Research Data Management: We Need to Pick Up the Pace

by Prof. Udo Kragl, Prof. Anne Lauber-Rönsberg, Prof. Klaus Tochtermann, Dr Oda Cordes and Dr Anna Maria Höfler

On the initiative of the North German Conference of Science Ministers (NWMK), the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture of the State of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern organised in cooperation with the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics the workshop “Shaping Research Data Management at North German Universities and Research Institutions Together” (German) on 15 October 2021. Three top-class panels and 200 virtually connected participants discussed strategic plans for campus-wide research data management at universities, future library services and legal aspects.

This article summarises the main results and is intended to further promote the processes and developments that have been initiated.

Research data is generated on a large scale worldwide, whereby the type and volume of data varies greatly depending on the discipline. The type of storage and, above all, the form of publication determine how and to what extent the data become known and usable within the scientific community, but also by the general public. In Germany, the foundations for comprehensive national research data management are being laid at federal and state level with the funding of consortia in various subject areas.

Strategic plans for campus-wide research data management at universities

In the panel on strategic plans for campus-wide research data management at universities, the existing range in dealing with research data was shown against the background that research data management is playing an increasingly important role in the acquisition of third-party funding. This spectrum ranges from “we don’t do that” to a self-image in dealing with research data. The associated orientation towards the FAIR principles (findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable) is embedded at national and international level in a more general discussion on the use of scientific results under the concept of Open Science: to treat data “as open as possible, as closed as necessary”. For the paradigm shift required for this in the individual disciplines, there are a number of questions and prerequisites that need to be clarified, as the discussion in the panel showed. In the academic institutions, this process has been underway for some time in some places, while in others it is still in its infancy. There are also approaches to a holistic approach. In order to make greater progress in this area, the participants of the panel and the participants at home came up with the following recommendations for all stakeholders in the science system.

  1. Research data management must be included in the curriculum of higher education and thus in the study and examination regulations, so that the awareness of young scientists is raised at an early stage.
  2. Research data management requires the staffing of experts in research data management, both for university education and for the support of scientists at universities.
  3. Research data management requires cooperation between central institutions across universities in the interest of better coordination, including non-university research institutions. The importance of intensive cooperation between institutions with the same orientation at the same location, but also across different locations, was emphasised. In this way, resources can be used effectively and, above all, a contribution can be made to the development of common standards.

Future services offered by university libraries

During the panel on future services offered by university libraries, it was discussed which services university libraries could develop for research data management. These could include consultation formats for finding, citing and documenting research data, dealing with the FAIR principles, offers such as the allocation of persistent identifiers for research data or the role of university libraries in consortia of the National Research Data Infrastructure Germany (NFDI). In the discussion, procedures for the introduction of offers to support research data management by university libraries were exchanged in order to derive the following recommendations for all stakeholders in the science system:

  1. Training courses should be developed and offered that enable certified further training for library staff in the field of research data management. Training is also needed for researchers, for example, in the design of data management plans, the application of FAIR principles or persistent identifiers.
  2. The range of tasks of librarians must be expanded to include new services and advice on research data management. Against the backdrop of the efficient use of resources, the services and advice offered by the university libraries should be provided jointly in a complementary and networked manner.
  3. Cost-intensive and complex infrastructures, such as for the digital long-term archiving of research data, should be established and operated cooperatively, networked and across the borders of federal states.

Legal aspects of research data management

This panel showed that, in view of the complexity of the legal framework, researchers should be relieved as much as possible of the legal assessment of issues related to research data management. This can be achieved by creating legal support and advice services, such as general training and information services, which, however, cannot replace a legal examination of the individual case. Therefore, on the other hand, there should also be the possibility of qualified and comprehensive legal advice in complex cases.

Many universities, university libraries and non-university research institutions have already established advisory services on research data management. However, there is a need for clear regulation on the extent to which these should also provide legal advice. This goes hand in hand with the question of quality-assured training and further education offers and the creation of corresponding career paths and job profiles for the staff working there. In addition, sufficient legal resources should be available at universities and non-university research institutions to provide qualified and comprehensive legal advice. Furthermore, it was emphasised how important the exchange between the staff of advisory institutions on research data management and the legal offices and data protection officers of the universities and non-university research institutions is.

With regard to specific legal issues in the respective discipline, reference was made to the responsibility of the corresponding NFDI consortia. The panel discussion showed that with regard to (co-)decision-making powers on the handling of research data, arrangements and agreements made in advance or the definition of general framework specifications of the research institutions are particularly useful. Since research data management raises a large number of still unresolved legal issues, research funding organisations should take into account the time and effort required to clarify legal issues in funding lines for project proposals.

