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FAIR and Open Science

The European Commission’s Communication on ‘A New European Research Area (ERA) for Research and Innovation’ speaks of a European Research and Innovation (R&I) ecosystem supported by the FAIR and Open Science principles that enables the seamless exchange of data and scientific knowledge between researchers and across institutions and geographical or disciplinary borders. The Communication affirms the European Commission's commitment to ‘ensure a European Open Science Cloud that is offering findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable research data and services (Web of FAIR); and incentivise open science practices by improving the research assessment system’. 

Defined initially for data, the FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable) principles are more widely applied to all research outputs, including software code, algorithms and models, tools and instruments, educational or other materials. Their aim is to enhance usefulness and (re)use by humans and machines, thus increasing their value and research reproducibility and transparency. The principles relate to issues of public availability and do not require complete openness, FAIR outputs are ‘as open as possible, as closed as necessary’.

The practices of FAIR and Open Science rely on a series of concepts implied by them including discoverability and accessibility, curation and sharing, long-term preservation and sustainability, technical, semantic, or legal interoperability, machine readability and actionability, stewardship, and responsible research. 

Open Science 

Open Science has been defined both as knowledge that is shared and collaboratively developed and as a set of actions or practices brought forward by a socio-cultural and technological change, a transformation in how research is designed and planned, performed and shared, communicated and assessed. Open Science is often referred to as Open Research or Open Scholarship, and effectively it contains a bundle of approaches that make the research process open and more transparent. Open Science is frequently broken down into a series of implementation areas: Open Access to Journal publications, FAIR and open research data, Sustainable Infrastructures, Skills and Training, and Rewards and Incentives for practicing Open Science. 

The Digital Repository of Ireland (DRI) is making key contributions to the implementation of Open Science practices at national level through its training, outreach and engagement activities and collaboratively through the National Open Research Forum (NORF). Read more about DRI and NORF at https://dri.ie/norf 

At European and national level DRI has been a longstanding advocate for Open Science principles and practices especially through its work on expert groups and funded research projects with the Research Data Alliance, the OECD,  ALLEA, and Europeana, the European Commission, and the European Open Science Cloud.

The FAIR Data Principles

In 2016, the FAIR Data Principles were developed to support the position that effective research data management is ‘not a goal in itself but rather is the key conduit leading to knowledge discovery and innovation’. Central to the principles of FAIR are the planning and management of research data during the active phases of the research life-cycle to ensure long-term preservation, rich metadata, persistent identification and licencing that supports the findability, accessibility, interoperability and reusability of research data. 

DRI’s Director Natalie Harrower was a member of the European Commission's high level expert group on FAIR data  and an author of the ‘Turning FAIR into a Reality’ report (published in November 2018), a key guide for the definition  of FAIR in Europe and a foundational resource for FAIR implementation in the European Open Science Cloud. Her work and DRI's contribution continued under the umbrella of the EOSC Executive Board Working Group on FAIR, which produced a series of recommendations on various aspects of FAIR for the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC), including Six Recommendations for Implementation of FAIR practice, Recommendations on FAIR metrics for EOSC, and Recommendations on certifying services required to enable FAIR within EOSC.

Details on DRI’s implementation of the FAIR principles can be found on the Statement on FAIR Principles page.

Sustainable Data Repositories

The trustworthiness and sustainability of data repositories is a key area of interest for the DRI in the broader Open Science landscape, and we work to both ensure that our policies, technical offerings, and practices are FAIR enabling, and to assist in developing and promoting best practice for repositories nationally and internationally. 

Obtaining and maintaining certification by the globally recognised CoreTrust Seal is one of the steps we take towards trustworthiness, and we have also endorsed the TRUST principles.

We are also a member of COAR, the Coalition of Open Repositories, and DRI’s software engineer Dr. Kathryn Cassidy serves on the standing steering committee for the Open Repositories conference, with staff also contributing regularly to organising and programme committee of other major professional conferences in the area, such as the International Conference on Digital Preservation (iPres) and Preservation and Archiving Special Interest Group (PASIG).

Trustworthy digital preservation, including continual monitoring, preservation processes, and policies, is also a key element of ensuring sustainable access to data, and our frequent contributions to the Digital Preservation Coalition, of which we are a member, are one of the ways we engage in helping to develop the digital preservation community. At different times different staff members sit on DPC committees, the Director has served for many years on the judging panel of the International Digital Preservation awards, and we contributed towards a DPC booksprint on a digital preservation policy toolkit, to assist other organisations in developing preservation policies. 

As part of best practice in Open Science, the EOSC working groups recommend the use of discipline-supported trustworthy data repositories for data archiving and preservation. More information on sustainable data repositories can be found in the OECD report Business models for sustainable research data repositories, to which DRI was a contributor.  

Open Science for the Humanities

As global research systems transition to Open Science practices, expert advice continually points to the importance of disciplinary interpretations for Open practices. For example, disciplines need to understand their unique publishing practices in order to foster Open Access publishing arrangements, and disciplines need to define which aspects of FAIR are most important for research advancement in their areas, and how they should be adopted in a way that enables interoperability of disciplinary data in the first instance. Disciplinary interoperability frameworks are key to the realisation of FAIR, and are often developed through shared infrastructure and shared disciplinary research cultures (see s. 1.2 Turning FAIR into Reality).

As a national research data repository for the social sciences, arts and humanities, DRI strives to develop best practice in line with the needs of these disciplinary groupings. Our close relationship with the Irish Qualitative Data Archive, a major depositor of oral histories and other qualitative data, maintains a continual exchange with researchers in the social sciences. 

Humanities researchers tend to work with a wide range of data types, many of which have complicated copyright and licensing requirements. The link between humanities research and the holdings of memory institutions or cultural heritage institutions is also strong, with the collections from GLAM bodies (galleries, libraries, archives, museums) providing the input to humanities research. DRI works to support these links in a variety of ways. For instance, DRI regularly contributes to initiatives by Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities (DARIAH), Europe’s research infrastructure for the arts and humanities. The guidelines How to Facilitate Cooperation between Humanities Researchers and Cultural Heritage Institutions (2019) recommend FAIR practices, and emerged from a DARIAH workshop and DRI contributes educational resources and training materials to DARIAH-Campus. We also regularly run outreach events that bring FAIR data, humanities research, and cultural heritage collections into dialogue; for example Using FAIR Data from the GLAM Sector and Publishing GLAM data as FAIR Data, a two-part series of webinars organised by the DRI and Research Data Alliance (RDA) with support from Europeana Research. 

From 2012–2020, DRI via the Royal Irish Academy chaired the ALLEA e-Humanities working group, producing two significant reports to support advancement of data practices in the Humanities.  Going Digital: Creating Change in the Humanities (2015), made recommendations around archival sustainability and data training required for achieving Open Access and Open Data goals across the Humanities. The most recent report, Sustainable and FAIR Data Sharing in the Humanities (2020) contains a set of suggestions on how to align digital data in the humanities with the FAIR principles. The working group also contributed to ALLEA’s response to the first issuing of Plan-S. From 2020, DRI’s Director serves on ALLEA’s new Open Science task force.

And finally, our biannual conference series DPASSH has embedded the focus on our disciplinary range into its title – digital preservation for arts, humanities and social sciences – and works with different partners internationally to bring a focus to the unique challenges and opportunities of ASSH data.