How to move from FAIR principles to FAIR practice?
By: Marta Teperek, with contributions by Neil Chue Hong, Stefano Cozzini, Marta Hoffman Sommer, Rob Hooft (Chair of the FAIR-practice team), Liisi Lembinen, Juuso Marttila
Let us know how you are implementing the FAIR principles in practice by filling in a brief survey.
On the 4th of July 2019, we had a kick-off meeting in Brussels of the FAIR Working group of the EOSC European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) governance. Members of this group have been nominated by the EOSC Governance Board and Executive Board. The aim of the group is to provide recommendations on the implementation of FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) practices within the EOSC, largely inspired by the action plan outlined in the report Turning FAIR into reality. Given that the FAIR Working Group consists of almost 30 members, we split into 4 teams to enable efficient and effective working: PID Policy, FAIR Practice, Interoperability and Metrics & Certification.
We, the authors of this blog post, are the FAIR Practice team. The key objective of our team is to understand what are the current practices in different (research) communities and what are their levels of FAIRness. After the FAIR principles were published, they rapidly gained a lot of traction and interest, including among the advocates of good data management practices and open data. National and international funding bodies ask researchers to make all their data FAIR as one of their funding conditions. Now, FAIR is to be at the core of the EOSC. Barend Mons even remarked on Twitter that attitudes to FAIR have changed in the last four years - it started to be embarrassing to admit in public that one hadn’t heard of FAIR.
FAIR principles - reality check
Many communities, however, still seem to be far from putting FAIR into their daily practices. The 2018 State of Open Data Report found that just 15% of researchers were “familiar with FAIR principles”. Unsurprisingly, out of the 4 classes of FAIR principles, Interoperability and Reusability were the least understood by the respondents. On 26 June 2019, Marta Teperek attended the Carpentry Connect Conference in Manchester and asked the attendees (around 80 people) if they heard about the FAIR principles. Almost all of them replied positively. However, when Marta asked the follow up question: “Who would feel comfortable explaining what FAIR data really means in practice?”, only 4 out of 80 people replied “yes”. This is quite revealing given that the participants of the Carpentry Connect conference are typically very well aware of interoperability and reusability issues. Similar reflections were made by Maria Cruz on 19 June 2019 at the OAI 11 – The CERN-UNIGE Workshop on Innovations in Scholarly Communication.
What are the community practices?
So how to bridge that gap? That’s exactly what the FAIR practice team will be investigating and making recommendations on to the European Commission. To develop these recommendations we first need to understand the current community practices. This will allow us to identify both the best practices, which might serve as a source of inspiration for others, as well as barriers preventing communities from implementing FAIR practices. Understanding the barriers will help us to make recommendations to overcome those challenges. The awareness of the current practices and the ability to make realistic expectations is also essential for two other teams of our WG: Interoperability and Metrics & Certification. These teams need to ensure that the recommendations they propose are fit for purpose for the diverse communities they are to serve.
How are we going to do that?
So how are we going to do that? The plan for the group is not to reinvent the wheel, but to instead identify and flag up existing valuable resources which investigate practices in various disciplines (such as, the State of Open Data Report 2018, FAIR Data case studies in Engineering, FAIR Data Advanced Use Cases, FAIR in practice report by Jisc, the FAIR Implementation Matrix), and also to liaise with other projects, such as FAIRsFAIR, which are already investigating these practices. This will allow us to gather a body of knowledge and evidence, based on which recommendations will be made.
How can you get involved?
In order to better understand the community practices, we would be delighted to hear from you. You can get involved in numerous ways:
- Tell us what FAIR principles mean to you in practice by filling in this short (less than 3 minutes!) survey: https://forms.gle/c6TbS42ndvatZbn8A
- Let us know (email@example.com) if you are aware of any existing reports or case studies about FAIR practices in different communities - we will add it to our body of evidence
- Don’t have the time to contribute, but would like to be informed about the work of the FAIR WG? Sign up to the EOSCsecretariat newsletter at www.eoscsecretariat.eu
If you have any additional questions or comments, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at any stage by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more info, read the blog post from the inaugural meeting.