Recommendations for a future-oriented approach to research data

In summary, the following core statements can be derived from the panels, which apply as a mandate to all participants in the science system:

  • Sustainable structures – first and foremost sustainable, financial staffing – are needed to establish research data management in all subject cultures in the long term.
  • Measures for a paradigm shift – both in the mindset of (early career) researchers and among infrastructure service providers – must be expanded and promoted accordingly.
  • Both the competences at the level of the German federal states and nationally distributed competences and responsibilities must be made visible.

Ultimately, the introduction of research data management is both a task and an opportunity to make more sustainable use of the research results obtained and, above all, to be able to draw more far-reaching conclusions. With the workshop, the northern German states – according to Bettina Martin, Minister for Education, Science and Culture in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in her welcoming address – have set an active sign of scientific cooperation across borders. This will be continued to build upon, because there was broad consensus among the discussants about the topicality and necessity of dealing with this issue on an ongoing basis and, above all, of creating sustainable, viable structures with the involvement of science policy in order to establish effective research data management for researchers.

This text has been translated from German.

This might also interest you:

This text has been translated from German.

Authors:

Prof. Udo Kragl is currently Prorector for Research and Knowledge Transfer at the University of Rostock. His responsibilities there include research data and Open Science. He is chairman of the German Catalysis Society (GeCatS) and a DFG review board member for Technical Chemistry, where these topics are also currently being discussed intensively. He holds the chair of Technical Chemistry and is head of division at the Leibniz Institute for Catalysis, Rostock.
Portraet: ITMZ University of Rostock©

Prof. Anne Lauber-Rönsberg is Professor of Civil Law, Intellectual Property Law, Media and Data Protection Law at TU Dresden. She led the BMBF-funded project “DataJus” on the legal framework of research data management and published a handbook on the subject with colleagues in 2021.
Portraet: Anne Lauber-Rönsberg©, photographer: J. Gilch

Prof. Klaus Tochtermann ist Direktor der ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft. Seit vielen Jahren engagiert er sich auf nationaler und internationaler Ebene für Open Science. Er ist Mitglied im Vorstand der EOSC Association (European Open Science Cloud).
Portraet: ZBW©, photographer: Sven Wied

Dr jur. Oda Cordes is a policy officer for research and research funding at the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture of the State of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.
Portraet, photographer: Anne Jüngling©

Dr Anna Maria Höfler works as a Science Policy Coordinator at the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics as part of the Open Science research group. She is mainly concerned with the topics of research data and Open Science.
Portraet, photographer: Rupert Pessl©

The post Research Data Management: We Need to Pick Up the Pace first appeared on ZBW MediaTalk.

European Open Science Cloud: small projects, big plans and 1 billion EUR

by Claudia Sittner

Prof. Dr Klaus Tochtermann is Director of the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, Member of the German Council for Scientific Information Infrastructures (RfII) and board member of the recently established European Open Science Cloud Association (EOSC Association). He was a member of the EOSC’s High Level Expert Group and the EOSC working group for sustainability for many years. He also founded, in 2012, the Leibniz Research Alliance Open Science, the international Open Science Conference and the associated Barcamp Open Science.

Recently, he was interviewed by host Dr Doreen Siegfried (ZBW) in the ZBW podcast “The Future is Open Science” on the future of the European Open Science Cloud and the complexity of the landscape for research data. This blog post is a shortened version of the podcast episode “European Open Science Cloud – Internet of FAIR Data and Services” with Klaus Tochtermann. You can listen to the entire episode (35 minutes) here (German).

Why the name European Open Science Cloud never fitted

Something that will surprise many people: “The terminology of the EOSC was never appropriate – even in 2015”, according to Tochtermann. Back then – as the initial ideas for the EOSC were being developed and small projects were commencing – it was neither European, nor Open, nor Science nor a Cloud:

“It isn’t European – because research doesn’t stop at the regional borders of Europe, but instead many research groups are internationally networked. It isn’t open – because even in science there is data that requires protection such as patient data. It isn’t science – because many scientific research projects also use data from economy. And it isn’t cloud – because the point is not to deposit all data centrally in a cloud solution”, explains Klaus Tochtermann. The term was specified by the European Commission at the time and is now established. Among experts, the term “Internet of FAIR Data and Services” (IFDS) is preferred, says Tochtermann.

Preparatory phase 2015 to 2020

The EOSC started in 2015 with the aim “to provide European researchers, innovators, companies and citizens with a federated and open multi-disciplinary environment where they can publish, find and re-use data, tools and services for research, innovation and educational purposes.” (European Commission).

