
Directorate B – Open Innovation and Open Science
Unit B2 – Open Science
© European Union, 2018.
|↑1||FAIR is an acronym composed from Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable and therefore might be expected to be used as an adjective. However, as this report argues, the FAIR principles do not just apply to data but to other digital objects including outputs of research. Additionally, making digital objects FAIR requires a change in practices and the implementation of technologies and infrastructures. For brevity and to avoid the excessive repetition of ‘FAIR data’ or ‘FAIR practices’ which might be taken to imply a more narrow application, we have felt it justified on occasion to use FAIR as a noun. To make FAIR a reality in this broad sense means addressing all those issues laid out in the Report and Action Plan.|