Since then, 320 million EUR have been deployed to fund 50 projects relating to research data management. These have however only shed light on individual aspects of the EOSC. “In fact, we are still a long way from being able to offer EOSC operationally in the scientific system”, says Tochtermann.

The funds were integrated into a research framework programme that only financed smaller projects at a time – this is owing to the way the European Commission functions and how it funds research. That’s why there was never one big EOSC project, but many small individual projects. These examined issues such as: “What would a search engine for research data look like? How can identifiers for research data be managed?”, explains the ZBW director.

Large projects EOSC Secretariat and EOSC Future

Then the EOSC went into the next phase with two large projects: EOSC Secretariat and EOSC Future. Running time: 30 months. Budget: 41 million EUR. Both are intended to bring together all previous projects in the direction of EOSC, i.e. to enable convergence and actually draw up a “System EOSC”. All puzzle parts from earlier small projects are now being put together to form a large EOSC blueprint.

Founding of the EOSC Association

The EOSC Association was founded in 2020. It is a formal institution and a foundation under Belgian law. It is headquartered in Brussels and will consolidate all activities. A board of directors has been appointed to coordinate the activities, made up of the president Karl Luyben and a further eight members, including Klaus Tochtermann.

In February 2021, the Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA, PDF) laid down what the EOSC Association should achieve over the next few years. From now on, all EOSC projects must be orientated on these SRIA guidelines.

Initial time plan for the European Open Science Cloud

The Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda anticipates various development stages with precisely defined timetables. Basis functionalities are classified as “EOSC Core”, a level that should be implemented by 2023. Here, elements such as search, storage/save or a log-in function will be realised. This will be followed by the launch of “EOSC Exchange”, which deals with more complex functionalities and services for special data analyses of research datasets.

Collaboration between the EOSC Association and the European Commission

On the question of how the European Open Science Cloud Association and the European Commission cooperate with each other, Tochtermann emphasises the good relationship to the Commission. The so called partnership model, which is new for everyone and first needs to be experienced, forms the framework for this. However, sometimes the time windows in which the Commission wants reactions from the EOSC Association are very narrow. “I’m glad we have a very strong president of the EOSC Association, who also has the backbone to ensure that we are not always confronted with such short time windows, where reactions are sometimes simply not possible because the subject matter is too complex. But overall it works well”, Tochtermann sums up.

Financing the EOSC Association: 1 billion EUR

For the next ten years, 1 billion EUR is being made available for the development of the EOSC – half from the European Commission and half by the 27 member states of the EU. This was negotiated between the European Commission and the EOSC Association from December 2020 to July 2021 and laid down in an agreement (PDF, the Memorandum of Understanding for the Co-progammed Euroepean Partnership on the European Open Science Cloud.

The EOSC Association also raises further funds through membership fees. According to Klaus Tochtermann: “Members are not individuals, but organisations such as the ZBW or the NFDI Association in Germany. (…) Members can choose between full membership, meaning they can take part in all votes and currently pay a contribution of 10,000 EUR per year. Or they can be an observer, where (…) they have a less active role and are not allowed to vote in the annual general meeting. As an observer, you pay 2,000 EUR.” The contributions of the 200 members currently generate a budget of around 1.5 million EUR for the EOSC Association. This is being utilised to build up staff in the office, among other things.

EOSC, NFDI and Gaia-X: a confusing mishmash?

As well as the EOSC, there are further projects in Germany and Europe aimed at implementing large research data infrastructures. The most well-known from a German perspective are the National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI) and Gaia-X. All three projects – EOSC, NFDI and Gaia-X are technically linked. They are all technical infrastructures. But how do they differ?

  • National Research Data Infrastructure

    As well as the European EOSC, there is the NFDI (German) in Germany, which was founded by the German Council for Scientific Information Infrastructures (RfII).

    The NFDI – similarly to the EOSC – deals with the technical infrastructure for research data, but is also concerned with the networking people, i.e. the scientific community, says Tochtermann. The NFDI thereby focusses on individual disciplines such as economics, social sciences, material sciences or chemistry.

    The NFDI directorate, a central coordinating body, brings the individual NFDI initiatives together, so that they interact. This takes places through working groups and applies above all to cross-discipline or discipline-independent topics. Klaus Tochtermann gives the following examples:

    • digital long-term archiving of research data,
    • allocation of unique identifiers for a data set,
    • single login or single sign-in for the research data infrastructure NFDI,
    • interoperability of systems,
    • uniform metadata standards and
    • uniform protocols.
  • Gaia-X

    On the other hand, there is Gaia-X: “Gaia-X is an initiative which aims to offer companies in Germany and Europe a European infrastructure for the management, i.e. storage of their data, for example, because many of them opt for services from America or China”, explains Tochtermann. As well as in its target group (including industry, companies), Gaia-X also differs from the EOSC and the NFDI in relation to the major role that the topic of data sovereignty plays in the project. Klaus Tochtermann summarises this as follows: “Data sovereignty means that when I generate data, I can follow who is using my data for what purposes at any time. And if I don’t want this, then I can also say, ’I don’t want my data to go there.’”

How can you learn more about the EOSC?

The EOSC Portal is an information platform that gives details about the services that will be playing a role at the EOSC at a later date. These include services such as European research data repositories. It’s a good place to start if you want to find out more about the EOSC.

Take part in the development of the EOSC

Anyone who wants to get involved in the EOSC can do so in the Advisory Groups. Six of these have been set up initially, to explore topics such as curricula in the field of research data, FAIR data and metadata standards. There was an open call to participate in these groups, for which around 500 applications were received. Most of them came from France (18 percent) and Germany (17 percent) which shows how much the EOSC has already caught on in both countries, says Tochtermann. A selection from these 500 applications will now be used to fill the six working groups.

On the website of the EOSC Association, you will also find regular “Calls and Grants”, which people can apply for, or job applications https://www.eosc.eu/careers. For up-to-date information, you can subscribe to the monthly newsletter https://www.eosc.eu/newsletter or follow the EOSC Association on Twitter @eoscassociation.

This blogpost is a translation from German.

Related Links

This might also interest you:

  • Episode 12 of the ZBW podcast „The Future is Open Science“ with Prof. Dr Klaus Tochtermann on the European Open Science Cloud (German)
  • The post European Open Science Cloud: small projects, big plans and 1 billion EUR first appeared on ZBW MediaTalk.

    Research Data Management Project bw2FDM: Best Practice for Consultations and Training Seminars

    We were talking to Elisabeth Böker and Peter Brettschneider

    Research data management (RDM, known as FDM in German) is an essential topic regarding Open Science. Baden-Württemberg’s support and development project for research data management (German, bw2FDM) is dedicated to this issue. One of the aims of the bw2FDM project is to create a multifaceted educational programme to drive forward sustainability and networking within the entire research data management community. bw2FDM also operates the information platform forschungsdaten.info (Forschungsdaten means research data), which offers a wide-ranging collection of articles on RDM topics. None of these programmes is limited to a specific institution; rather they are aimed at the entire German-speaking community. Elisabeth Böker and Peter Brettschneider, who are involved in the project, explain how it works in detail, which topics are particularly popular within the RDM community, and what role libraries and information infrastructure institutions can play.

    Please introduce the project in three sentences: What is the mission / aim / vision of bw2FDM?

    Elisabeth Böker: bw2FDM is an initiative for research data management, funded by the Baden-Württemberg Ministry for Science, Research and Art. We follow four primary aims:

    • The coordination of the interdisciplinary issues of the four Science Data centres (German) in Baden-Württemberg.
    • We want to develop the information platform forschungsdaten.info further to become the central RDM platform for the German-speaking countries.
    • We offer consultations and training seminars on the topic of research data management, primarily for researchers from Baden-Württemberg.
    • bw2FDM is responsible for the planning and implementation of the E-Science-Tage conference .

    Fig. 1: Diagram showing overview of bw2FDM project areas / Axtmann and
    Reifschneider / CC BY 4.0

    We are particularly interested in the bw2FDM consultations and training seminars on research data management, which you also presented at the Open Science Conference 2021. What was your approach? What is your target group? What you do offer, specifically? And who can participate in the training seminars and consultations?

    Elisabeth Böker: That differs slightly, depending on the format: We focus our training seminars primarily on researchers from Baden-Württemberg. The students of the University of Konstanz are the target audience for our Open Science course. We want to introduce them to the topic of Open Science during their studies and are delighted at the considerable interest it has already drawn. The course “Open Science: From Data to Publications ” is subject to a CC BY licence – reuse is most welcome! Following the principle of openness, we have also published the videos as Open Educational Resources (OER) on Zenodo (German) and the central OER repository of the Institutions of Higher Education in Baden-Württemberg (ZOERR, German) as well as the material collection of the sub-working group training seminars / continuing education of the DINI/nestor AG research data (German) and also on the website of the Konstanz Open Science team.
    By way of contrast, forschungsdaten.info live (German) focuses on all interested persons – both researchers as well as RDM officers – throughout the entire German-speaking countries.

    Peter Brettschneider: : We try to consider research data management in a holistic sense. This also means that we focus on different target groups, and it also ensures that our training activities never become boring.

    To what extent do you specifically address Open Science topics, for example in the field of Open Data?

    Elisabeth Böker: Research data management is our central focus point. The guiding principle of the EU data strategy “as open as possible, as closed as necessary” is extremely important to us, which is why we emphasise it continually.

    Libraries fit wonderfully into a data-based academic world.
    – Peter Brettschneider

    (How) Are academic libraries and other digital infrastructure institutions integrated into the field of training seminars and consultations?

    Peter Brettschneider: Libraries fit wonderfully into a data-based academic world. Their core business is collecting information and making it available to the users. Research data have been part of the digital inventory of libraries for a considerable time. For example, that is the reason why universities will usually task their library or IT department with the implementation and operation of a research data repository. However, this kind of services should be accompanied by consultation and training programmes. Once again, our aim is to approach research data management holistically: It is not sufficient to provide just the hardware. There is also a need for people who explain and promote these services and are ready to assist researchers that may require help.

    The project runs from 2019 to 2023. This means that you are just about half way through. Could you draw some interim conclusions? What are the most important lessons that you have learned over the past two years?

    Elisabeth Böker: RDM is a team sport” – this is what we wrote in a publication (German) about our project. In this spirit, I would say it is crucial to approach issues collaboratively, use synergies and then progress towards the target. That works wonderfully. It is particularly gratifying to see this happening with the forschungsdaten.info platform. Even before “half-time”, we have been able to bring colleagues from Austria and Switzerland into the team – and we intend to continue building on this even more intensively in the second phase.There is an enormous demand for legal topics, and we are very lucky to have with Peter Brettschneider a legal specialist in the team.

    FDM is a Teamsport.
    – Elisabeth Böker

    Peter Brettschneider: Indeed, there is a lot of uncertainty regarding legal issues. In our training seminars, we like to combine legal topics with fundamental RDM know-how. This is important to us, because we can’t emphasise enough the central messages on research data and its management – such as FAIR data. But on the other hand, research data management is not an end in itself. It’s not our task to proselytise. Rather, it is our intention to support researchers and to make their research visible and reusable.

    What has the feedback to your RDM consultation and training seminar programmes been like so far?

    Elisabeth Böker: We are extremely satisfied. With forschungsdaten.info live in particular, we were able to average over a hundred participants. The demand is definitively there!

    Which of your programme’s RDM topics or formats are particularly popular?

    Elisabeth Böker: The forschungsdaten.info live format has been very popular – in part due to its focus on the entire German-speaking RDM community. Moreover, events that explore legal topics are always sure-fire successes.

    The bw2FDM project can definitely be called a success so far in the area of training and consulting. Are there plans to expand your project throughout Germany?

    Elisabeth Böker: : We are already active throughout the German-speaking countries with forschungsdaten.info live. However, we intend to advertise our other training seminars primarily for researchers in Baden-Württemberg – at both, universities as well as other higher education institutions. The reason for this is that our funding comes from the Baden-Württemberg Ministry for Science, Research and Art. Moreover, other federal states have their own RDM initiatives that offer great training opportunities.

    Are there already similar projects in other federal states? To what extent do you collaborate with them?

    Elisabeth Böker: Yes, many other federal states have comparable RDM projects or dedicated initiatives. They introduce themselves on the platform forschungsdaten.info (German). We have close and very fruitful collaboration with our colleagues, both, within a joint discussion forum as well as via the editorial network of forschungsdaten.info.

    From a legal point of view, we ensure sustainability by systematically releasing the project results under free licences in order to promote reuse.
    – Peter Brettschneider

    Sustainability plays an important role in your project. How do you ensure it?

    Peter Brettschneider: Sustainability has several dimensions: Structurally, we try to safeguard our programmes in the long-term through partnerships with other institutions. For example, our project team does not run forschungsdaten.info on its own, but rather relies on an editorial network of approximately 20 institutions.
    From a legal point of view, we ensure sustainability by systematically releasing the project results under free licences in order to promote reuse. This means that all training materials are licenced under Creative Commons BY 4.0. The contents of the forschungsdaten.info page can be reused completely without any restrictions, as we waive our rights by using CC 0 1.0.. Perhaps the most difficult thing is securing sustainability in terms of personnel. Currently, research data infrastructures are primarily sustained by project employees – the National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI) provides a good example. That is a real issue since RDM is a long-term task.

    This text has been translated from German.

    Weblinks to the bw2FDM project and to forschungsdaten.info:

    This might also interest you:

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